When catering goes wrong

busy kitchen

While catering a wedding for a previous employer years ago, Rahul Shrivastav—now director of catering at University of Michigan—found himself in a panic when an elevator malfunction put salad service on hold. “The wedding was in a very old building and the elevator had issues,” he says. “We had 200 plated salads in the freight elevator when it got stuck. The dinner needed to start—they were doing their toasts.” In a panic, Shrivastav hustled up a plan B: His team would station a chef outside the ballroom, and he’d plate new salads right there.

Luckily, the elevator was fixed in short order and the original salads were served just slightly late, but that snafu shaped Shrivastav’s approach for future events. Now he avoids preparing food off-site, always opting to remove travel issues from the equation. “How do you recover if the food doesn’t make it from there, or if something is stuck in traffic?” he says. He keeps extra plates chilled or warmed in case a last-minute replate is needed. He tries to have a backup plan in mind (or two), but as you can’t anticipate every possible thing that could go wrong, it’s most important to think on your feet. “Catering has so many uncontrollables; you have to be resourceful. When things go wrong in catering, it’s almost like a domino, one thing after another, then people start looking at every defect,” Shrivastav says. “If the salad goes wrong, then if the chandelier is not put up correctly, they’ll notice that. You have to stop that domino effect.” Keeping calm under pressure is crucial. “It’s almost like a duck that’s swimming on water that looks very graceful, and the feet are going crazy underwater,” he says.

“As long as it’s safe, ethical and moral, do what you need to do to make it work.”

 
 
 

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
management team

Last week’s NACUFS National Conference proved to be a treasure trove of management and staffing takeaways. Here are a few we noted at the annual event , held this year in Providence, R.I.

1. Make it scalable

When explaining something new to staff, instead of asking, “You got it?” or “You with me?” have employees rate how well they understand the new material on a scale of 1 to 10, said Ron Paul, a senior consulting partner for Partners in Leadership, during a session on building accountability in the workplace. People are likely to say yes even when they don’t fully grasp what you’...

Ideas and Innovation
song break

Once per month in a daily huddle, we dedicate a few minutes for the staff to sing a short song. The staff has responded so positively to this. They now bring costumes and other props. It's a few short minutes, but the payoff has been tremendous.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Ideas and Innovation
plastic straws

An item about the size of a pencil has become the latest target in foodservice operators’ sustainability plans. Though small, plastic straws are said to have a large impact on the environment, with Americans using approximately 500 million straws each day, according to a release from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which temporarily ditched plastic straws as part of an Earth Day promotion this year.

In recent months, a growing number of eateries and cities across the United States have scrapped plastic straws. In July, Seattle enacted a ban on plastic straws and utensils, requiring...

Industry News & Opinion

Medford High School in Medford, Mass., is looking to add an orchard to its campus, Wicked Local reports.

The idea for the orchard was brought forth by students looking to help combat food insecurity. They are working with the school’s nutritionist to make the orchard a reality.

If planted, the orchard would be located inside the school’s courtyard and would grow fruits such as apples, paw paws, blueberries, peaches and plums. It would also include an outdoor classroom space.

The school committee signed off on the project last year; however, some administrators are...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code