The Caterers Corner
Horror Stories Caterers Corner: Horror Stories
By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Friday, June 08, 2001 - 11:00 pm: Edit

I happened to be driving by my facility one Sunday afternoon, drove past, then decided to turn around to go check on something in the office.

As I walked through the door, the phone was ringing. It was a client from out of state who said, "Hi, I was calling to say we were going to be about 30 minutes late tonight" I calmly said, "what time is that?" She said, We will be there at 7pm instead of 6:30. I said, "No problem, we will see you then." I spun around to look at the calendar and sure enough, there it was, a party of 35, here for the NEXT Sunday.... Wrong.... Somebody was wrong, but all I knew was, I needed to make this happen and fast...

I called for my chef, no answer. I called a prep girl and told her to get in. She arrived in 10 mins. I started the cheese board appetizer. Called in two servers and my wife. I went to the grocery and bought whole beef tenderloins and Fresh Tuna, 4 #'s of asparagus.... Rushed back, lit the charbroiler, trimmed and seasoned Tenderloin, cut tuna, blanched asparagus, boiled potatoes.... ... I seared the whole tenderloins, finished in the oven, I made a porcini mushroom red wine sauce from the pan drippings, grilled the tuna, prep girl made the salads, cut desserts we had on hand....

Meanwhile the servers are setting up... The client arrives at 6:45 for drinks and cheeses... Dinner was served at 7:30, the client raved, best food they ever had...

Little did she know that I had NO CLUE as I was driving by my place that in less than 2 hours I had an event and had no food.....

A cold chill ran up my spine as I pondered what if I hadn't stopped at that exact time.... I didnt have my cell phone with me, so I wouldn't have gotten the voice mail...

Let's hear some of your stories!!!


By Sam (Sam) on Friday, June 08, 2001 - 11:17 pm: Edit

while that hasn't happened to me YET, I did have a wedding proposal sent out to CA, we are in KY, had a few conversations about the bid, but never got a contract signed or deposit, left a few messages about 45 days out, and we removed the block and had a nice friday night off, or so we thought.....then on Wednesday, now before the friday wedding, she calls and says we're in town, when can we meet & finalize.....I was floored, but met her, got a certified cheque...and pulled it off, but had a little more time than my good buddy, Carl.....sam

By fodigger on Saturday, June 09, 2001 - 03:28 am: Edit

Great storys. Mine was about a month ago when I happened to get a call from our event cordinator as I was returning from my sons baseball game. The assistant of our largest client had called all paniced as she had forgot to call and reserve a party time for her boss. Him and 11 of his friends were flying in and would like dinner after a round of golf. As I scurried off to find staffing and food for the event all came together thanks to some chef friends who lent me some of the ingredients I needed such as the petite veal rack. Made the customer happy, saved the bacon of the assistant and made a tidy profit to boot.

By Debord (Debord) on Saturday, June 09, 2001 - 08:06 am: Edit

Carl how weird. It does make you feel good knowing that you can pull anything off, no matter what happens you stick it out and put the event together. The adreniline rush is unbelievable. Maybe that's why I never turned to drugs or alchol I got enough daily from catering.

I've done my best to forget the craziness of my catering days. For me it was more frustrations than catastrophys.

People who lived in huge houses with-out enough power to turn all the lights on at once plus run the air conditioning and sterio. They had of electric stove too. We wound up running unbelievable long extention cords from the neighboors house to powder our small counter top convection to do h.d.'s. Then I cooked dinner at the other neighboors house. Thankgoodness I was young and fit at that time. I physically ran miles that night carrying food and equipment back and forth. They lived on big hilly lots and it was very dark between yards. For several hours it was sheer hel* and if that had happened to me now, I think I would have made my apologies and left.

Eventually the host saw how hard we were struggling transporting the food so far (it's not like we had scheduled extra staff to help with this craziness)that he got all his friends helping us carry items. Then, it was even kind of fun having the whole party interacting helping us.

By Bill Rice on Saturday, June 09, 2001 - 10:29 am: Edit

A few years back I had my Event Coordinator get in a car wreck. Actually a truck wreck, my company truck to be exact. He was suppose to go pick up supplies and go home and meet me in the morning. Well he did get the supplies but then went to a strip club, got drunk picked up a stripper and was taking her home ( to his home )
when he ran a red light and hit an off duty Police Officer. He totaled both vehicles. My insurance refused to cover it because they said and it was true that he used the truck outside his scope of authority. His insurance refused to cover it because he was DUI. I got sued but fortunately my EX employee did the right thing and paid for the Police officers car. I just took the loss on my own vehicle.

But the saga continued...

The event for that night I pulled the contract on and did it myself. Our contracts are standard and say we will arrive one hour before actual serving time. This event was very small(30) and one hour was more than enough. I arrived about 70 minutes before serve time. I was greeted by the Hostess screaming and curseing at me saying Kevin - the now EX Event coordiantor had promised he would be here 2 hours before serving time. I tried to explain the situation and told her I was working off the signed Contract ( you guys know the one that says - NO OTHER PROMISES EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED ARE A PART OF THIS CONTRACT UNLESS DULY NOTED IN WRITING ON THIS CONTRACT ANG SIGNED BY BOTH PARTIES) but apolagized none the less and told her not to worry that her event would happen on time and even earlier if she wanted. No one was even there yet but she and I. She still continued to curse at me and truthfully I would have just left but this was a woman I could tell and would learn later had way more money than sense and probably had 10 lawyers on retainer who would sue me for breach of contract. So I figured do the job quickly and get out. Remember I was the first to arrive - well the next 30 people all parked behind me and I couldn't get out. There were 2 driveways and I was suppose to be the only one on this side of the house. Anyway I swear the Hostess did it on purpose. The long of it was I arrived at 5PM should have been gone by 7:30PM but finally got out at 1AM.

