Be Ready For Service!

Mise en place redux

Category Archives: Event Planning

Review of the Catersource 2011 Trade Show

If you are involved in on/off-premise catering you must attend the annual Catersource conference and trade show in Las Vegas, NV.

I started to write this post the day after attending — however I have been consumed with several large and demanding projects. So here we go!

With very limited time this year – March 1st I headed out early Tuesday morning driving East across the barren Mohave desert towards the new city of lights — during the transition from a dark night to an Electra dawn.

With the windows rolled down, breathing in brisk desert air and listening loud to; The Ramon’s, Pink Floyd, Puccini, Sinatra, Country and some new electronica dance music while channel surfing thru an extensive menu on Satellite radio. This made the long drive pass quickly!

Industry trade shows and gatherings such as Catersource, are a rich depository of industry related information, education, relationships fostering experiences, and a library of trivia.

Later at some opportune moment – what was collected is called upon and used in some purpose, often not for the intended purpose. Basically you get to see a lot of new and very cool ideas, concepts and interesting people. I constantly found the long time pros helping newer players to excel!

What did I see that was new and or interesting to an information and idea junkie like me and perhaps you?

I started at one end of the trade show floor going aisle to aisle and booth to booth finishing as the doors were closing and people where preparing for the spectacular Tuesday night party.

After so many sales reps are asking the usual monotonous, “How are you?” I cut to the chase by asking, “What’s new? What’s unique?” Usually followed with “What are people attending the show finding interesting in your booth or with your company or products and services?” and the inquisitive “How does you product, compare to brand X.”

That’s the point where we get down to business and have an information exchange and usually learn something useful.

Setting aside the wonderful suppliers for a moment, it was really great to meet the people attending. Some I have been exchanging emails with – as readers of this blog, some new — we just met for the first time while scoping out a booth or demonstration — all united with a common cause to get better at catering!

Here is some of what I saw and found interesting at the trade show. You may already know about these ideas, perhaps you will find some new here!

Art of Flame "Fire on Water"

Art of Flame 

Fire on Water!

As you may know, I’m big on “function over fashion” any day of the week – however the flame floating on water in a glass container, takes the prize this time.

Medrith Nolan, the inventor is a chemist. She figured how to make a unique safe, visually stunning multipurpose decorative flame. Her creation is simple, intriguing and so safe — it often passes the open flame limitation with ease.

I had a great chat with her and applaud her for turning her idea into a success! Yes she has some new design coming out – so don’t wait. Now you can make use all those glass vases collecting dust in the warehouse.

I expect to see her floating flame creation gracing tables at events and talked about widely.

 Vikki Smyth 

Vikki is my favorite designer for working with acrylics in all shapes, colors, sizes. Jackie has managed blend the gray area of function over fashion, always with stunning results. She is simply the best for “floating food in the air concept.”

You will find she is full of energy, passionate with her infectious enthusiasm — morphing science, craftsmanship, and art into some really amazing wow attention-getting designs. Everyone I’ve sent to her for solutions and products over the years is always satisfied!

Black or white Honeycomb is her newest design — which can create a “vertical bento box” display. There are lotsa’ combinations that make this a crowd pleaser for displaying Hors d’oeuvre, Tapas (Small Plates), Dim Sum and Desserts.

ISI North America

Carol Kentis was showing off new “carbonator” aka as the “twist & spakle.”

Thru some incredible end of show discounting — I picked up a new “Twist and Sparkle” unit and a Thermo Whip Plus.

Already I have put the “Twist & Sparkle” to good use pumping CO2 into wide variety of beverages — all were great over-the-top experiences.

This has been a great hit at several parties carbonating a variety of juices; cranberry, orange, apple, pineapple rum, coconut milk, mango, guava, grape juice. I have been giving this puppy a work out. Jack Daniels, a few dashes of Reagan’s #6 orange bitters chilled and carbonated became very popular at one party for toasting shots — fizzy cosmopolitans at another. Lemon infused sparkling water at another. Adding air makes a difference.

Thermo Whip Plus

The thermo whip Plus is more than a whip cream on demand maker. Fresh whipped cream is always enjoyed for a high end coffee or dessert bar.

Warm Bailey’s Irish Cream foam was hit at St. Patrick’s Day parties.

However the optimal applications for the Thermo Whip Plus are far more exciting — especially when you blend in lessons learned from macro-gastronomy.

I have been fooling around separately with warm beet, carrot, sweet potato, and green pea foam to dress plates – an airy tempura bather with great success and I even experienced a few food fatalities. The Thermo Whip Plus – as the name implies is insulated — so dressing up warm plated food on a fast-moving plating line with a hot sauce-foam is a breeze and will keep you outta’ the weeds!

I’m on mission to create some tasty soy-based foam for those lactose intolerant and hard-core vegans. If you have ideas — let me know. I promised my newest “BFF’s” at ISI, that I would share and post my research so that others can benefit!

BTW I’ll being writing more extensive posts on these wondrous culinary tools here at the blog soon.

Sunkist Bar Buddy

Sunkist Bar Buddy

Sunkist Bar Buddy has been around some time, an indispensable tool for high volume consistent cutting (sectional) of wedges and slices of apples, oranges, lemons, limes and tomatoes.

