The Great Hall
All at once or none at all. The Great Hall: All at once or none at all.
By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 12:32 pm: Edit

This is old news for all of us but it still amazes me how our evening revs can be staggered and everyone still orders at the same damn time. Its like the members sit out there with little lazers and communicate with each table so they all order at once.

Same thing with banquets. Its almost like its a full moon on certain weeks or weekends. Can go two weeks with no banquets and then out of know where 500 in one weekend in a few banquets. What on earth makes these people all choose the same weekend.

I know... We have all dealt with it since the begining of time.. Oh well.. You know it is frustrating at times so chime in.


By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 05:50 pm: Edit

My catering gigs are the same way!

I turned down five events for last weekend because I was already booked... and yet, I would have been sitting on my butt this past weekend if I wasn't already volunteering for a benefit.

The thing that amazes me is that people plan a food-focused event and don't bother to plan the food!

They choose a theme, buy the decorations, pick out their outfit, send out their invites... but to pick up the phone and call a caterer? Hell no. That's a last minute, inconsequential thing!

I get calls on Wednesday asking if I'm free on Saturday, and when I tell them that I'm already booked, they act as if it's a personal affront.

I ask them if they're flexible with the date, maybe I can do it Sunday instead of Saturday, or perhaps the following week, and they say, "No, we can't change the date, we've already sent out the invitations!" Depending on how snotty they've been, I suggest KFC.

I did just such an event on Thursday night. they called me on Tuesday. It was a season-premiere party for a well known tv show. Did they just realize the season premiere would be airing that week? I doubt it. Anyway, I digress.

The executive's assistant assured me that the host would use his own household china, and luckily I thought to ask him at 5pm where to find it, and he looked at me as if I suggested he eat out of my bare hand. "What? you're not using my china! where'd you get that idea?" ...from your assistant... "no way, not my good china. Didn't you bring paper plates?"

(I did, I always do, just in case, but I knew I wouldn't be able to charge for them without a receipt, so I sent my assistant out to purchase chinet and plastic forks. I told him to buy plastic cups, and napkins, too. Good thing, or they'd have run out of those.)

THANK GOD I got his asst to sign a Letter of Agreement, so I can justify that none of that was arranged in advance and that's why my estimate is going to be so short.

I'm going to start including rush-surcharges for events with less than 5 days notice, just to make up for the shenanigans that the clients inevitably pull.

How do you all deal with it?

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 06:02 pm: Edit

Gee Whiz..... catering is just like the club biz.

Im sure its the same evrywhere. Still drives me crazy.

Just seems to me they would want their event to be perfect. I get a real kick out of the ones who want menu ideas but want a confirmed price right now before they even sample the menus. I cant price whats not even chosen yet. They always edit what you propose to do and it always scoots the price upwards. I guess they want us to comit to a price due to their pressure and then they got us over a barrel.

Ha.. Better save some.. Off my soapbox for now.


By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 06:24 pm: Edit

Well, Charles, you know how you always come up with the perfect thing to say AFTER you hung up the phone?

I wrote myself a script so when they do try to browbeat me into an estimate before we've discussed menu, I know what I want to say, and I can relay it to them slowly and thoughtfully to point out to them how foolish they are for asking for a price too soon.

I had a lengthy conversation with a guy who does sales coaching. He told me to respond to the premature question of "how much is it going to cost" with "probably more than you're expecting to spend" ...but I'd hang up on someone who told me that in a hurry!

I just tell them it's the same as a restaurant. How can they expect me to make a five-course dinner of high-quality food, from scratch, for $10 a person? Even Sizzler is $14/pp before drinks, tax and tip. Go there instead, and leave me alone.

--- I refuse to do free samples or tastings ---

I tell them they can hire me to do a Personal Chef session of that exact menu. I know THEY don't work for free at their jobs, why should I?

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 08:03 pm: Edit

Yeah, the world would be a better place without people, or customers, for that matter. Our catering clients come in two groups, the corporate ones who usualy only order 3 or 4 different items off of the menu, usually package lunches, know the menu prices, and are happy; and then there are those who are shopping...