There is Justice in the World though. She broke her big toe when she was cursing at me upon my arrival. She made herself so mad she kicked the rock wall around the flower bed. I learned later while talking to her Housekeeper/Cook that the 6,000 SF House with heated Pool on 50 Acres we were at was just her party house that in fact no oned lived there. When i asked what she did for a living i was told nothing. She had inherited all her money and did Charity work mostly. Go figure

Just for the record her event was ready on time and served without a problem. Unless of course I count her :-)

This is good therapy/ Ha

By Mikesul (Mikesul) on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 09:35 pm: Edit

I guess I am fortunate that I run a restaurant and cater both on premise and off from the restaurant as it is already open when the "surprise" happens. As I am inherintly unorganized, little things have often "popped up" in the past that we would have to adjust for. Twice I have failed to record that a bus-load of people would be arriving for dinner. Oh, the information was right on my desk in that pile over there. Quick adjustments and a great crew have saved my ars many o' time. I actually had a bus operator tell me that one coach was going to cancel could she book another in its place? (I had 2 others booked already and could handle 3) Of course I said yes. Day of the event four buses showed. I had all the coaches eating from the same buffet so I greeted and seated the 4th bus with the others. My staff never noticed and thought they were with the other buses. We all laughed in the end - remind me again - why do we do this for a living?

By Norma on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 06:50 pm: Edit

Once, I had a national space convention in the hotel. I always pick up a copy of the final convention brochure from the registration desk the morning the group first arrives. Hundreds of times I have picked up small extra lunches or coffee services that would have been called in last minute, that are listed on the final convention syllabus but not on the working copy the meeting planners supply me with. So this morning I pick up a copy, retreat to my office to review, when I see that, that same afternoon, a 200 person luncheon is sheduled with Vice-President Quail as the guest speaker. Talk about panic. So I went to the meeting planner to ask her if this had cancelled. Nooooo, they had received a yes from the VP and had she forgotten to tell me? I called our chef and we pulled the petite filet off of the surf and turf for dinner that evening, called the purveyor to replace the filets for later that evening and the chef marked it up 5% for hassle. I marked it up another 5%. So a tidy profit and another moment of high blood pressure. I can go on and on with stories. How about the meeting planner who swore he did not want coffee served before the first plenary meeting for a group of 500. I could not convince him, that people need caffeine in the am. So that morning 500 bleary eyed folks descent all asking for coffee. A few minutes later a gentleman approaches me and wants to know where the coffee is. I can tell from his name badge that he is my meeting planners superior, so I ask him to come with me and put these two together, while I stepped by 2 feet, far enough for some privacy but not far enough for the meeting planner to lie. Five minutes later we have a coffee order at double the price. I always raise the prices when I am steamed. Or how about the comic who became the meeting planner for the national air traffic control convention. Every year the exhibitors hosted one food item for the opening reception. This year the comedian asked that they make donations to the association and he would make arrangements for the reception. Of course he only spent 50% of the donations. So that evening on the floor I had Lockheed, Martin Marietta etc. etc. all asking where was the traditional oyster bar was and the traditional magarita bar and where was the traditional beef tenderloin. So once again I asked these gentlemen to follow me and introduced them to the meeting planner. Boy did he squirm. What goes around comes around. A few years earlier a close friend lost out on a job promotion because the hotel hired this meeting planners younger brother as a sales manager,(who only lasted 1 month) Thanks for listening. This is very therapeutic indeed.

By Norma on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 06:53 pm: Edit

My very favorite story was when I was a very green assistant manager one new years eve long, long ago. I got a phone call from a hotel guest who wanted to know if everything was squared away for his party that evening. Of course I had absolutely nothing. I took his name and room number and told him I would get back to him in a moment. I searched my office everywhere-Nothing. I searched the Chef's clipboards-Nothing. I searched the banquet office- Nothing. I searched the Catering offices- nothing. I had no choice but to interrupt the very important meeting the chef,food & beverage director and catering director were in, going over the last minute details for the 800 person new years eve gala. So the catering director shoots me a withering look because I interrupted them. The f&b and chef look on tolerantly that thinking I had probably messed up. Then the catering director reaches into a large pile, Slowly pulls out a catering folder letting it drop onto his desk with a thud. Slowly he opens it, shoots me one last withering look, then, looking inside the folder he finally says. Oh, I forgot to distribute it. Ha! Within 5 years I had his job! Based on recommendations of the other 2 at that meeting. Thank you all for listening, I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. I got a million of them. This is very therapeutic

By debord on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 08:26 am: Edit

Yes, it's helpful to unload....good stories Norma got any more?

By Norma on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:43 pm: Edit

Yes, stories I have. I was in the food & beverage industry for 20 years. At one luncheon for 500 where Vice-President Bush was speaking, there happenened to be a young man wearing a slightly rumpled suit and army boots. The VP started his before lunch comments when this man starts heckling him for something. I was told he stood up and took one step toward the VP, when the secret service descended on him picked him up under the arms and zoomed out of the ballroom. I was in the back hall with the salads when the ballroom doors bangged open and all three of them knock me down. The agents slammed him up against the corridor wall, searched, and handcuffed him and had him out of there before I got up off of the floor. Once I had a major local fundraising dinner in the hotel and since the rooms division was quiet guess who also got to be Night Manager. So kickoff time is approaching and there are lots of props and items still missing. In searching for the reason I find one lone musician slowly rolling some drums off the freight elevator. Quickly I set roll his stuff off the elevator, hop on board and travel down one floor to the dock to find my props and waiters. In front of them are more musicians and stuff. I bully my guys to the front, load the props and commandeer the half empty elevator back to the second floor. For the entire ride, and freight elevators are slow, the lead musician is hopping up and down yelling at me telling me I can't do this and how much trouble I am going to be in. He is going to report me to the hotel manager. Boy am I in trouble now! I could hardly keep from laughing when I told him I was the night manager! But we quickly rolled out stuff of of the elevator and got out of his way. He never did report me to me.