What’s new? Additional blades such as the 10 piece wedge. The new 10 wedge blade saves you money on bar garnishes and is absolutely perfect for cutting lime wedges for small tacos. Besides the 10 wedge sized lime wedge fits better in the top of a bottle of Corona beer.

Cutting limes for bar service often is often delegated to on-site bartenders. Really the preparation ought to be preformed by the kitchen or select staff — so that lemons and limes and other drink garnishes are prepared properly saving time, keeping on-site labor in check and maintain consistency and quality of cutting.

Bamboo Imports 

Extreme customer driven picks and skewers created from bamboo. Losta’ colors, styles, shapes, great service.

While talking with Ryan Young, he showed me several examples of customer wish created products. Ryan explained, “Caterers are in the food serving and entertaining business. We’re in the sourcing and production business to support caterers. Most of our products were created by requests from caterers. We’re always on the look out for new requests.”

Fresh White Endive

California Vegetable Specialties

Belgian endive has been used number of times as an edible transport vessel-carrier for a large variety of toppings.

When I asked what’s new “Humus bars” was the reply. With so many variations on flavored humus there certainly is potential. Great ideas on how to use endive at the site above.

Belgioioso Cheese 

Famous for their authentic Italian style cheeses — especially the mozzarella sheets — was another visit after the endive booth. So with the new concept of humus bars, so I asked, “Why not soft cheeses?”

Belgioioso creates 12 different flavors of soft cheese that when formed as cannels or piped would sit nicely in the endive. So another food presentation idea worth considering.  

Big Ass Fans New Pivot 180


I have been an advocate for several years. The fans do the trick of moving large volumes of enough air at low speed to lower temperature.

Showing off a new Pivot 180º Fan, that will be great for cooling event and kitchen-cooking-preping tents during warmer periods.


Blaze Products  

New clear container, looks cool behind glass blocks supporting a warming griddle because you don’t see the container. Another nice plus is that you can actually see how much fuel is left.

So instead of tossing ½ used fuel cans at the end of an event, cap’em and use the remaining fuel next time, you’ll same money and help the environment.


The new chork: a blend of chop sticks and a fork The Chork The Chorkä is quite an idea blending a fork and chopsticks together. How many events do you take tons of forks and chopsticks for Asian food? The Chork solves the problem with one utensil that will certainly be a popular topic of conversation.I have another idea for the Chork -- which I’ll reveal in another blog post!Electric Buffet Burners

Buffet Burners

Bob Feaglery enlightened me about the applications, ease and smart use of this electric chafing dish heaters for adopting existing chafing dishes. Using existing chafing dishes is the key point here.

As you know many,  historical sites, office buildings, and venues prohibit any open flames – so instead of buying new electric only chafer dishes — adopt these heaters to your existing rectangular and round chafers.

The heaters meet the no open flame requirement and from further discussion if you are at a venue on a regular basis — I suspect the operating cost and safety consideration beats using the canned fuel.



Caviar Specification Tool Kit

Chef Rubber

Chef rubber is a great resource for macro gastronomy, tools, specialty pastry ideas. It was a lot of fun to see some many items — get your hands on them and ask questions about use. The staff was such a treat to answer questions and offer ideas!

If you have been thinking about adding Caviar spheres or perls to dishes or cocktails and weren’t quite sure where to start, this is the place. Order the Caviar Specification Tool Kit and start making tasty luscious pearls right away.

I have been looking at using round silicone molds to use to make ice spheres for drinks for specialty bars such as Scotch bars. The round sphere melts slower — so the cocktail is cooled and not watered down.

I found a 2” dia. silicon sphere mold here that’s perfect for a whisky bar.

Creations in Lucite

Edgy display and in clear, opaque, black plastic and a willingness to  customize.


Food grade fiberglass and silicone molds-shapes for well; butter, sorbet, chocolate, ice cream, bread, mac & cheese bites and more. This is one of those thrust your imagination into overdrive for possibilities companies.

I’m not a big pastry maker. However I often marvel at the creations, and am always borrowing techniques and ideas for other and cocktail creations and enhancements.


“Flame on!”

New Sterno Jet Burner

Sterno was showing off their new Jet burner. This innovation will be outstanding for certain stations where portable fast heat is needed to finish off dishes that also has stylish form.

New Sterno Torch

The new torch was also on display. Seems the days of carmelizing desserts and such with my plumbing torch are coming to a close. The canisters use the same fuel source as the butane stoves.

Xroads Philippine Sea Salts    

An informative chat with Lennie who founded the company. Her sources follow traditional sea salt farming practises long time in the making. The taste of her salts were fresh and clean!

I have been considering using finishing and or premium sea salts as lead generation offers or gifts to select clients packaged in special vessels. The different textures, flavors and colors is certainly appealing especially when finishing seafood dishes. Xroads has some truly unique bamboo packaging.

I learned that all sea salts are to be labeled with a notice about possible allergic relations to shell fish. Often sea salts contain some trace amounts of what causes a reaction. There’s nothing like a guest experiencing anaphylactic shock to dampen the enthusiasm for a party.

Mini Push Up

J.B. Prince

Another kid in candy store moment with lotsa’ things — hard to find, unique culinary tools, and I didn’t have to travel to Manhattan. The booth staff was as always very helpful answering questions, and explaining new and different applications. What a joy!  

