The Caterers Corner
Bitten off more than I can chew (again) Caterers Corner: Bitten off more than I can chew (again)
By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, December 11, 2002 - 09:16 pm: Edit

For some odd reason I take the events that sound fun, profitable, or difficult. If a client has all three I just can't resist.

Less than 16 hours before a 7:15AM call the client calls me and informs me that a local TV crew will be at the site, and that the event has been moved up to 6:AM.

"um? I can try, but we are scheduled to start at 7:15? All my staff are arriving at 6:AM? OK I will call some and try to get them here earlier."

We were unable to make the 6AM call, the TV crew didn't get the footage they wanted, the client is freaked, and I feel like dirt! There were a lot of technical difficulties with THEIR equipment, that added to the problems all day long, but ultimately all things reflect on the caterer. Now here is the fun part.

One more day to go!

I have added staff, and taken steps to assure this event will be a success. Of course the clients will be on HIGH STRESS ALERT all day. Wish me luck.

200 gal of hot chocolate anyone?

Why do I do this?

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 10:20 am: Edit

lol... "it's a food of love thing" that's why you do it...

As for the not making the 6am call... that's not your fault, it's theirs... How ridiculous to call someone early in the morning and try and bump up a schedule by an hour. That's retarded!!

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 12:15 pm: Edit

Would it help to have an ironclad policy that says something along the lines of: Confirmation on date, time, and number of attendees will be made at least three days prior to the scheduled event. While every effort will be made to accomodate emergency situations, the client understands that fire and brimstone will rain down upon them if they change the time with 16 hrs notice, resulting in total annihilation, and wailing and great gnashing of teeth.

That's just a first draft, understand, lol. Might need to tweek it a little.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 12:31 pm: Edit

It's fine to have a policy like that but they'll do it any way and still blame you for not pulling it off. At the very least the guest or in this case the television crew will think it is your fault.

I can't remember ever being able to say "no" to a client when it came to last minute changes weather they were time related or counts.

A better policy would be to allow a significant added charge and then make it happen. Like the Nike add says "just do it."

By Corey (Corey) on Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 03:54 pm: Edit

total annihilation, and wailing and great gnashing of teeth?

sounds just like one of our buffets at each meal.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 07:00 pm: Edit

And great gnashing and clashing of very large, very sharp knives....

the brimstone comes later; like when they see the bill. LOL

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, December 13, 2002 - 09:16 am: Edit

Is any of this really new in our business?????
I was doing a boat show one year and this co. was supposed to get allk this food from Louisiana for a party, including Chef and all. At the last minute they cancelled!
The owner came to me told me he needed a Creole meal for 350 the next day, this was at 9-10:00AM or so.
I told him I would do it for $95 PP, cash up front, no checks, no nothing else!!!!!
I called this cajun restaurant in town , the only one at that time, I asked the chef for a cook, I told him the story and that I would pay him $500 for doing the whole meal! He was happy to do it.
I was short service staff, I think I had 12-13, this was a sit down dinner!!!!!
The night of the event, everything is ready to go, short staff and everything, lucky for me, not for the owner; only 35 or so people showed up!!!!!
This guy must of been eating etouffe for days!!!!!

It could just as well have gone the other way, 400-450 and short staff!!!!
It's a gamble, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Luckily the house usually wins!!!!!

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Friday, December 13, 2002 - 03:04 pm: Edit


I realize it's next to impossible to say no and get people to respect it. I can think of a couple of times (thankfully few) when we were asked to pull off something that seemed impossible and yet somehow managed to do it. That can be a rush, AFTER all the hair-pulling and cursing is over. You go, "Wow, we did it, HOW did we do it?"

My earlier input was meant to be ironic. Sometimes we have to do the (seemingly) impossible. How else can we maintain our reputations as miracle-workers? LOL

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Friday, December 13, 2002 - 03:43 pm: Edit

Like Scotty on the Starship Enterprise says, "tell the captain it's impossible to do it in the time allotted and then do it half the time"

Maybe he didn't say it in quite that way but that is what he meant.

By Corey (Corey) on Friday, December 13, 2002 - 04:16 pm: Edit

Ai captain,
I'm the Chef, Not a Server...

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Friday, December 13, 2002 - 06:00 pm: Edit

Exactly the quote I was thinking of! Hey, warp engineer, chef/caterer, it's all about speed. One's warp speed, one's the speed with which the food comes out of the kitchen (slightly less than warp speed).

The chafing dishes canna take no more, Cap'n!