By bratgirl on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 09:30 am: Edit

PRICELESS!!! You should write a book Norma!!!

By Norma on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 12:52 pm: Edit

Later, in my career, I left the long hour hotel profession behind and went to work for at the US Naval Academy. Due to some untimely midshipmen deaths at the Academy, the Club division had to host four last minute off premise receptions for 1000 persons each, 1 on Thursday, 2 on a Friday, 1 on Saturday. On Thursday realizing our stock of litre soda was not sufficient, I asked our Beverage manager to get more stock in. Unfortunately the response from our Pepsi beverage purveyor was inadequate. I told our Beverage Manager to call him back, and tell him that, I did not care if he had a truck deliver the soda, if he brought it down in his car or had it delivered by taxi, but if that soda was not here by 10am tomorrow then the next Monday morning I would personnally walk this entire base and pull every Pepsi machine and product and replace them with Coke. (In retrospect I do believe the base admiral would have supported me because the club sustem supports the academy's mission and if our purveyors hinder and not help, then a solution must be found) Anyway, needless to say, our soda arrived. That Sunday, after we finally have some time to cleanup I was chatting with the Beverage manger and asked her if she really wanted to get this guy's goat. Her answer was yea! So I told her to write a letter from the two of us to this guys boss and tell him that the reason we use Pepsi is because of the type of service this guy provided! There was no way to predict and stock soda for 4000 for a hot September day, and by bringing us the soda so promptly, we were able to succeed in our task of supporting the Academy. That following Wednesday, this guy calls us and says with something between horror and disbelief in his voice that unknowingly, he and 3 others had been up for a promotion and based on our letter to his boss, he was the new assistant district manager. To this day I believe anytime the Officers Club of the United States Naval Acadmey calls this guy, that he would leap tall buildings to accomodate them.

By junior on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 01:36 pm: Edit

norma,your copy is way to long and hard to get thru. too much detail over mundane occurences.try to summarise your thoughts better. don't take this the wrong way,it is not betrayal,just a friendly thought for your use....junior

By George (George) on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 02:42 pm: Edit


Do what your have been doing your posts are some of the best in the last months.

Jr when you want to be a moderator and tell folks what to do on a site start your own.


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 08:55 pm: Edit

More Norma, more!!!!!!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 09:25 pm: Edit

In FL. we have boat shows going on all the time. We were doing the Ft. Laud. boat show one year which is the biggest in the world and this co. had a cajun party lined up on a boat for 300 persons everything was to arrive from Louisiana w/ chefs and everything. The night before the event the guy comes to me because we had a booth set up selling clams oysters, oyster shooters, stone crabs, shrimps, you name it if it was seafood we had it; we had a phone and we would take orders from all the booths in the show, fax even. Anyway the guy says to me hey, I need a really big favor if you can't do it I'll understand, and charge me whatever you need to, I know this is a long shot. I said OK, thinking it was a platter or two for his tent or a boat that night. He tells me the story about the party and he follows it with, the food is not going to be here, can you do the party for me?. I was 26, my first year in business and like a cocky moron I said, "no problem" as I walked back to my booth I said what the f--- did I just do. This is a boat show, a big boat show, just getting trucks in and out was an ordeal.
Thank God we had "one" cajun restaurant in town, it's gone now, I called the chef and asked if he had a cook he could spare one day, I spoke to the cook explained the situation, his answer was "sure" I'll do it (I told him I'd give him $500.00 cash) to do the app. and a main course, whatever he wanted to do, just cajun. He made a killer etoufee and I forget the app. he worked his butt off all day (he ran around town picking up what he needed food wise from purveyors). I made a pseudo cajun salad and bought dessert, I charged the guy $100.00 PP, the hard part was finding waiters I needed 20, 12 showed up.
The killer part of the story is only 35-37 people showed up for the party, I will never forget that.
Yes, I got all my money up front, on something like that I was not taking any chances, the guy was not pissed or anything. He knew I pulled off a killer task w/ about 20 hours notice. Anyway, the next day we had etoufee for sale also at the booth. Of course the guy ate for free the rest of the boat show, he was pretty cool, it wasn't his $$$ I imagine. It was some italian boat co. Donzi or something like that.

By debord on Saturday, June 30, 2001 - 08:23 am: Edit

Love your stories Norma! Makes me wish I had payed attention to all the craziness around me....

Personal favorite stories wouldn't really mean much to anyone here but me, but I'll try.......we had 2 party consultants who were over dressed and way-over-make-up-ed (with black lip liner, long plastic fingernails that we figured one day would get lost in a food platter that they picked off of with their fingers constantly) homemakers trying to make it big in the party consulting business. Both womens spouses were lawyers in Chicago and got them some really great contacts...but dealing with 2 housewife want-to-be was so difficult. They ate out of my saute pan as I cooked(literally), they peeked into the oven as I checked my tenderloin. They set their $500.00 purses down on the kitchen counter and had my staff unloading their personal crap from their cars. They called their children 10 times during every event (from the kitchen phone, even out of state when their kids were at camp) and wouldn't hang up until their kids told them they loved them back, EACH TIME. We hated them, they didn't understand professional bounderies, professional time lines even the word professional. I hated to work any party with them, I even once threatened to walk off a major job mid party if they didn't get out of the kitchen.