JB Price has the new push ups cups in two sizes that have become so popular for breakfast, snacks and desserts!

Vanillaness at it's best!

Nelson-Massey Vanilla

Beth was a real treat to talk with. I received an in depth education on vanilla —  a spirited debate concerning vanilla from Tahiti and New Guinea or Mexico, plus a review of some other new flavorings and extracts – which I will be experimenting with shortly.

Sensational vanilla flavoring that fills your mouth with wholesome “vanillaness” Ummmm so good!

Pick On Us

There was the book: “Stick It, Spoon It, Put It In a Glass” signing with chef Eric B LeVine, certainly a masterpiece to add to your culinary library.

There was large display of so many different ways to secure and transport food; picks, skewers, stirrers, etc. of all types of color and shape and design.


New “Scratchless” stainless steel scouring pads — that doesn’t leave marks on stainless steel. Essential for cleaning stainless steel display items that have accumulated crud – you know the kind where the only grime removal tools left are harsh chemicals or elbow grease.

New Safe Tray

Safe Tray        

There was two nice lassies from Scotland. One was Alison Grieve, the inventor who was was pitching in a very charming way her new Safe Tray.

The Safe Tray I believe, has great promise.  The collapsible handle on the bottom is perfect for learning balance, stacking and a few new magic tricks and navigating thru crowds that have been happily drinking. see the video at YouTube:

Safe tray is “spot on” for training new inexperienced staff to hold, balance, serve and clear tables with a tray. We had good a good chat about establishing distribution and learning to drive on the “right” side of the road. I plan on using he trays for training new staff soon. I wish them well!

Must Have Sklips


I have seen the ads for the sklips™. This was the first time I could actually get my hands on them. A simple, functional design for turning sheet pans into stacking racks.

I bought a box and have been using them extensively on events since the show where counter and shelf space was limited.

Another great application is to use them give some height to buffet tables which are usually flat. Stack a few sheet pans add some draping to cover the pans and suddenly you are escaping flat land, safely.

Suggest you order a box or two of each size and add them to your culinary tools arsenal.

Cocktail Rimmers

Rimmed cocktail glasses especially for specialty welcome or signature cocktails at events present an incredible visual, tactile-tasty garnish which instantly increases the perceived value to guest.

With over 30 prepared varieties of colored, flavored sugars and salts makes this the one stop shop for cocktail rimming. Every color and flavor I had been challenged to create and experimenting with over the past few years was here. Great, now I can move on to something else. 

 I love the Wrap-N-guard for at least two ideas; a built in nice stainless steel stylish wind screen — which comes in handy on windy days for outdoor events, plus the space saving design that require less space for transporting chafing dishes.

Space saving at first, doesn’t seem like such a big idea…until you try packing 26 chafing dishes for a large event. The space taken up is huge. Or if you are trying use one van to deliver several hot lunches to be served from chafing dishes. The space saving and bulk reduction helps a lot. 



New Misty Stix



Having been challenged at some events like large outdoor weddings on hot summer afternoons in Southern California with getting 200 cold Moijtos or Margaritas served quickly to thirsty guests as the ceremony concluded.

Faced with no freezer or cooler and limited resources; time and staff – I often inserted small pieces of dry ice into the drinks, to cool and not water down the cocktails. The icy smoke cascading off the glasses always looks so inviting. However my dilemma was always guests grabbing a cocktail too soon and burning their lips on the pieces —  I was often fishing out the larger pieces as the trays left for passing.

MistyStix solves the problem. The capsule stirrer holds the dry ice and preventing burns from the dry ice. The unit can we washed and reused.

BTW the way I also learned of this terrific site for locating dry ice anywhere in the world something to add to your computer and cell phone favorites.

Truffly Made

What I liked best was the simple clean mold designs and a willingness to help and even create custom molds. I told the rep in the booth of my quest for round ice spheres. He promptly showed me a sphere mold that was just over and 1” in Diameter.

He provided me with samples for testing. Now I’ll be ordering a few molds to make smaller ice spheres for some special cocktail and drink events.    


Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Gourmet Blends 

There’s a lot of good Balsamic vinegar floating around these days. Some OK, some good and what I found here had an exceptional clean, wholesome, satisfying taste — I dreamt for a moment I was standing in an aging room somewhere in Modena, Italy and that we were lucky to sneak a sample of something that had been waiting 12 years just for this moment!

The quality is high and the blends such as vanilla fig are sensational for dressing up some strawberries, persimmons and ice cream!

Best part two parts the boys can ship on large volume packaging – so you don’ have to fool around with all the smaller bottles and they work with you to create and work out the details  for special unique gift packages to give to clients!


As mentioned in the start of this post — I listed just some of the more interesting booths I saw at the trade show. Can’t wait to put to use many of the new and different ideas I found.

Mark your planner now for next year: February  26 – 29 th 2012 in Las Vegas, NV. 

Hope to see ya’ there!

P.S. Want more information on Catersource 2012?  Here’s where to go:      




In The Bag!

“Man that’s the biggest lunch bag I ever saw.”

The voice came from a disheveled looking guy. He was leaning against the wall as
an effort to keep it from falling down. 

“It’s not all lunch. The rest is some things that we might need — so today’s event is a success!” I replied with a smile.