With the shoppers I give them an all-inclusive price: High of course, but including food, non-alc. bevies, rentals (our own, of course...) delivery, etc. Basically a "turn-key" price, we show up, set up, and host just grins. Now it gets fun, watching the organizer start slashing prices. Food? Well, uh, we've quoted you with 6 appies per guest, your event is for two hours, and it's slated for late afternoon. We could go for a another price bracket appie, but I wouldn't change the quantity, or you'll run out of food. Rentals? You want to use your own? Of course! Just make sure they're accesible for our staff, and we'll stack them nicely up by the sink, ready for you to be washed ... Booze? No Ma'm, we don't get a discount on liquor, we get it at the same price you or the restaurants do. No, the Gov't sets the prices, yes I wish we could get it cheaper... Yes, we do charge a handling fee to pick up and deliver the liquor, perhaps a family member could get for you? Bartenders? Yes, they're X $ per hour. Pardon? Yes you could supply your own bartenders, but as we have not supplied any liquor or bartenders, we can not be responsible for your guest's behavior or driving habits, the Host must take full responsibilty. Yes, we do charge a bar fee, for ice, garnishes, mixes, pretzels, etc. I'm sure you could get those items at a Supermarket, just pack it well in your car, so the pop doesn't roll around and spray your upholstery...

Then at the event the fun gets really rolling. If my guarantee is 100, I'll put out 105 plates. If we run of plates before the last table has walked to the buffet, then I charge for additional guests.

I've heard tell that old Cops and old Priests are some of the world's most cynical bast***s, in my 8th year in this biz, I smile at my customers and don't trust them an inch, never assume anything other than they're out to get the better of me...

By Cvincolorado (Cvincolorado) on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 09:22 pm: Edit

Here's what I keep running into. The party is booked and the menu is set and we get to service personnel. I bill my clients $20 per hour and pay my staff the same, and by paying well I get the best servers in town to work for me. I guess this seems high to some clients and they tell me that they will help as much as needed if I can do it without servers. Then the party gets going and people start cocktailing and everybody forgets about helping and I'm scrambling around trying to do everything myself. I learned this lesson the hard way the first time and will no longer agree to relying on help from the guests. People can't seem to understand that my professional server will perform better than Uncle Bob after six scotch and waters or cousin Jeff that helped serve banquets at the Y while fulfilling his community service requirements.

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Tuesday, October 04, 2005 - 01:03 am: Edit

I have been at both ends of the spectrum........while I am the chef at the club I do a bit of moonlighting as a caterer to supplement........helps out during holidays. I too, have run into the, " can you do it friday night I have 100ppl heavy hor d'oeuvres?" ...."Sorry I am booked how about..." well you know the rest. THEN I get the members coming into the club in march talking about a party in october wanting an italian menu, so I give 'em; Beans and Greens Soup, Panzanella, Filet of beef and salmon, risotto milanese, broccoli rabe, cappuccino cheesecake. they come back "not italian enough". WHAT???? All for 25 inclusive!?!?!? so then I change it to mizuna/lola rossa and shaved asiago with barolo vinaigrette, veal and seared tuna (they insisted on a duette plate) with gorgonzola and carmalized shallot risotto, caponata and strawberries balsamico with marscapone......Guess what menu they went with, the first one. Now remember this is in MARCH, they called everyday for two weeks to get eveything set... That party is this Friday by the way. Oh what fun we have.

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Tuesday, October 04, 2005 - 01:13 am: Edit



By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Tuesday, October 04, 2005 - 01:36 am: Edit

Creating a menu is a no-win situation without a defined budget.

I need to know either the preferred menu or their total budget.

I try to explain that if they can tell me one or the other, I can either figure out what a menu might cost, or create a menu that fits their budget, but I am not psychic, I can't just pull the numbers out of thin air!

"I just want to get a rough estimate" means: whatever number you quote, the client will hold you to, regardless if their headcount goes up or if they change the menu on you.

My crystal ball doesn't fit in my knife kit! :-D

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Tuesday, October 04, 2005 - 04:05 am: Edit

Well, Charles, you know how you always come up with the perfect thing to say AFTER you hung up the phone?
For Sure. Hind Sight is 20/20.

I think I had a script at one time.. Ive long since memorized it.. Here at the club we do have to do tastings.. Depending on what it is they may get it for free to half price.

I do think they try to get us over a barrel and hold us to a fixed price while they try to say "oh your not doing a dessert" we already have taken mobey in for this and advertised a dessert. Where in the hell does this come from. I got caught many years ago with that same scenario and gave in. Then the member went around bragging how he got one over on me. Jerk..

Oh well.. Still love what I do. Aint half bad at it either.


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, October 04, 2005 - 06:33 pm: Edit

This is a great stroll down memory lane ladies and gentlemen!!!!..Thank you!!!!!
By the way, charge full price for the tasting and if they book the party, tell them you will credit the tasting!!!
There are people who are weekend samplers, they schedule multi tastings all weekend!!!!!

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