My favorite story...we did a cruise out on lake michigan on a smallish sized boat. Both women had to come along to supervise me and one waitress (I had done major parties for them and they knew this was a breeze, but they just wanted a free cruise and dinner)on this boat for 20 guest serving cold tenderloin sandwiches. Right away we were tripping over them as usual. They were hungery (as usual) and needed to sample the tenderloin and the pasta salad and a bit of everything... so before we left dock the two piggies had full bellies. Well I got lucky that evening. We got about 1 hour out on this cruise and the water started getting choppie.....very choppie! My two favorite busy bodies got sick big time! They were literally green (I've never seen people get so sick)then someone told them eating helped sea sickness so the ate and threw up all night long. It was a great cycle watching them eat and perge.....HA nature finally got the two little piggies. They never pretended to supervise a boat party again!

P.S. One on them did loose a fake fingernail on another party...we franticly searched everything to find the damn thing. They ate off the buffet platters with their fingers at every party! It showed up at the end of the event in the ladies stuff.....but they never learned their lesson they still came with those things on and pawed the peoples food.

By Norma on Tuesday, July 03, 2001 - 04:59 pm: Edit

Once at a very large fundraiser dinner, I was standing just inside of the ballroom doors with my back to the reception foyer. All of our guests were in the process of being seated. All of a sudden this lady sashays past me with the back hem of her dress caught up in the waistband of her pantyhose. Her entire backside was exposed! I must say, it took me a moment or two to react. I took off after her, but she was moving fast thru the off-set table arrangment.
I did not catch up to her until she was halfway thru the ballroom. I just grabbed the hem of her dress and pulled it down. Then I took off. I mean what could I say, after 500 or so of her closest social friends were given an eyefull. To this day whenever I leave a restroom, I check 3 and 4 times to make sure the hem of my dress is not caught up. This lady gave me a psychiatric condition!! I wonder what other neurosis I have picked up in this business!!

By CaterGreat on Wednesday, July 04, 2001 - 09:58 am: Edit

So, Norma, was it a nice backside? I mean, maybe she was just showing it off? Great story Norma... keep em coming!


By debord on Thursday, July 05, 2001 - 12:33 am: Edit

That's actually not that do have to be rather skilled when wearing dresses and pantyhose if your drinking alot.

It's refreshing cool though......

By bratgirl on Thursday, July 05, 2001 - 10:39 am: Edit

I am laughing so hard at the pantyhose story...people are looking at me strangely! More Please!!

By tom on Tuesday, July 10, 2001 - 01:23 pm: Edit


It's been a whole week since your last story. I look forward to them. Got any more?

By Norm Routhier on Tuesday, July 10, 2001 - 05:31 pm: Edit

Several years ago we had booked a Limo company's summer bbq for a Monday afternoon. Early in the afternoon I was out shopping when I was called on my cell phone by my manager informing me that the client had called and were wondering why we had not arrived yet. My schedule had them booked for the following Monday. When I got back to the shop I phoned the client to explain that I had them for the following Monday, note the party was in another town 1-1/2 hours drive away. Needless to say the client was a little ballistic, informing me that all the guests had already arrived. After explaining that I could pull it off but serving time would be a little late I was ordered to get my A** down there as soon as possible. 3 phone calls got me a server, we had done several large parties in the last 2 days so there was plenty of salads in the cooler which we repackaged real fast, threw the equipment in the truck, stopped at a large grocery store on the way out of town and put the pedal down. We made the trip in 1 hour flat. The poor server had never worked for me before and she spent the whole trip prepping fresh fruit& veggie platters and shucking corn when she wasn't hanging on for dear life. As we pulled into the clients driveway she was finishing off the last ear of corn.
We ended up serving only 1 hour late everyone was allowed to have as much as they could handle and then to smooth over any hard feelings we left them all the left over food. They ended up being so pleased that they gave us a nice tip and called us back the next year.

another quick story, we were doing a boat cruise dinner for 100 people off of Plum Island in Mass. after departure we set up all the appetizers in the front of the boat and had just started serving when for some reason the boat captain had to cross the wake of a previous boat. I was at that momant watching the traffic flow when the boat started to rock. I turned back towards the bar to see the bartender spread her arms as wide as she could to try to keep all the booze on the shelves when I heard a loud spash . Turning back I found that our 5 gal container of homemade seafood chowder had taken a dive off the serving table and had gone everywhere, including all over serveral guests. The shrimp and fruit platters had also taken a dive. as the shock of seeing everything splattered all over the front of the boat I remembered that I had put a box of 100 NY strip steaks on a wooden backless shelf that extended off the back end of the boat!!!!

By Norma on Friday, July 13, 2001 - 08:44 pm: Edit

One of my very first weddings, and I hope I am not offending anyone was a marriage between a redheaded Irish girl turned Orthodox Jew and a dark hair Orthodox Jewish man. For some reason the bride had set her guests so that every other table was full of Redheaded Irish and every table in between was Brown headed Jewish folk. The bride and groom were announced and went straight to the dance floor for the traditional Jewish celebration song. All of the Jewish relatives ran up to join in and I swear to you every redheaded person jaw dropped. I wish I had had a camera. For the entire wedding the Irish relatives sat there in shock. When it came time for the father of the bride to pay the balance, he refused and sent me to the father of the groom who sent me to the bride, who sent me to the groom. Finally the groom went and talked to his father, then to the father of the bride and then to the bride and then to me. The final story if the Father of the bride was so upset he was refusing to pay, so the groom set up a payment schedule of $100.00 a month for the next five years. I think we finally wrote off the balance.