“You probably were an Eagle Scout too.” He says after taking a long drag on a cigarette.

I replied, “Matter of fact — I still am. Like a Marine, you always are. Being prepared — doesn’t get old — it doesn’t fall out of fashion. Sometimes I never touch what’s in the bag of tricks. Other days, I’m in the bag a lot. It depends — I just like being prepared.” 

A minute later the wedding coordinator (The bride’s sorority sister from college) arrives and says distressed “The bride’s maid dress seam split. Do you know where I can get a needle and thread?” 

Reaching into my bag and handing her my sewing kit. “Here you go. Please return this when you are finished.”

“In business or in football, it takes a lot of unspectacular
preparation to produce spectacular results.”
                                                                                            — Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame Football Player

Things happen at events. The MOB (Mother of the Bride) wants to know if someone has aspirin, bobby and safety pins. Power out on a wall. Swinging door needs a stopper to hold it open. The client’s Vice President of Sales wants to hang a banner from the T-Bar Ceiling and has no idea how to. Photographer needs a “sun blind.” Equipment breaks. The “DJ” (a family friend) has no tape to safely secure cords or wires. You’ve heard all the stories before.

Often little things evolve into a big nuisances — the bar tender stung by a bee and is about to pass out. A can of Sterno gets knocked over and sets the table linen on fire.

I would not expect most servers or bartenders to take the time and assemble a magic bag. In Los Angeles, in most cases, servers can hand you their latest script faster than a band-aid.

Event leads and captains ought to make up their own bag. Then there are those few dedicated Special Forces type staff that will do it on their own. I either case building a bag is a very good investment!

Will it cost some money? Yes, not much.

Some off-premise catering companies may make this bag up for the staff. .. a smart move. Otherwise think of the bag as an investment — not just some expense. If you are the most reliable, problem solver staff member, chances are you will have more work. Oh yeah, check with your tax advisor about how you “might” be able to deduct the cost off taxes.

So the next questions are: What sort of tools need to be assembled?

Leatherman Multi Tool
Leatherman Super Tool 300

I always wear a Leatherman® tool on my belt when working events. It’s “function over fashion” statement. The Leatherman® tool is indispensable Swiss Army knife on steriods — a real work horse for off-premise catering. I reach for this trusty companion during events to cut, hold, fix, tighten loose screw, saw off branches in the way. Etch your name on the handle; otherwise it can grow legs when borrowed.

Bag of Tricks

Magic Bag of Tricks


“To be prepared is half the victory.”
                                                                                                              -Miguel de Cervantes

So what’s in the magic bag?

The large carrier is a Marshalltown (Mason) tools bag. It has pockets inside and outside, which makes for practicing “Mise en place;” Door stopper, work gloves, polishing cloth, etc, all have their own pocket. 

Some colleagues have opted for a “box dolly” a box on wheels. Use what ever functional container you like.

Inside the larger bag is smaller bags. I like the multipurpose document holder bags found at Home Depot. Smaller items go in the documents bags labeled; First Aid, Service, Tools, Staff, Misc. This makes it easier to sort and find things in a hurry. 

Depending on where you are — you may want or need modify the contents to deal with seasonal and local weather or environmental issues. The contents are not cast in stone. I usually find myself adding a new item or replacing something every so often.

Here’s the list of what’s in my magic bag.

