Friday, May 27, 2011

We Will Be Bringing 247 Pounds Of Food!

I’ve never seen a catering contract for an event that read “Caterer insures the host that they will create and serve 247 pounds of food to guests.” Sometimes shoppers will ask the caterer “How many pieces of hors d’oeuvres will be served?’, but they seldom ask “How much tenderloin are you bringing?” My point is that when it comes to hors d’oeuvres, most hosts understand, through previous experience and gossip, that caterers often run out or hold back appetizers, especially if they are being passed, hence their concern.

So, a level of trust needs to exist between the caterer and the client with respect to food amounts. Yet, most caterers do very little to speak about food amounts of menu items. I’m suggesting that in some instances it might be wise to explain to the shopper how you determine the amounts of food you send to events and why you guarantee ample foods based on the number of guests guaranteed by the host.

In my view, this trust is further enhanced when a chef or culinary team members explains it. My point is simply that while food amounts may not be on the caterer's mind, they are on the shopper's mind. Please consider discussing this concept with your full team during one of your upcoming company meetings. I’m just offering some “food for thought” so you can think about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Flash Mob Dance - it was interesting!

During the NRA Restaurant Show in Chicago I was introduced to my first "live" Flash Mob Dance event. I had been aware of this concept of a group of people suddenly staging a "planned" unplanned group dance. The dance music was extremely loud and exciting as it surprised everyone. Hundreds went running to see what it was and to either watch or dance.

It was a unique experience that I had seen on TV's Glee, but as a live event is was great fun.

Maybe we should do one of these Flash Mobs at Catersource 2012?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chef Bill Pannhoff At Work?

I just got this photo from Bill Pannhoff via email. Remember, yesterday he was with me working the booth at the NRA Show In Chicago, so now, less than 24 hours later, he is back catering. Think he is trying to tell me something? The email told me he is catering a lunch for 300 as I type this.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NRA Show - Day Four of Four... thank goodness!

Catering is a very energy draining activity, but sitting and greeting friends and strangers at a show booth is a different kind of draining activity. If you've ever done booth sitting, then you know what I mean. If not, just dismiss my claim. The Catersource booth at the Chicago Restaurant Show is a large cash investment for renting space and travel for our staff. Hotels and airlines only offer "full" price options because the city is PACKED with visitors.

All in all, the investment is a good one that results in growth of our attendance at our annual conference by finding new first time attendees and additional exhibitors for our tradeshow. Also, it's just common sense to meet and greet our alumni conference attendees and exhibitors which have permitted Catersource to become as successful as it is.

The Executive Director of the IMCEA, Kent Cummins, CMCE, stopped by the booth today to say hello and, believe it or not, do a magic trick on me! Kent is a professional magician in addition to being a talented foodservice and hospitality trainer and keynote speaker. The IMCEA - The International Military Community Executives Association - is one of our partners in our educational pursuits. Members of the IMCEA have a solid attendance each year at our conference which we are very grateful for.

When Juan Camilo Lemaitre Fonseca walked up to me at the booth I was in for a surprise. He was wearing a badge that identified him as an International attendee from Columbia. After purchasing several of my books at the booth, he told us that he had attended our annual Las Vegas conference last February. I felt a little silly, but there were over 4,000 attendees! Juan's company is called LeMaitre.

On the left is Chef/Caterer/Pastry Chef Kathy Pedersen with Sarah Pedersen of Fat Bottomed Girls Artisan Desserts and Pastries which is a division of On Occasion Catering & Events in Palatine, IL. They were extra exciting booth visitors because they actually brought in some desserts for us to taste!

The 2011 NRA Show was a success for Catersource!

Monday, May 23, 2011

NRA Show - Day Three of Four

My feet are getting sore from all the walking! Wore a second pair of socks today which makes it much more comfortable to walk the long halls. Remember the $21 buffet from yesterday? Well, today I got a $14 omelette and was just as happy. Did I mention that parking was $36 per day?

Here are some of the great folks we met today at our Catersource booth:

That's me, of course, with caterer Jon Wool from Finesse Catering of Chicago, Linda Picone our Catersource Magazine Editor, and Jean Blackmer our Creative Director. Jon is a very neat person who has his own foodservice network broadcasting program.

On the left is Kimberly Jones of Sullivan University in Louisville, KY with Bill Panhoff center and Carol Petersen of the University of Norther Iowa in Cedar Rapid, IA.

Here I am with one of my favorite conference alumni Pat Applebee of Celebrations 150 in Utica, IL. I forgot to capture Pat's friend's name, so as soon as she emails me I will make the correction. I was just moving too quickly today.

Tonight the Catersource Educational Design team went out for a simple dinner after a three hour meeting making plans for an incredible educational program for Catersource 2012 next February. Here I am with my dear friend Jack Milan of Boston after stealing some of his dessert!

Also on the educational planning team is Bill Pannhoff who permitted us to meet his wonderful wife Rose.

And most importantly, our Director of Education herself Linda West from Melange Catering in Houston on the left with my dear wife Bernice.

We went to Shaw's Seafood Restaurant and started with a simple cold appetizer spread! It was a great day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

NRA Show - Day Two of Four

Today things really picked up at our booth. That was after I had a $21.00 buffet breakfast that was rather overpriced! I know, you are right to critique me for blaming a hotel from "ripping" some captive show attendees on the price for a buffet breakfast. I teach "get what the market will bear", but today I was charged about $7.00 above what it would have been in a competitive marketplace. Oh, well...

Here are some of the wonderful caterers and people who stopped by the booth to chat. They are customers, conference alumni, and friends.

New friends Jim and Cindy Besselman, owners of The Chicory Venue in New Orleans, LA.

On the left everyone's favorite Jack Milan of Different Tastes - Boston, MA. Center is Catersource CEO Pauline Hoogmoed. On the right is long time alumni Chef John Schiltz of the Lake Elmo Inn of Lake Elmo, MN. I've eaten an amazing meal at the Lake Elmo Inn!

We were very honored that Greg Casella, President of NACE and owner of Catered Too! in San Jose, CA plus Bonnie Fedchock the Executive Director of NACE stopped by the booth to bring us up to date on the upcoming NACE National Conference In Reno, NV. I will be teaching a session on customer service at this conference. For more info go to

Our first visitors today were long time friends Beth and Rick Leigh of the Post Exchange Catering in Atlanta, GA.They have a very cool company and have been outstanding supporters of Catersource.

If you don't know this amazing person, you should. Our Catersource Magazine Editor Linda Picone. If you have any super photos, story ideas, or whatever to offer the magazine, consider contacting Linda to share your ideas.

Here's part of the Catering By Max's catering team of Chicago. On the right is father Larry Estes, center is son Henry and left we find son Max. The most important element of their success did not come to the show this year - that would be mother and wife Randee.

All in all, it was a great day, but for the next two days I need to find someone who wishes to take me to breakfast and pick up the tab.