By Norma on Friday, July 13, 2001 - 09:13 pm: Edit

Once at a 1000 person dinner, we were serving baby lobster tails and filet. About half of these beautiful dinners were served when Rinnng-a-ding Rinnng-a-ding Rinnng-a-ding goes the fire alarm. We had to evacuate the entire ballroom, ladies in long evening gowns and gentlemen in tuxes to the street. Finally when the dinners that were served were stone cold and the dinners in the hot boxes were rubber, the fire marshals let everyone back in to finish the evening. Later I found out that a houseman’s mop handle had been dropped inadvertently right onto one of the fire alarm stations in the exhibit hall

Another time I had a deaf convention in the hotel. On opening night there was a dance and of course the music is absolutely incredibly loud. I mean really really loud. So loud that it almost hurts. While I was yelling back an answer to the manager who was with me, this young man comes up to me from the side, so that I did not notice him approaching and stuck his finger into my ear. I was standing there with his finger in my ear! I was shocked, and strange, as it may seem quite shaken by this. I mean this guy completely invaded my personnel space. So I left, quickly! I go out to find our Lobby Bartenders attempting to close, and some of these same conventioneers kept demanding drinks. They were leaning over the bar, trying to grab drinks, a few in the middle are starting to climb over the bar, so I ran to the bartenders help. I knelt on the beer cooler, stretched my arms out wide, held several people back and started shaking my head NONONO, while the bartenders locked up what they could and loaded the rest up. After we departed the hungry horde roamed the back bar to their hearts content but nothing was to be had.

By Norma on Friday, July 13, 2001 - 09:44 pm: Edit

One time a young catering manager had booked a Gypsy wedding. This was during a very slow summer and the bride and groom were paying a thousand dollars for the ballroom and wanted no food, no beverages, no tables, no chairs, no dance floor. Nothing! They had told this manager that they were having a simple ceremony and then there would be gypsy music, maybe a little dancing. Of course because of these requests there was no Convention floor manger or Banquet manager on duty, and of course there was no staff. The only managers there, was this catering manager, another manager in rooms division and me, who was simply stopping by to check on things. So out we go to the banquet rooms, to discover that there were about 2000 people converging on the ballroom bringing in there own food, wine, hot plates, folding TV trays, & lawn chairs. I mean there were grocery bags of food, there were small red kiddies wagons full of liquor. There were those small wheeled metal carts the elderly use for grocery shopping full of food. There were young people, there were old people, and there were short people, and tall people, yellow people and green people all carrying groceries. There was even wheelbarrows full of ice. We ran to the ballroom to stop them, where we discovered all of the windows to the ballroom were covered with black paper and they had posted guards at all of the entrances, both front of the house and rear. We called security but there was no stopping this. Security and I retreated to the Audiovisual booth where we had a birds eye view of the destruction as it began. We finally resorted to calling the local police and having them evicted, but that took some time and we were left with several thousands of dollars of damage.

By Matt (Matt) on Friday, July 13, 2001 - 11:33 pm: Edit

You truly do have the best stories Norma, keep em coming. I just keep praying as I read these though that I never have to deal with some of these crazy ones. WOW!!!

By Peachcreek (Peachcreek) on Tuesday, July 24, 2001 - 04:27 pm: Edit

When I had my restaurant in the mountains, I got quite a lot of business from the local rafting companies. One, in particular, liked to get its clientele from a nearby very snobby ski resort. Well, those people have the money. One couple who were semi-regulars from the ski town, I'll call him "Stretch" and his girlfriend "The Model", loved the food. They were demanding, pain in the butt customers, but they tipped and bought well, and I may have kissed butt a little too good in those days. One busy morning, I'm cooking breakfast, and Stretch shows up, and wants to place an order. I had forgotten to take the prior nights' specials off the board, and he told me that they wanted a boxed lunch, and seeing that I had King crab on the menu, asked if I would mind making crab salads, fruit and cheese, a small meat tray, and "the best bottle of chardonnay in the house"...
I rush through my breakfast orders, steam and crack the crab, assemble the salads, make and box the food, grab a bottle of great chard, and have it ready in a short time. Stretch shows back up with a tiny plastic duffle "dry bag", and starts smashing this stack of styrofoam boxes into the dry bag! I mean, he just wads them in there tight, ruining everything, and then asks me for a couple of REAL glass wineglasses, which he also stuff in, and then the wine! It turns out it has to fit in the pouch of his kayak! I charged @$95.00 for that, including the wine.
Stretch shows back up a few hours later. Like an idiot, I chime in-"How was the picnic?" He launches into how messed up the food was, wet, smashed, and disgusting! His girlfriend "The Model" starts screaming at me that she has eaten in almost every city in the WORLD, and that I was the most expensive food she had ever seen! And then goes on to tell me that she has SOOO many friends, and that she was going to let them ALL know and I would be ruined! Then they started out the door.
I went to the cash register and took out about $30.00, and caught up to them in the parking lot. I threw the money onto the front seat of his car and told Stretch, "This is the profit from your lunch. I've made nothing off of that transaction. Now I can feel good about telling you to get the f**k off my property!" People they knew overheard the yelling. I'm sure that I humiliated them...
Turns out that "their friends" kept coming to the restaurant, even though Stretch was 86'ed. I come to find out that they didn't mind him not being around.............And they liked that I had the nerve to stand up to him!