# Qnt Bag Item Notes
1 1 First Aid Kit, First Aid (See List) Things happen
2 2 Misc Apron, Short W/ Big Pockets Repetitive tasks tool pouch
3 8 Misc Bobby Pins Pull hair back
4 100′ Misc Cord, Clothesline 1/4″ Tying, hanging or lashing
5 1 Misc Finger Nail Clipper W/File Fix finger nails
6 50′ Misc Fishing Line, 30 Lb. Test Tying, hanging or lashing
7 10 Misc Gloves, Latex Clean up or handling food
8 4 Misc Lighter, Long Stem Lighting candles and canned heat
9 25 Misc Ties, Wire – Plastic Repair and secure 
10 100 Misc Rubber Bands Securing what ever
11 10 Misc Safety Pins – Various Sizes Just in case
12 1 Misc Scissors Cutting
13 1 Misc Scouring Pad, Cleaning 3M brand
14 1 Misc Sewing Kit, Small Repairs
15 1 Misc Soap, Dishwashing Small Washing dishes & hands
16 1 Misc Spray-Spitzer Bottle, Small Refreshing flowers
17 100′ Misc String – Mason Line Aligning, tying, hanging or lashing
18 20 Misc Table Linen (Cloth) Clips Securing table linens in the wind
19 1 Misc Library Wax Tub Secure things
20 50 Misc Pins, Long Stick Pinning decorations
21 12 Misc Clips, T Bar Hanging from T-Bar Ceiling
22 1 Prep Flashlight Seeing in the dark
23 1 Prep Headlight, Seeing in the dark
24 2 Prep Batteries, Flashlight Back up
25 2 Prep Batteries, headlight Back up
26 1 Prep Knife, Pocket Opening boxes, cutting things
27 1 Prep Note Pad 3 X 5 Writing notes and labeling
28 1 Prep Pen, Sharpie Black Labeling
29 1 Prep Pen, Sharpie Red Labeling
30 3 Prep Pens, Blue Writing
31 2 Prep Post It Notes – Pads, Large For temporary labeling
32 1 Prep Writing Pad Lined Write things down
33 8 Oz Prep Salt, Kosher Kitchen back up
34 2 Serving Opener, Paint Can Prying pans in chafing dishes
35 1 Serving Bottle Opener, Speed Style As needed
36 4 Serving Candles Emergency
37 4 Serving Cloths, Polishing Flour Bags Polish stem and flatware
38 2 Serving Cork Screw Open wine bottles
39 1 Serving Crummer Clear crumbs from tables
40 1 Serving Spatula, Heat Resistant Back up for cooking-serving
41 1 Serving Spoon, Serving – Slotted Back up for cooking-serving
42 1 Serving Spoon, Serving – Solid Back up for cooking-serving
43 1 Serving Tongs Back up for cooking-serving
44 1 Staff Mints, Breath Breath freshener
45 20 Staff Cough Drops Coughing staff
46 1 Staff Brush, Shoe Shine Last Minute Polish
47 2 Staff Razors, Disposable For staff not shaved
48 1 Staff Shaving Cream For staff not shaved
49 1 Staff Deodorant, Spray Freshening up
50 1 Staff Sun Screen, Spray Skin Protection
51 1 Staff Bug Spray Keeps the bugs off
52 1 Staff Lint Remover Roller Serving staff looks neat
53 1 Staff Pain Reliever, Advil Minor pain management
54 2 Staff Power Bars Back up energy supply
55 1 Tools Count Down Timer Reminder-special timing
56 1 Tools Crazy Glue, Tube Fix things and first aid – cuts
57 4 Tools Door Stop Hold open swinging doors
58 1 Tools Magnifying Glass Assist in removing slivers
59 1 Tools Pliers, Offset Fix or repair some things
60 1 Tools Screw Driver, Phillips Head Fixing-repairing
61 1 Tools Screw Driver, Flat Head Fixing-repairing
62 1 Tools Shims – Wooden – Pack Leveling
63 ! Tools Tape, Duck 2″ Roll Securing – hanging “bombproof”
64 1 Tools Tape, Masking 2″ Roll Securing hanging – closing boxes
65 1 Tools Tape, Clear 2″ Roll Securing runners -closing boxes
66 1 Tools Tape, Painters 1″ Roll Securing on delicate surfaces
67 1 Tools Wrench, Crescent 6″ Fixing things
68 1 Tools Crazy Glue, Tube Fixing things & finger cuts
69 2 Tools Gloves, Work – Pair Protect your hands
70 1 Tools Voltage Circuit Tester Check for working circuits
“I will prepare and someday my chance will come.”
                                                                                                                      — Abraham Lincoln

Hopefully you will build your own survival-success magic bag of tricks. The first time you show up with it many will laugh – just wait for them to come and ask you for your help.

BTW… Got a suggest about something that ought to be in the bag? Send me an email. 

First aid kit contents will be covered by another blog post. 

There’s another tote I take along and usually leave in the car, it contains 100’ and 25’ extensions cords, a 300 Watt “clampable” work light, more table clips, trash bags, 100’ of 3/8” rope, 2” wide tape and extra hand tools and jumper cables. 

Remember: Being prepared starts with a state of mind — a resourceful  “MacGyver” and “can do”  attitude. Having the right tools to help you survive and succeed will certainly help!

Hold on to your aprons,

Let There Be Light!

A lit flashlight

Image via Wikipedia

“Oh no, one of my earrings is missing.”

“Excuse me; I just lost a contact lens.”

These two situations are familiar comments heard by banquet and catering staffs often. They always include, “Can you help me find it?”

In another instance, staff was finishing clearing the salad course just served to 250 guests. With out warning — the lights went out. There was only lighting from a few candles on the tables, and that eerie green glow of the emergency exit lights. 

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my flashlight (Known as a “Torch” in the UK) and turned it on. Across the room several other serving staff did the same. We continued service and provided special assistance to the guests till the power was restored in about five minutes. It seemed longer though.

The host asked to see the event Captain. The host said to the Captain, “Thank you and your staff for saving my party” They shook hands and the host handed over an extra $20.00 cash tip to each server who had a flash light.

A week later, a guest from this party called and booked another event and remarked to the sales person, “I was at the party last week when the lights went out for a few minutes. I don’t want to take chances – I know your staff is prepared.” 

Always carry a small AA sized flash light when working on events in any capacity. Not a penlight or a “D” cell. When I am responsible for staff — I always tell the staff to bring to bring a flash light — it’s a condition of future employment. I also tell them to bring a good attitude and few other tools — which will be cover in another blog.

Staff has walked guests to their cars across dark parking lots. Assisted guests up and down stairs, and directed traffic. Often there’s a nice tip, some times not. This random act of thoughtfulness and kindness is always remembered! Think of it as making a deposit in the “good deeds” bank account.

Often off-premise catering is code for “anything can happen.” Being prepared will make a big difference especially if there is an emergency.

How much does a good flash light cost? Less than $20.00. Get the Maglite® LED. The light is brighter and the unit is very durable. Bring two extra batteries for back up.

If you are loading trucks the headband accessory is also nice to have because you don’t have to work and carry the flashlight in your mouth. If you are loading and unloading trucks often, get a LED headlight. Better yet get the trucks and vans outfitten with work lights.

