An ‘industry standards’ story: Seeing red when someone is green

An ‘industry standards’ story: Seeing red when someone is green 

August 2012 morsel

If you’re reading this, please batten down the hatches because I PROMISE you that I’m going to blow! NOTHING wears me out more than having some young events professional, and I use the term loosely, tell me that something is not “industry standard.”

This is so infuriating because I have earned my dues with 25 years’ experience working in 23 countries. It’s rare for me to even quote industry standard. This term seems to be the fall back when a vendor is uneducated, can’t think past the everyday and/or doesn’t want to go the extra mile. Vendors spurt this phrase out of their mouths thinking that’s going to end it since they are the voice of authority. Not so much.

A recent scenario led me to ask myself: What is considered industry standard? How does that line get drawn (as applied to banqueting)?

To me, and based on my experience, industry standards are best practices that are formula based, not scenario based. When someone in the industry quotes scenario-based “industry standards,” I can always tell they’re haven’t been around the block enough.

These examples are formula-based best practices that are true:

  • Industry standard for banqueting wait staff serving a plated meal: One server per 25 to 30 guests.
  • Industry standard on banqueting bars: One bartender per 100 to 125 guests at a cash bar; one bartender per 75 to 100 guests at a hosted bar.

The next example is a scenario-based situation in which the green events manager spurted off industry standard to me without listening to what I was saying or asking.

“I have a customer who is doing a large customer event in a popular nightclub. I have done this event through the years and, being the good event professional, have group history. The event is a five-hour event and is one of the few times where it makes more sense for the group to do a bar package as opposed to consumption. Since not everyone is going to be there the entire five hours, we have been guaranteeing x amount of people at the five-hour bar package, which takes us into the first two hours of the event. For the next hour, we do a three-hour bar package, then a two-hour.

“The client doesn’t allow any customers in for the last hour because it gets too hectic. This method of charging has worked well for us as well as the venues. I explained  this to my catering manager and showed her the group history. This method works best for us because it helps me with budgeting, etc.”

The venue response back to me was ‘no,’ and that this way of charging wasn’t industry standard.

Seriously? It took a lot of willpower for me NOT to ask who is she to be quoting industry standard. We have been using this method of charging for years. I was very disappointed at the venue’s inflexibility because I was not asking for any type of discount. I was using their published bar packages for us to adjust accordingly based upon guest arrival.

The point in sharing that story is to explain that a scenario-based situation is not a circumstance in which industry standard should be quoted.

When any one of you run into this situation, do ask what qualifies this person to quote industry standard. You often will leave them dumbfounded because they won’t have an answer. It’s just another example of vendors not wanting to go the extra mile.

This is my industry standard story for now, and I’m sticking to it.



Twisted Picnics – Creative Picnic Ideas

Yes, summer is in full swing. – July 2012

What does that look like for those of us planning a family, church or work picnic?

What to buy? Where to buy? As planners we have options when it comes to deciding what to eat. This morsel is designed to help you put a twist on the everyday picnic.

The basics: If you’re hiring a catering company there will be an extra charge for paper goods. If budget really is a concern, tell the catering company to leave it off the proposal and bring these items yourself. Also, negotiate the garbage. Who’s bringing garbage cans and trash liners? Where does the garbage go at the end of the event? I’ve been in situations where caterers had to take the garbage back to their offices and put it in their own dumpster.

Twisted: Have everyone bring their own plate, silverware and cups. Make a contest out of who can bring something that’s the most eclectic.

Start with the obvious: Hot dogs and hamburgers.

Twisted: Set up an exaggerated hot dog or burger bar. By exaggerated, I mean load up on interesting condiments, artisan cheeses, for example. If you have the money, take the quality of the protein up a few notches. Let attendees know where your product is coming from and the story behind it. This will assure them that they are getting a better-quality product than standard fare. A recommendation: Call the butcher at the local grocery and talk to him about grinding your meat fresh. By doing this, you can get a higher-quality meat that will taste better on the grill.

Research area farmers and their method of raising cattle. Since I’m always lecturing my readers on the importance of communication, convey this in the invitations. Explain that you are purchasing higher-quality proteins, and you will have their mouths watering as they read the invitation. Another suggestion: A turkey burger is too predictable, so twist it and do turkey sausage. They’re available at the grocery store and delicious on the grill. And they come in spicy and sweet just like their Italian cousins.

