Serving The Finest

Fine Dining 1September isn’t a busy month on the social scene, but it is for Valley resorts that will be entertaining the philanthropic crowd this fall season. Nonprofit agencies, event chairs and event specialists are spending time in the kitchen with the chef and the balance sheet.
If you are having an event, one of the most memorable things during your fundraiser can be the meal. If your guests don’t remember what you served then you’re not putting enough time and detail into it.
Ask the chef at any major resort in the Valley catering to nonprofits. Their biggest challenge can be creating a meal that is not only memorable but meets the budget. Food costs have risen almost 20 percent this season and if you signed your event contract back in February, you may be in for a surprise when you get the chef’s menu suggestions.
This is the time for creativity, collaboration and compromise if you want your event to have staying power. The average charity benefit basic dinner ticket is about $300 per person. No doubt half of that will be spent on food, drinks and the service charge. This number seems high but can be managed with the right amount of preparation and negotiation.
Most chef tastings happen at their table. It’s usually a secluded space tastefully appointed to showcase their best in presentation, in table décor and in service. During the tasting I always request the banquet captain to serve the group, that way the nonprofit agency and the chair have a personal face to the property and it allows the captain to learn firsthand the needs of the clients.
Schedule the tasting on a day when you can take the time to focus on the experience. Also bring along another member of the committee and a professional event strategist if your agency has brought one on board.
Sometimes less is more, but in this case a few hungry people to bounce ideas off works the best. As the chair you get to influence and guide the chef along with the captain to what you want to see for the evening.
The first order of business is to study the table setting, the layout of the china and especially the fold of the napkin. Getting the fold correct is crucial because if your event has huge centerpieces or lots of table furnishing, it adds clutter.
What You Should Ask

  • What is the overall budget for this meal?
  • Are the entrees and the appetizers priced separately and what is the service charge?
  • Is gratuity added before the sales tax and before the room charge?
  • What will be the ratio of servers to guests?
  • How many servers per table?
  • Will there be any portion of the meal pre-set and what time can I get in to place the arrangements?
  • If you use house linens, are there any charges for them?
  • When do you need to tell the property of your counts and what is the percent you can alter before extra charges?
  • Décor and lighting can sometimes be a function of the banquet staff, from candles to dimmers, who will make that happen?

After all, the nonprofit has already purged your Rolodex for all the right names. With all your friends and colleagues now invited – they will all be coming out to support your cause and looking for that wow factor, why not let the meal be one.
I will see you from the tech booth where I’ll be having the boxed dinner.

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