Remember: Turn one battery around — so the light doesn’t turn on by accident and burn out the battery.

Broken Glass trick: Some guest thinks it’s real cool to go out on a crowded dance floor bare foot and then drop their drink.

When you are sweeping up the glass, position your flash light parallel to the floor. The flashlight beam will reflect the chards of glass, making it easier to see the broken glass pieces scattered around during clean up!

Having a flashlight doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Having a flashlight is a point of difference. The flashlight is a way to distinguish or differentiate your self, your staff and company from others. Having a flashlight will may a huge difference, especially when the lights go out.

Hold on to your aprons,

How To Book More Events with Business Cards!

New QR Code Business Card

Image by pixage via Flickr

“Do you have a business card?”

Great caterers hear this request at events often.

Every caterer is constantly looking for new business.

Unfortunately many caterers miss countless opportunities everyday at events to easily convert guests into clients.

Here we’ll review together the simplicity and effectiveness (when handled correctly) of handling requests for business cards. There are three aspects to be aware of:

1. The request for business cards is confirmation that the events’ presentation, food and service are being noticed and appreciated by the guests. Outstanding — Go ahead and pat your self on the back!

2. This card request is a grand opportunity to start the sales process of converting an interested and uniquely positioned guest into a client.

3. Guests view the card request as a permission based inquiry, meaning the prospect (guest) has asked you (given permission) to engage them. Don’t blow it. Just image good-looking girls asking out nerdy guys on dates — it does happen.

In most cases, sales people, managers and owners carry business cards. They are bound to be passing out a card here and there. Too often though, business cards are left at the office, in a van, in their car parked far away or maybe stuffed in the event folder — if you are lucky.

That’s about the change with this simple and effective “closed loop” program that helps turn “hand raisers” into clients.

With this proven approach to capturing the hand raisers, you will find your event staff (servers, bartenders, and valet) enthusiastically helping the sales staff in their quest for more new business. The technique explained here beats the pangs of rejection associated with cold calling any day.


Order at least 2,000 business cards for each member of the sales staff. In practice, when requested by a guest, the event staff will be giving them a business card of the person who sold the event they are working at.

You’re saying, “That’s a lot of business cards and a lot of money.” Business cards are an inexpensive medium for engaging new business when handled properly. Several cards will never be handed out — it happens… look how many cocktail napkins get wasted on events. Now is not the time to go cost crazy.

All of the event staff must be carrying at least two business cards each when working on events. When they run out of cards they can always get more. I have seen a few large stellar over-the-top “A Game” events where the entire event staff ran out of cards several times; so always carry back ups.

The Plan

Encourage the behavior of giving business cards to guests when requested with two reward components:

1. Give the staff, a gift certificate, movie tickets some sort of tangible reward to acknowledge that they handed out a card, that with some good follow-up by the sales staff, an event was booked, because they handled out a business card correctly.

There are some online services that let you buy debit cards, gift certificates, and gas cards in small volumes at a discount. So look around and be creative and mix it up. Remember perceived value makes a big difference.

 2. Schedule the staff member who handed out the card to work this new upcoming event.2

 Word will travel fast among the staff about this double-header reward program.

 The Launch Talk

Say this to event staff at the pre event meeting.

Start by asking, “Let’s see with a show of hands, who wants more work?”

 You’ll always see hands raised.

Continue with, “Great, here’s how you get yourself more work. I’m passing around business cards. I want you each to take two cards and write “Thank you” and neatly print, your name on the back of the card now.

“Every one working has a fair shot to get (mention the type of incentive bonus here) and have them selves scheduled for more work. Here’s how:” 

Talking Points

“When a guest at this event today asks you for a business card, reach into your pocket and hand them a card and say, ”Thank you for requesting a business card. My name is (Fill in the blank).”

 “When you call the office please ask for the sales person, whose name appears on the front of this card. They are familiar with the planning of this event today and will answer all your questions about presentation, themes, food, staffing, and pricing — so that like this event, you also will have a great event.”

“BTW… When the office staff asks, “Where did you get this card?” Please mention my name which appears on the back side of the card. I earn bonus points and may have the opportunity to work on your event. I would love the opportunity to serve you again. Can I get you anything else?”

Explain to the staff, ”Any questions about this new potential event are to be directed to the sales person.”

“Remember: The guest must ask for a business card. And they will based on you always doing your best.”

Continue with, “When the guest (prospect) calls the office, the sales person will ask the caller where they got the business card from and ask for the name (yours) on the back. When it’s you, here is what happens because you gave a card to some one who asked for it.”

“When the event is booked, which means an agreement is signed and deposit received, you will receive a $20.00 (Visa debt card or cash, or gift certificate a tangible reward). Plus, you will get to work the event.”

Now you see the full circle and therefore closing the loop.

You must track the lead inquiry sourcing carefully, this is important, for several reasons.

You will find that an incremental lift in booking more than offsets the small investment in additional business cards and some recognition trophies.

This program does not mean the event staff goes “Gonzo” handing out cards madly left and right.

Like all permission based engagements this process and relationship starts when the prospects; a guest in this case, ask for a business card.

Some times a guest will hand a card to the event staff and say, “Here’s my card. Please have one of your people call me — I want to discuss a party that is coming up.”

