Summer Hospitality Caters Outdoors and In

Summer is a blast for many young people and so for the hospitality industry that often relies quite heavily on younger staff to get through busy summer seasons, it can be tough to find good reliable staff - the lure of fun and sun wading into the mix at times. But with a young group, combined with some experience, you can mold yourselves a pretty formidable restaurant or catering team.

In the case of off-premise catering for events like graduations, Jack and Jills, Weddings and the like you really need to know your scheduled staff is going to show up, and then be able to follow direction when its crunch time. Sometimes you find yourself with a new person who has never even held more than two plates before that night but that's when its up to the experienced ones to show them how, and some other quick tips, before they are thrown to the lions!

Whenever possible you of course want to avoid that scenario, but when it occurs a cooler head or heads can help walk them through it until they get on track. Shadowing helps or just having them run out holding trays for another more experienced person for table placement works too, so long as it's coordinated back stage, and the food line production keeps delivering plates, or clearing them, when called to do so.

Anything can and does go on back there just like any restaurant or business to make it happen. But you don't broadcast it to the guests. A caterer may have to provide any thing from the food to the linens to all the staff to the wedding cake, or maybe just one or two of the above but always each new location can provide a challenge. Do they have ovens? Glassware? Pots? Serving trays? An ice machine? The list can be endless but an experienced caterer can make sure you don't forget something by making suggestions should it not be raised by the client.

One recent event in a new off-premise location for Deli House Catering, with which I've had a long standing business and personal friendship / relationship with, was a coral / ranch type spot near Wasaga Beach that featured a covered indoor/outdoor dome-like hall with a mini-bar made of barn wood as well. But being a new place for DH, arrival had been tight to get the open bar up and running on schedule and almost literally upon arrival we had to swing open the bar to keep our end - father of the bride looming nearby. He is someone you want to keep happy at any wedding.

As the bar began to get set up I directed some staff to stock certain essentials immediately - ice, white wine for tables on ice, open reds to breathe, beer in tubs, main liquors with pour spouts in, cups, pops, tonics, sodas, opener, straws!..Ok lets go! Get the bar help cutting fruit and locating juices etc and opening containers and creating a garbage.

In doing so as we did, they were able to open on time delay, albeit with some chicken with heads cut off backstage running around going on, something the guests need to know. Far too often in past experience I hear of staff relaying how they are almost out of this or are out of that. It only takes hearing that a couple times before a negative vibe can take over your event and if it's a wedding, you have an angry bride on your hands. Would you tell your audience of a play your prop was missing? No and such is the back of the house in a restaurant or catered event. 

It can be hard to predict what to bring to a catered food event  with an open bar as some cocktails seem to fly some nights. One recent event saw Caesars flying off the open bar however I'm not so sure you'd see that as much from the same group if it was pay bar but you can control that a little by creating a delicious evening drink special or two that is quick and easy to make.

One event I created a "Short island iced tea", which was quick and easy to make with the lemon lime mix on the pop-gun as well as the top-off, coke. Fill the glass with ice and it's made in seconds after the liquor is in. People were ordering them by name by the end of the evening. Same as a long island but no tequila essentially. Hey, there was none! But they sold.

Recently at a Wedding I was asked to overshadow, we ran out of Blue Curacao halfway through the evening as it had been a staple ingredient in two of the brides requested bar special drinks. This on the same night we'd so far already not provided a special hard root beer she also had asked for, which we could not find in Newmarket. However the ace up the Deli sleeve was there was a guy out trying to find it still - even after the bride had said not to worry about it and given up hope we'd find any.

But guess who's the most important one to please at a wedding? The bride. So I told her we were still doing our best to get it for her and offered up that I could make a similar drink to hers but would replace the blue juice with an orange liquor and it would be nice. It was, and she seemed happy, but not as happy as when I was able to hold up a can of the hard root beer from her table- found after unsung back-stage hero Kevin was able to locate some out of town - after making eye contact with her as she danced. Her smile said it all and you knew it was smooth sailing from there on in with the food all having been served by this time as well.

Great job by the Deli House Catering and Stellar Hall teams as well, never giving up, and giving their all to make that wedding as special as it could have been within their abilities - going the extra mile. Many guests remarked how nice the staff were and how the dinner was delicious and on, and I made sure to relay that to the team. It's all the little things staff does that help them along that way to reach that deduction as well. It's all in what they perceive.

The end of the evening saw the bride and groom request the remaining late night buffet to be taken that night instead of having someone return the next day and that person made sure it got packaged up and personally delivered to their vehicle. Now that is hospitality, and going the extra mile, and that is the kind of stuff brides remember.

Nothing will ever be perfect and you will most certainly never please everyone, but 90% of any job is just showing up and if you work to keep some key people happy, you will find you've covered your bases..and you'll leave feeling pretty good!

What all the Fuzz was about!

I leave you with this. Your catering of a wedding is going well as your stand alone chicoutery of blue cheese, cheddar, and marble cubes, crackers, antipasto and cold deli meats are fairly plentiful and plated table service has begun. You've just served salads for 142 of 150 people but realize you have feta cheese for only 4 left. What would you do? You have seconds not minutes to decide.

Here's what I'd do. All 8 would be expecting cheese mixed in the salad and those vegan would have opted out of cheese, so we can assume they all could eat cheese. Feta is a crumbly cheese . Gulp..What to do? Seconds ticking away.. impatient server looking at you, panic creeping into the eyes....Quick! Grab some blue cheese and use it on all 8 of the plates at that last table so they all have the same...Explain about it only if they ask...And I bet it tasted yummy too!

TP Out!

Watch for TOM's TOP 10 Summer events upcoming.