October 8, 2010

Catering Tips: Preparing for Unexpected Guests

We received an excellent question this week from Facebook: How do you prepare for unexpected guests?

This subject is often a concern because the number of guests in attendance affects so many aspects of your event, from food quanities to rentals to the room layout and beyond. The type of function (corporate, social, or wedding) and the style of the meal (reception, buffet, or plated) also play a role.

Of course, the simplest answer comes from the old adage, "the best defense is a good offense." Try to be as vigilant as possible in collecting and tracking RSVPs from those you invite. There are several ways to accomplish this:
  • Make it as easy as possible for guests to RSVP. If they are to reply by mail, provide a pre-addressed, stamped envelope for their response. If they are to reply online, provide an alternative phone number for those who are not technologically savvy. 
  • Specifically ask potential guests to tell you exactly how many people will be attending, whether they are adults or children, and what they wish to eat (if you are offering choices). The more detailed the information you request up front, the easier it will be for you to narrow down an accurate guest count.
  • Set a deadline, and follow up with every person who does not respond by it. For a wedding, etiquette suggests that neither the bride nor the groom does this task, but rather have a family member, close friend, or your wedding planner do it. No matter who carries out the follow-up, it is a vital step, and the person charged with the task should not take "maybe" for an answer!
  • If you are hosting a corporate event or fundraising gala, hire someone to strictly enforce the guest list at the door. (Note: This is NOT recommended for weddings.)
While ideal, we understand that a 100% accurate guest count is not always possible; however, we can only accommodate overages to a certain degree. When in doubt, give a higher guest estimate than you've confirmed, and bring to-go containers to take home the extra food. Only you know your guest list and whether those on it are likely to attend unexpectedly or bring uninvited guests of their own. Plan your function style and menu options based on this information as well. Do not have a plated dinner if you cannot be very sure about your guest count, as this is the most difficult style to adjust at the last minute.

Do you have a question you want to see answered on this blog? Ask us! Email, tweet, or comment on Facebook, and we'll answer in a future post.

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