The reply ought to be, “Great. I will make sure they get your card. Here’s the business card of the person who will be calling you… (Follow the script)”

In either case, the odds are improving that the company will likely get another event because it has already started the sales process of converting prospects into a client.

Don’t forget: The request was based on the superior performance. So, continue to focus on the overall performance and the request for cards will come.

Follow Up

Instruct the sales staff to get the event staff’s name on the back of the card when they are talking and qualifying the caller.

This is important. Because it tells you:

1. Which member of the staff handed out the card? Now you know who to reward. There ought to be a space right on your lead-prospect qualification form to write the name in.

2. Where the business is coming from. Now the sales person knows how to interact with the caller. If the caller has already seen a presentation, tasted the food and experienced the service —  the sales process will be smoother. All of the sales staff needs to do this and they will reap huge rewards, as will the event staff and the company.

 In the beginning, the time span from handling out cards to booking an event may be lengthy – so you might need to “prime the pump” by providing some recognition initially to those handing out cards that  calls to be made to the office.


At the very next pre event meeting acknowledge and reward publicly the event staff members who have been handing out cards that caused calls. This reinforces the good activity.

Later you can just acknowledge only the booked events. Sending an email to all the event staff acknowledges the process is working and reinforce the behavior.

Later on every one will know what to do. However be sure to inform new staff and keep rewarding the positive behavior. The reward is away to reenergize the staff.

Remember: Business card requests generate calls. Calls create proposals. Proposals turn into events!

This improved process will take a little while to get going and the quicker bookings will follow. The event staff wins, the sales person wins and the company really wins, by being prepared to hand out business cards when requested.

If you want to kick it up a notch — you might consider updating your business card to the new QR (box Code) style cadr. QR codes are edgy and perhaps the newest tools for social media engagement.

Considering new business cards? 

Check out the new  40 interactive cards for inspiration and sensory overload at Any one of these new tactile and digital combinations will certainly make the bearer memorable.

Hold on to your aprons,

The Audition

“Excuse me, who is the caterer for this event?”

The words came from a woman who was dressed to the nines… accessorized with a pearl necklace and a Prada clutch.

The simple request is one of those “loaded” questions around catering.

This is the point where staff usually cringes and wonders what happened? Who or what is messed up? A spill perhaps? Was the wrong entree’ served? You know the drill, right?

Next this lady says,”The food is incredible and the service is some of the best — I have ever seen. Do you have a Business card.”

This is how guests are supposed to react!

Remember: There is always someone attending every event that is watching.

The “watchers” as I call them, look closely at the serving staff, bar tenders, the cooks and chef, valet staff, the band, the DJ, the florist, the set up and clean up crews —  everyone.

Watchers pay close attention to details; the what, and how you perform as a team — that’s part of a company. How the staff interacts among themselves? Does the staff give each other high fives, hugs and smiles or smirks and rolled eyes? Is there cohesive team work or orphans wandering around loose “texting,” talking on cell phones or chain-smoking and whining?

Watchers observe staff interacting with other guests. Can servers answer basic questions about the food being served?

Guests like to know what kind of spice is in the food and is it hot? Some times they want to know about nuts. Growing numbers of people are allergic to nuts. There’s nothing like a guest experiencing anaphylactic shock during cocktails to put a damper on an event.

Often guest will ask will ask, “What is that?” Pointing to the garnish. The serving staff needs to be be prepared and comfortable to answer the questions with poise and confidence. Once I was summoned to a table where the guest asked me to lean down and whisper, “Are the little black balls in the sauce mouse dropping?” I replied, “No Madam those little balls are imported capers from Sicily — packed in sea salt and sautéed in extra virgin oil and then added to the beurre blanc sauce. They are different from the usual capers we see.” She then replied ” Just checking — that’s what I thought.”

Guests want to know the origin (Domestic or Imported) of ingredients (Local, Organic, or Best Source). This is a good time to impress upon the guest the good quality and acknowledge the careful consideration given by the event planner and the Chef.

The more the staff informs guests of what the food and beverages are, makes the event experience more memorable and comfortable. After events guests like to brag to their friends they enjoyed unique cheese from France and one of a kind olive oil from Italy, grass-fed beef, or free range chicken or hand-made tortillas and Mojitos with fresh picked mint.

Does the staff say, “Excuse me, Please and Thank you?” when talking with the guests?

Then there’s reacting to situations; such as cleaning up dropped and spilled drinks and food. How are directions given to the restroom? Do bar tenders use a fresh glass for new drinks and pour beer into glasses? Did the Valet open and close doors. Don’t forget, “Little things make a big difference.”

Watchers sometimes ask about working with the staff. They’ll tell you that it looks like the staff is having fun. Give them a business card and direct them to call the office for an interview, and encourage them to enjoy the event.

Often watchers are people in the hospitality industry. They like to “talk shop” or tell you about when they worked in catering back in the day. These watchers can be very critical of the performance and often are the most supportive and appreciative of good service.

All these scenarios are excellent opportunities to make friends and potentially book some future business!

Some watchers are looking to see if they ought to recommend your catering operation to friends and colleagues or even hire your company for their own upcoming event. It might be in a few weeks, it might be in three months, or even a year from away. You never know.

One of Roy’s Rules; “Every event, is an audition for another event.”