By mikesul on Wednesday, July 25, 2001 - 11:58 pm: Edit

Here’s some fun for you!

It’s 11:30 in the evening and I just got the following call from a local DJ.

Whatddya mean I can't play there???!!!"

"Sam, your last two DJ's were late. I've got a reputation to keep here."

'Noooooooooooo. How come I hear about this now? I haven't had a wedding there since 1996! I do 40 weddings a year!"

"No Sam, it was 1999 with the last one. No way you didn't hear about it. The Bride was furious. Your DJ was over an hour late. He didn’t even call until he was over 40 minutes late. I had to announce in the wedding party."

"I got all my records here. It wasn't me. These are all the records I show the IRS"

"Sam, you pay your people cash. The whole town knows it."

"Cash vouchers, yeah. But it's all reported"

"Ok Sam."

"Listen, I do 90 weddings a year(my how the number changes!) and you're the only place I've ever heard about not letting me in. I do more weddings than anyone in town!"

"Sam, here are your options....

By mikesul on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 06:27 pm: Edit

So here's how it ended. Sammy the DJ was a guest at this party. I had already spoken to the boss of the woman who set this party up. They had to spend the whole bank account no matter what - rules of the school. So I talked him into asking for half of the money back for the DJ ($175) and cancelling him for the night. In return, I offered $200 worth of free hors d'oeuvres. Then, I offered other ways for the group to spend the extra $ they had in their account and more than made up for it. Everybody was very happy except for swingin Sammy - oh well!

By Jollyscatering on Thursday, August 02, 2001 - 01:46 pm: Edit

This is a nice place to Vent !
I did a wedding this June. They put me in a barn to set up ! flies everywhere, so we were trying to keep the door closed. They said they wanted to eat at 6pm, well at 510pm 450 hungry ,hot people decended on me. THey told me 240 people, guess they were trying to save money. WE started slaming out the food. We were carrying it out so fast and the MOB (mother of the bride) kept coming in and demanding more food on table 2, more food on table 3...and letting flies in, so I said "PLEASE keep door closed we are getting flies in here" she snaped back that they spent 2 days cleaning out the barn, so there were no flies in here." sure lady no flies in a barn !
my bartender arrived at 515pm, 45 mins early, well it was 15 mins late ! because the bride told me they wanted food served at 6pm ! Then the drunk bridesmades grabed my servers and bus boys and took them out on the dance floor, they danced one dance with them then went back to work. Then a dog that that one of the band members had with him knocked over the cake table!! Then when they cut the cake , the MOB came in screaming that there were no more forks, I had 600 forks on hand(250 for dinner, and 250 for cake and 100 extra) well sure lady there are no forks because your guests used them all for dinner ! so we had to wash 600 forks real quick for cake, they would not let me use the kitchen in the 10,000 s/f house because they did not want to mess up the big house kitchen! so we had to wash them in a horse watering bucket. glad I had some clorox on hand.. total nightmear ! but I pulled it off and the guests never knew I lost 45 mins and they all claped when we left ! When I sent them a final bill they wrote me a nasty letter...said that they were not going to pay me because the bartender was late, the bus boys danced, and there were not enough forks !! and the check was a few thousand short..
I have a contract that a lawyer wrote now!
learning experence for sure

By Peachcreek (Peachcreek) on Thursday, August 02, 2001 - 05:07 pm: Edit

A story to warm the cockles of you heart..

When I lived in the mountains, simple

necessities, like gasoline meant a 15 mile

drive into town. One night after I closed the

cafe, I caught a ride to the bar with a friend

who was going into town for gas.

We get into town about 15 minutes before the

only gas station is about to close. A young

seasonal kid, up from the city is running the

gas station, and was unaware that we were

locals, and really needed gas. He decided to

close early that night to go party, and from

inside gave a smirky "we're closed"!

We ended up going to the bar and borrowing

a gas can and got good and buzzed.......

A few weeks later, the same kid and his

girlfriend drive out to the cafe for a meal. I tell

the server that I will wait on this one......

I let them sit. Just as they start to get restless,

the busser runs out and gives them water

and menus and says we will be right back.

And they sit some more. I could tell they were

getting pissed off. They start to get up, and I

have the server go and tell them that we will

be right back. So the sit. Now the guy IS

pissed. They have been sitting there for @

half an hour. The server tells them it will be

just a moment, and the guy says if they don't

get to order, and by now other customers set

after them are eating, he wants to the

manager. The server says the manager will

be right out. And then they wait...

So after close to an hour after they sat down,

I walk out to the deck. The guy now

recognizes me from the gas station. I walk

up and ask him if he remembered me, and

he said yes. I told him that he did'nt feel it

necessary to sell me gas, and now I did'nt

feel it necessary for them to eat in my

restaurant! Payback can be a •••••.....

By CaterSteve on Tuesday, August 07, 2001 - 10:37 am: Edit

I work for a company which is very sales oriented in South Florida, the Director of Catering (DoC) before me was constantly under pressure to "book" every potential client who walked thru the door or made an appointment to discuss an affair. I was the Dining room manager at the time, (we have a large reastaurant, and catering in four private rooms, the largest of which can seat 350 guests) and knew that the unfortunate director was not going to last much longer. So with some discussion with senior management and the owner, it was decided that I'd be the one to step into her shoes, OUCH! When I got to the office on my first day, I decided to do an audit of all the events, my assistant ( who worked for the previous DoC)pointed to a huge filing cabinet full of messy, unorganized files and said, There ya go! What I found is still haunting me to this day! ( 6 months later) There were events on file that weren't in the Bible ( master book ) or the computer ( which was a mess). Double bookes rooms, Weddings for 200 people day and night with 30 minutes between functions to reset! Needless to say, I was very distraught with the situation before me. Fortunately, I have great people working with me, and we have had good clients to work with on adjusting times and dates to pull it all together, and we're making it happen!