Twisted condiments: This is where the fun begins. Have graphics made that show variations for making burger or hot dog “fixins.” Then name them, either by making up your own names or borrowing them from — and crediting — restaurants. Hard Rock Cafe, for example, has a Hickory BBQ Bacon Burger that is very good. For hot dogs, do a dogs-around-the-world theme with regional flavors. Hot dog fixings for the Carolinas are famous but not to be confused with those inChicago. And don’t forget about the bun.

Side dishes (not twisted): What turns me off most at a picnic is how side dishes are displayed, which is not safely enough! When making or ordering these dishes, I encourage people to maintain a better food awareness and keep food fresh for longer periods of time. One of the better solutions to me means that food items are in several smaller containers so they get switched out more often. This works best because it’s hard to display food on ice, which melts and gets messy. Do bring several spoons for serving because these get messy as well. Stay away from mayonnaise-based items and go to more vinegar. Anything you can use that is fresh from the garden with interesting herbs is best.

Twisted desserts: Look at church cookbooks for ideas about baked goods that are interesting and come from the heart. They have more varieties of cookies then imagined.

Drinks (not twisted): I don’t even need to touch this one because everybody has their own ideas and popular recipes. I do recommend using gallon jugs that have their own ice in separate containers to keep drinks from getting watery.

So that’s my checkered-cloth story for now, and I’m sticking to it,



Just say no to hotel pricing when…

Usually I write my monthly morsel about an experience after it happens.

Today I am writing it at the beginning of an event. A client of mine hired me to do an event in the Washington, D.C.-National Harbor, Md., area. The event instructions were simple: casual get-together with beer and wine for 150 to 200 guests. The food instructions were to purchase what made sense for a limited budget.

I started at the most obvious starting point — the headquarter hotel. What stopped me where I started was its high pricing and lack of value. Basically they wanted $14 per person for chips, salsa and queso dip. Plus a 24 percent service charge for taking food out of a bag or container, putting it into a bowl and dropping it in a meeting room. The cost of alcohol was equally high. I decided not to do this. I don’t mind paying hotel pricing, but at what point do we as buyers say “not today”?

[Read more…]

F&B shortfalls? You have options

I did some work for a client last month who had a nice-size food & beverage minimum to play with. Or rather I had a rather large-size F&B minimum to play with. We fed and watered the people all day long. All the guests of this high-income group enjoyed themselves very much. No one wanted for anything.

[Read more…]

Please, no chocolate fountains!

Love is in the air …

Valentine’s Day — Feb. 14 is here (or gone). The day we either love, or hate, or the day we would love to hate. It’s always a bit awkward for planners who have an event falling over Cupid’s holiday. Especially if your attendees are primarily men and the destination is out of town. So what’s a planner to do? I recommend embracing the day with a certain amount of political appropriateness. Even the biggest Scrooge warms to a little lovin’ whether they’ll admit it or not.

[Read more…]

What I learned from catering to queens

I am late (again) with writing this morsel because I just got done doing the food for the Miss California USA beauty pageant. The first thing that should come to everyone’s mind is this question: What am I doing feeding girls that are participating in a beauty contest?! Those girls don’t eat. Well, my dear readers, you are SO WRONG! Boy, do they ever eat! And a lot, at that.

[Read more…]

Executing creative catering ideas without the cost

I had a major corporation ask me to participate in an RFP for a 10,000+ person annual event. Most people would have been overwhelmed by this daunting task, but for some reason I wasn’t. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to dig deep within and show this company what I had to say about banqueting culinary.

[Read more…]

Warm weather wines

June 2011 morsel                                  pymlogo                                                                                                                  

 It is very rare that I write my column based on meeting someone, but I came across such a “find” while working the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. I was so blown away by Ashley Hall and her extensive wine knowledge that it would be wrong of me not to share both with you, my dear readers. [Read more…]

Tips for working with inexperienced off-premise caterers


While working in Nevada last week, I went to the final meeting with the off-premise catering company who was catering my client’s customer appreciation event. This party was being held at a museum, and the caterer was from a chain of locally owned restaurants that recently started an off-premise catering division. Their first big contract was with this museum where my client’s event was to be held. [Read more…]

You Do The Math


…I went back and said we wanted four chefs. She said no — their standard is only two for the amount ordered.
This was weird to me. If I am paying for the chefs and if I want enough chefs to cook the food that I am paying for then what’s the problem?…

Click here to read full article by Claire Gould, “You Do The Math”