By Mbw (Mbw) on Saturday, December 14, 2002 - 01:06 pm: Edit

The whole truth, and nothing but.. Act of GOD? Hold harmless? Bidding too low? etc..

A month or so ago, I was called by an event coordinator about doing an Xmas promotion. It involved two days of delivering hot cocoa to their staff dressed in cute ELF uniforms, and wearing packs. It is like a huge half size soda syrup can, stuck inside a soft insulated backpack that is pressurized, and has a nozzle for serving. in theory LOL

At first I bid $1.50 per cup for about 6000 8oz cups. After much negotiation the portion was reduced to 6oz, the count was increased to 4000 per day, and I dropped my final price to $0.30 a cup. Gave then 12,000 2 ply cocktail napkins free of charge, and charged them for 3 drivers with vehicles @ $200 each per day, the whipped cream at close to cost (Over $500 for 240 14oz cans of real whipped), delivery $150 per day, blah blah

So I bid to deliver 4000 6oz portions of hot cocoa per day from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM @ $2500 per day. Labor product everything.

As the event drew closer I was called in to “Play” with the rocket packs. As we would be helping fill them it seamed like it was worth a few hours so I went in to the marketing CO to check them out. I spent a little time examining them then left.

Then less than a week before we were to start they called, and asked us to add a promo shoot at UPS just two days prior their big event. It was a 7AM call on MON, and the two big days were wed/thurs. They also asked us to take away 6 packs, fill them and deliver them onsite. It was at this time I began to realize that there was more than delivering cocoa expected of us, but it was near production time, and of course I said yes. The promo shoot went great, but it wiped out my Monday.

Tuesday while doing the coordination I had intended for Monday, I was called by the client (3 PM), and told that a camera crew would be there at 6AM to do lighting, and to move it up an hour. “It will be hard, but we will try”

The original plan WAS to meet at 7:15 and be on the streets serving by 7:30AM and in full swing by 8:AM.

By 8AM I was parked downtown in a BOX truck with my make shift kitchen. A few words to the parking people (they don’t get much love) and I was in good shape. I began to heat my next 15 gal batch of milk. By 8:15 I had sent out 900 cups worth, but the rocket packs were exploding, product was being lost, the logo cups provided were 8oz when we contracted for 6oz portions, and I fear the staff was not even clued in as to how to portion. Also they were OUT of cocoa. Go figure. The “Elves” also took a passive view of the first day, and my 3 staff ended up working very hard, while only a few of their 15 staff were cool enough, OR smart enough to help out.

The rocket packs needed to be pumped up by hand with a hand pump, something that happened AFTER we contracted I assure you, and it took over one minute per (if you had the strength). The metal containers hardly held temp. Of course the added stress of the botched (so they said) media opportunity, was being blamed on us, but at that time heating cocoa ASAP was my priority.

At the end of the day I purchased several more 10 gal combros, 4 more portable stoves, and a host of other support equipment. We had also taken the packs for cleaning/examining, for the next day. At THAT time we knew we needed to do it, but I failed to factor this into my labor costs WHOOPS!

Second day went much better. Starting with over 55 GAL ready to go helped. Some scalding did occur later in the day so we lost over 10 gal. Their staff was much more helpful, and I had also added a person for my peace of mind. By nine in the morning we had sent out nearly 1800 cups. (6oz cups anyway)

Now they are hedging on the final payment, and I have submitted an adjusted contract to help. If they don’t go for it, it could be court. I have only needed to drag a client to court once before, but HE was a slimy, rave producing, swindler, and it took me over a year to get my money, but I got it. These people are nicer by far. We will see.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Saturday, December 14, 2002 - 05:13 pm: Edit

It's always the "creative" "big picture" people that are the biggest pita.

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Saturday, December 14, 2002 - 10:05 pm: Edit

Yeesh, Mbw!
What a freakin day! I'm reminded of a saying in our kitchen. A day like the one you had is kinda like beating your head against a feels SO good when you stop. That's one way to look at it anyway.
Hope all works out in the end without involving the lawyers.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Monday, December 16, 2002 - 05:55 pm: Edit

My follow up event rocked! Just to remind me what catering was supposed to be like. Saturday night I worked for a Doctor that was a hobby chef. When I got there there were instructions, post its, recipies from, pre-preped food. I asked her if she wanted a job, but I guess delivering babies was more money. Huge compliments, on our service, and HER food, and a big fat tip to boot.

Tomorrow back to corporate catering, but they are ordering nice food (salmon/portabella, etc.) so that always makes it easy for us

Thanks for listening all.

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