Not only did the DoC before me book every client, but she wheeled and dealed until the cows came home! I've had clients who stated SHE would make the centerpieces for us! Most of them had verbal agreements not in contract, like ceremony set up and decorations provided by us; we have no archways, tuling or runners for this type of set up! Free bars, limosine service included, and the list goes on!

Finally the shoes I stepped into are getting broken in, and there's a light at the end of the season. Didn't the DoC before myself realize that there is such a thing as booking BAD business?

Anyone else have the privilege of wearing someone elses shoes?

By Carl on Sunday, August 12, 2001 - 09:03 am: Edit


I have had similar experiences. Anyone have any ideas on what to do about guarantees of 250 and actual turnouts of 400? I have thought about charging a higher rate for going over their guarantees.

One thing I do is price based upon 100 guests. Each additional guest is 20 - 25% less. I have considered charging the higher of the two rates for the extra guests. Maybe this would get me a more accurate guarantee.

Jollyscatering: Your first mistake was not getting the entire amount upfront and a credit card for additional guests or needs. Just like hotels do.

I have an "event information sheet" which the client must fill out in their own handwriting. If the time says 6:00 PM, then there is not any of this hour early crap. When it does happen, and it does, we do our best to get the food out early. Once I posted a sign at the buffet which said. "THIS EVENT WAS SCHEDULED BY THE HOST AT 6:00 PM, WE WILL HAVE THE FOOD READY A.S.A.P., THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE"

Or how about the time when this happened and the host announced on the loudspeaker that the "caterer" was not ready yet...... I dropped what I was doing, made a beeline for the host and told her to get back on the loudspeaker with an apology and tell the guest that it was her mistake about the times or I was going home, no meal!! She quickly retracted and said real nice things about me....

Contracts are designed to protect the caterer and client. With my "friends" (and everyone thinks they are my friend), some have asked why they need to sign a contract and pay a deposit. I say, "these policies are carefully designed to preserve friendships and alleviate misunderstandings"

Don't deviate from your policies. When the time comes, you are real glad you have them.

By Cateringkid (Cateringkid) on Monday, August 13, 2001 - 01:36 am: Edit

Well I guess I'll throw my hat into the ring. This event was a total nightmare and will haunt me for the rest of my days. This is when I first started catering. Like 6 months into it. We booked an event for 250 ppl. My first large one. A lodge president installation service. They wanted chicken, potatoes and veggies. Easy menu right? HA!!! The chicken was to be airline breasts. I didn't even know what airline was. The contact told me that she wanted to use whole chickens, take the wings off, fry those, bake the airlines and fry the leg and thigh portion together. I'm thinking no problem. I called everywhere I could think of and finally found airline breasts. At 6.99 a lb. After I quoted the party. Then stupid me went out and bought 75 whole wog chickens so I could do what else she wanted me to do.

While going through my paperwork, I noticed that they didn't order any drinks, coffee or dessert. So I go back to my contact and we negotiate a price. But I went on trust and didn't have her sign a new contract and/or change order. I also agreed to do all of the decorating, provide service staff, make the desserts myself, clean-up, the whole nine yards. So while I'm running around half crazed....(I was also stupid enough to not have anyone else help me prepare food, I wanted to be "the chef" --got over that real fast!!!) fridge goes out. I had 400 pieces of chicken in there. 10 gallons of the most gorgeous stock you ever wanted to see, enough new potatoes to start a new farm, and enough zucchini to fill a pool (I also didn't know how to do food costs, and usually purchased WAY more than I needed. And all of this the day before the event. I discovered it about 3pm. So I call my vendor and get more food. It comes at 6pm, chicken is frozen solid. And because of the lateness of the hour, they're whole, bone in breasts, no legs, no thighs, no wings. I almost die. I need to be there at 10 am the next day. Contact is no where to be found.

So I find a 24 hour grocery store, clean them out of every piece of chicken they have and stay up until 6 prepping. Still didn't wake up to the fact that I could hire people to help me with this.

2 of my servers bail on me that morning. I have no back-up. The one I do have can't boil water to save her life and she moves as slow as toast. I use her for punch. We get lost on the way because the contact gave me the wrong directions. We get there an hour late so the food is an hour late coming out. I'm in the kitchen crying into the potatoes thinking that I'm a total failure and that I need to just quit.

Everyone got to eat though and it went ok except for the time. We clean the place spotless and load up the vans. Mind you it's 9pm. They ran over 3 hours. I present my final bill to be paid, and the trustees have a fit because it's for more than they contracted for. The contact neglected to tell them about the added amount for dessert, coffee and drinks. And I took the coffee service off because I was late.

They refused to pay me the extra money. Told me to write them a letter explaining why I should have that money and they'd think about it. Then I get a really nasty letter in the mail about how awful the service was and that I should give them money back because they suffered so at my hands, etc. It was horrible. They promised not to sue me if I would cooperate and give them back half of what they paid me. I only charged em $3,200 for the entire event and was out of pocket so much money because I replaced so much food, etc.

