Enough of this meeting already, what’s for lunch?

As the new assistant to the company boss and office manager, my job description includes providing a catered lunch for all the training and sales meetings. Well, two weeks after starting, a one-daysales meeting was to be held in one of the larger meeting and training rooms on the third floor for seventy-five sales associates. My challenge wasI had never done this before other than to order a bunch of pizzas or sandwiches from the local deli or pizzeria around the corner.

This would be a totally different animal with a real budget to provide catering at lunch time. The morning coffee, juice and snack as well as the mid-afternoon beverages and snacks was a piece of cake and not a problem to organize and set up. Lunch, however, was a different matter. It was explained, during the final interview,that cold buffet set ups were preferredin the summer months with multiple choices for both meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Conversely, during the colder months, a hot and cold mealset up with a good varied selection for all attendees was preferred. The catering was always set up in an adjoining conference room. When asked, what companies were used in the past, her boss smiled and informed her it would be her first real test in her new position.


Getting into action and learning the ropes

Well, it’smid-November so one question has been answered. The first element in approaching this challenging situation is to investigate, ask around and find out what was considered customary; maybe find out what catering companies had been used in the past. What was discovered was almost as much of a dilemma as having no information. In the past, a long-timesecretary told her, it could be any one of the dozen or so well-known restaurants in the area or any of the top catering toronto specialists, but, she didn’t know which ones. She never attended the meetings. Asking a few of the office sales people, blank faces looked back at her as they explained they were clueless, but, it was always good and plentiful.

Figuring that it would be easier than planning her daughter’s wedding and reception the year before, she decided to use the same approach as she used then. Knowing (more or less) which of the local restaurants were good, a course of action was decided upon. Before selecting catering candidates, she met with the facilities manager to discuss the event and discover what room to use, what was available, i.e., tables, linens, etc. Surprised and pleased with what was on hand, her only real concern was to arrange for the catering. The facilities department would set up the room to whatever configuration was needed.
Italianwas chosen because it was universally well liked and there was always a variety of hot and cold, meat and meatless selections available. Lou Malnatti’s on 3rd Avenue was one candidate and Costa Cucina del Mare was the second on Madison Street.

In a morning briefing with her boss, she mentioned in passing, that forward progress was made on the catering for the sales meeting. When he heard Italian, he smiled, letting her know she was on the right track.
Next, knowing that she had an expense account for business related matters, she booked a lunch reservation at each of the restaurants over the following two days. When calling, to make the reservation, she informed the person taking the reservation the purpose of her visit and asked to meet with the appropriate person to discuss a lunch catering for the following week.
During her lunch at Lou Malnatti’s, the Manager asked how her meal was after introducing himself. She invited him to sit and they discussed her event. Questions were asked and answered. The budget was discussed and the buffet food items were decided upon. Having come prepared, she would be asking for roughly the same menu items from each restaurant: Minestrone soup; an antipasto tray with crusty Italian bread; a crudité tray with two dips; a fried calamari platter with marinara sauce; two vegetarian dishes; two meat dishes; a dessert platter with cheesecake, cannoli, and spumoni.

The process was repeated at Costa Cucina del Mare. Both restaurants graciously picked up her tab and promised pricing at the end of the week. It was close, but Lou Malnatti’s won out being almost 10% lower in price. She promised Enrico, the Maitred’hotel at Costa Cucina, that his restaurant would be next in line if he could make a slight price adjustment.

When the affair was over her boss called her into the office to discuss the catering. Surprisingly, she wasn’t nervous. He congratulated her on a perfect job having received very positive feedback on how well the affair was planned and executed, and, how delicious the food was.



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