If you handle the audition correctly, this will be your biggest source of new business. The sales process will be smooth because the potential client has already seen you in action. I have seen hundred’s of parties and events booked with a caterer just because of a strong endorsement with no tasting or bidding among competitors involved either.

How do you know when the audition is going well?

The guests and watchers tell the staff and managers that they are doing great work. Most guests really do enjoy outstanding service and random acts of kindness. Some will express their appreciation with words, others with tips, and some will put a good word in for you somewhere down the line.

Staff always needs to keep performing and looking for service opportunities. Management must praise and acknowledge publicly above average work. There’s no letting down at the end of the night either.

In another blog post, you’ll discover a “closed loop” trick that increases the odds for booking more new business. 

When you have an outstanding audition; the guests enjoy a great experience, the staffs feels good and usually makes better tips, plus management has another event booked. That’s a winning combination for everyone!

“Break a leg”

Vas Das Über Goal? (What Is The Primary Goal?)

You are standing at the pre shift-event meeting and the event Captains closing remark is,
“OK everyone, let’s have a good event today.”

Sounds like the usual lack luster pep talk approach to inspiring staff to do their best during an event. Come on, what kind of lazy direction is that? I have heard more inspiration and direction from little league coaches.

Of course you could resort to traditional verbal trashing and threats of dismissal. These dark ages’ management techniques are losing their effectiveness on today’s better educated serving and bar tending staffs.

If you carefully read online event reviews for caterers or venues, the comments gravitate towards the quality of service provided.

That’s where the complaints and praise about service are usually listed for the entire world to see. Go look online at the reviews for the company where you work at and competitors. Staff taking a slightly different approach would have eliminated most of the “poor” review postings.

Seldom are comments posted about lousy food. Sure there are some. I have actually worked events where food served was not up to the usual 5 star expectations. However, because the service was so friendly and attentive — no one cared too much that the food was off.

The goal for the serving and bartending staff needs to be different from just racking up hours and tips. Often event staffs are charged with several goals or priorities such as keep the guests from getting to drunk or to keep the overtime down.

Event staff needs an “Über Goal” a guiding principle or super or primary goal to aspire towards. This above all other goals helps to prioritize and focus the service on the guest’s first, and other goals as secondary.

Any number of directions can be given to help guide the staff. My favorite and most effective “Über Goal” is, “Every interaction with each guest, needs to be positive from the guest’s point of view.” That’s what counts at the end of the event.

The Japanese term “Ichi-go ichi-e” (literally “one time, one meeting”) describes a cultural concept associated with the tea ceremony. The term is often translated as “for this time only,” or “one chance in a lifetime.”

Remember: Pay attention to the moment, don’t blow it — make the best of it! An event last a few hours, memories (Bad and good) last a life time.

Focus on the Über goal. This focus guides staff to make the right decisions, so the overall event is a success. This practice leads to less corrective action conversations and more lavish praise and positive enforcement comments! Everyone is a winner here.

The staff will surprise the guests, themselves and their managers, because the staff will take it upon themselves to look for opportunities to provide elevated levels of service and random acts of kindness. The guests will rave.

Here’s few pointers…

 “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”Wayne Gretzky

Anticipate Guests Needs

Where are the guest rest rooms, coat check and bars located? Is there a stand to hold wet umbrellas? Are extra flatware and napkins readily accessible during service? Is Ranch dressing around for the children’s meals?

I worked with a planner who provided bushel baskets stuffed with rolled up inexpensive throws from IKEA. These cool weather throws were always a big hit at parties close to the ocean and during late summer or early fall gatherings everywhere.

Give some serious thought to anticipating the guest’s needs in advance of the event. Once you start it becomes easy, fun and rewarding and your brain will offer up some more ideas, providing you act on them!

Next time you attend someone else’s event as a guest take notes — you might see some good service practices to include in your bag of tricks or perhaps some actions to avoid.

Reacting to Guests Needs

Stop; what ever you are doing, or finish up if you must, whenever a guest make a request or ask a question.

Look; at them. Make eye contact. Give them your undivided attention as if nothing else in the world mattered at that moment, because nothing else does. Now is a good time to stop the twitter update and put the cell phone away.

Listen; to what they are asking and or telling you. Repeat the request back to them to confirm and make sure you got it. Some times they change their mind. “You would like a Martini. Do you prefer Gin or Vodka?” is an example.

Respond; 99% of the time the answer ought to be along the lines of, “Of course. No problem. Happy to accommodate you. It will be my pleasure.” Some very few times it will be, “I need to see what I can do for you. I will be back shortly.”

Confirm; once the request has been fulfilled, confirm completion with the guest and ask, “Is there any thing else?” This is the important because the guests sometimes have a second request; they change their mind or want to talk with you for a minute offering a compliment or maybe even a nice tip!

Perhaps I’ll create an acronym for this procedure. I’m open to ideas.

Golden Rule Application

Treat each guest as you would like to be treated — and kick it a notch when you can!

The valet for example: Open doors; greet and welcome guests with a smile, and provide direction to the event if it is not obvious. The same goes for when the event is over. First and last impressions make a big difference.

Don’t forget to have fun. If the event staff is having fun, the guests will have more fun and everyone on staff will feel good about their actions at the end of the event!

Hold on to your aprons!