They called me a liar and a thief. Said that nothing tasted good and they just ate it because they were hungry. (They licked the plates clean!) They threated to sue me for the difference if I didn't hand over that money. It was awful. Claimed that people got sick, claimed that they could've sworn they saw infestation problems in my equipment, said that I blew a fuse in the building with my warming oven, the list was endless. I ended up withdrawing my additional bill for the dessert/drinks and threatened them with a libel/slander/defamation of character lawsuit if they didn't back off. (I was a paralegal in a previous life!)

They left me alone but my name is mud in their town and I'm not too pleased with them either. Everytime I think of it I want to crawl into a hole. It was a valuble learning experience but also the worst of my life.

It was worse than when a wedding cake tipped over at a reception just as the bride walked in....

By Cateringkid (Cateringkid) on Monday, August 13, 2001 - 01:55 am: Edit

A funny one from when I was still in was during the rolling blackouts that were plaguing Calif. at the time. My class was in the main restaurant and we had 300 ppl booked for the Grand Buffet. Private party. The power had gone out earlier and we couldn't get into school for 2 hours. The restaurant opened at 6 which gave us an hour to get ready for service. We manage to make it and the minute Chef opens the buffet, the power goes out again. Of course everyone arrived on time so they usher all 300 ppl in the front of the school out into the middle of the street where they block traffic, and shuffle us to the other side of the building so they could keep up with us.

It turns out that during the remodeling of a downstairs kitchen, one of the workmen had cut the main power lines. So the shuffle us back into the kitchen, we clean up and put food away and prepare to go home. I don't know what they were going to do with the guests. But they manage to get power back on so we have to stay, set up again and warm stuff up. As soon as we're all set up, power goes again. But came back on in about 5 min. This went on all night. The poor servers would have to stop where they were when it went dark, sometimes with trays of dirty dishes and wait for power because it was so dark.

The guests were cool about it though. They'd start chanting and clapping everytime the lights went off. "clap on (clap clap) clap off (clap clap)"...they had a good time.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Monday, July 22, 2002 - 04:08 pm: Edit

Here I am again, in an old thread. Since I am new, I was just catching up on what you all have been chatting about. I found this thread really interesting and fun. Can't we rev it up again?

Here is my contribution.

When I first started catering in the mountains, (having left the safe confines of the hotel kitchen)I would cater to some areas up to two hours away - different than an hour in the city, not much traffic but the roads are rough and curvy. Anyway, the mother of the groom (hereinafter called mog) was quite a character and insisted nothing but the best for this wedding. They were coming from out of state and didn't want to spend more than they had to for set up. They would do set up the night before. (Yeah Right!) They didn't want to pay for my people to travel the hour each way twice, once for set up and once for service.

I arrived, food ready, 1 hour before service to find set-up wasn't done. My servers, who were supposed to be setting up the buffet, were setting and decorating tables. When the mog arrived, about half of the tables were ready and the cake was on the cake table. She decided that it was in the wrong place and had the groomsmen move the cake table in front of a large uncovered window with the afternoon sun shining through (in 100+ degree weather.)

My kitchen staff and I were getting the food out and when all was ready, the family china was missing...? We never did find it so the mother and father of the bride ate on paper? ugh! They volunteered to do it and were very gracious, but I felt like a heel. Mog never fessed up either, and didn't volunteer to eat on paper.

About half way through the dinner, mog came running in to tell me that something was wrong with the cake and the china cake topper was leaning. I went to the original place for the cake table and it was missing! Low and behold! the sun was melting the cake. I repaired the damage and closed the drapery behind it, redirecting an air conditioning duct to cool the area. All seemed well.

They were throwing bouquets and garters when the mob came into the kitchen to say that the cake topper had tumbled. Ugh!! I rushed out and was able to repair the damage to the frosting but the china topper was definitely broken. I took some frosting and using it as glue, put the topper together with tissue paper inside, and replaced it on the cake, hiding the crack with a well placed flower. The bride's mom said that it was bought over the internet and she would replace it before the newlyweds got back from their honeymoon. They never did know. Fortunately the mob was paying and the mog didn't have much influence with her.

The mob was very nice and we had raves on the food. But I will never again trust a family member to do set-up, or to leave the cake table where it belongs. Each horror story has it's lessons and we were hansomely tipped for having to deal with the mog!

By Mbw (Mbw) on Monday, July 21, 2003 - 01:01 pm: Edit

Are those fire trucks for me?

Hypothetically speaking of course, suppose you were hired to do a hot breakfast in the heart of the financial district in some city, and you sold the client scrambled eggs, home fries, sausage, hypothetically speaking of course. So suppose also that you were planning to use a small butane burner to scramble the eggs fresh on site, and chafers for service.

Engineering note: Many service elevators open out into a secure little cube and you need to have someone from the office inside unlock the door? Did you know these spaces are not very well ventilated? They do however have very good smoke alarms.

So if someone was stupid enough to have lit chafers in that space for a few minutes the fumes may build up and trigger the alarm. Even worse if the caterer was dumb enough to use that room to sauté sausage in the floating grease and butane fumes would surely accumulate and cause a problem.

Hi how ya doin?

So if a caterer DID set off the fire alarm on the 9th floor, at 8:45 am on a Thursday in the middle of the financial district in some city (say for the sake of argument Market Street here in SF), and the whole floor had to be evacuated, and hook and ladder arrives carrying 200llbs plus of hose, axe and fire fighting gear EACH to investigate, would that be bad?

Hypothetically speaking of course, this would NEVER happen to me.

PS don’t miss our next episode “Very hot breakfast” or “Out of the frying pan and into the microwave”


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