Thursday, October 25, 2007

Common Holiday Party Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Have the Best Holiday Office Party Ever!

Holiday Parties are a great opportunity for your staff to have a good time together. But sometimes those parties don’t live up to expectations, on account of a few common and easily avoidable errors. Here’s my list of what you can do to make yours the best holiday office party ever.

Make sure your whole team can enjoy the party
One of the most interesting things about the modern workplace is that it has so many different sorts of people, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. There’s no better occasion than your holiday office party to ensure that everyone feels appreciated and involved, in the workplace as well as in the celebration. Sure, it’s Christmas, but lots of cultures have other reasons to celebrate around this time of year. Talk with your staff and look for additional holiday and winter traditions from their religions, cultures or families. Find a way to include those in your celebration. The more the merrier!

Have a balanced mix of foods
For a really good time, you want to have something for everyone. Check around. Any special dietary requirements? You might learn about vegetarianism, lactose intolerance, wheat allergies and the Atkins diet. You might hear about religious restrictions, especially where meat is concerned. You don’t need to restrict everyone’s pleasure, but you should make sure every person at the party feels included.

Once you’ve done this, make sure the foods you pick out are balanced enough to make a meal, especially if you’ll be serving alcohol. Too many sugary treats can throw people off balance and make it more difficult for them to enjoy the good time. Too much bread or pasta can lead to yawning and early exits. We recommend a good mix of veggies, proteins and starches – bread or potatoes – to keep your party alive. If alcohol’s in the plan, make sure several fatty or fried foods are available. They help slow down the metabolizing of alcohol.

Keep tabs on the drinking
Not every holiday party has alcohol at it, but for those that do, planning is all the more important. Our best advice? Stick with beer and wine rather than hard liquor. They reduce the likelihood of out-of-line activities and post-holiday regrets. Also, the consequences of drinking can be kept in check by having the right foods around. If you spot an over-imbiber, encourage them to drink some water, eat some fatty foods and stay away from sugary treats. That should get them a bit more steady. Remember: there is no “magic fix” to make someone suddenly sober; the only cure for getting drunk is time. You can, however, help minimize the hangovers, embarrassments and apologies.

Let someone else clean up!
Planning, preparing and decorating for a party is hard work and takes time. Getting ready can be a lot of fun, but the work and time consumption don’t stop when the party’s done. All too often, we find that the same people who plan the party are the ones who wind up picking up the mess. That puts a serious damper on enjoying the festive event that they helped create. To sidestep this unpleasant situation, consider hiring a professional catering company, one that will not only bring in the refreshments but will also clean up afterwards. That way everyone at the party can go home and remember nothing but the happiness.

Talk to the experts
While the above four are the most commonly overlooked party-poopers, we know a number of other ways to help you make your holiday office party a success. We invite you to lean on us, at absolutely no obligation. Elemental Catering is currently offering a free hour of Event Planning Consultation throughout the 2007 Holiday season. Let us help you work out all the details of your event, from decoration to menu planning to any other supplies you may need to make your event a success. It’s a $300 value, but we’re offering it at no charge this year, to get to know you better and to help you have the best holiday party ever.

Contact us at or call 206.228.6821. You won't regret it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

If a rat can do it, why can't you?

The Elemental Catering team recently went to New York, not to sample crazy new restaurants or experiment with the latest gadgets, but just to see some friends. It was hot. Sticky, stupid hot- the kinda hot it NEVER gets in Seattle. We just had to get into the A.C. While most bars & restaurants have A.C., it wasn't cut out to be that kind of vacation. Restaurants & bars can get expensive, especially when you like food & drinks as much as we do. So we headed to a beautifully restored vaudeville-era theater to see the most awesome food-movie that's come out this year, Ratatouille.

While the animation was awesome and the jokes quite funny, the pervasive theme of the movie, "Anyone Can Cook," was quite a compelling one. I've eaten at street vendors that make food comparable to the most expensive meals I've had, albeit rarely. I've had meals at the home of friends and acquaintances that have made my professional palate unreasonably jealous. And some of those were prepared by people who I felt confident would burn water if left unsupervised.

If you have the passion to make something great, very little can stop you from doing just that.

This principle, Anyone Can Cook, really opens up when you rephrase it to Anyone Can Do Anything They Feel Passion For. Cooking, teaching, office management, skating, biking, realty, cello; it doesn't matter what it is. As long you feel passionate about it you can do wonders in your field.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Right Food for the Right Event

You know that your 7-year-old nephew is probably not going to want Lobster Thermidor for his birthday. And that your mom's retirement celebration is probably the wrong time to showcase your newfound love for freeze-dried ice cream in mole sauce. But knowing what food's right for your business's events may be a little harder.

Here are some steps we have come up with to help you make that decision:

  1. Figure out what time of day your event is happening. Of course, breakfast, lunch, or dinner is an obvious distinction. But, a breakfast-time event at 7.30AM has different contextual needs than one at 9.
  2. Know what else will be going on. Are people paying attention to a presenter? Is there a DJ? Do they want to network with each other?
  3. Determine how people will get their food. Will they pick it up, all assembled in a box? Serve it themselves onto plates? Be served by an attendant?
  4. Know your audience. If your event's going to be attended by a homogeneous crowd, figure out what they'd like, and give it to them. If it's for a diverse group, provide something for everyone, but don't aim for a middle-road no one wants to go down.

When you can determine these factors, and take them all into consideration, you can better craft contextually appropriate food for your event.

These are questions Elemental Catering will be happy to help you answer, and come up with a plan that has your event covered. It's our job to know what to serve when.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

When DIY is a Don't

Is Doing It Yourself really the way to go when putting together an office lunch? Sometimes. When it goes well, it can save you some money if you're willing to sacrifice some time. When it doesn't go so well, it can hurt more than it helps. Let's look at a scenario recently related to me by a customer who decided to try the DIY thing. The names have been changed to protect the embarrassed:

(The Scene: Thursday afternoon, in a typical office in a large downtown building. The characters: A Boss; Stefan, the Administrative Assistant; and Emily, the Receptionist.)
Boss: We need lunch brought in for 25 on Tuesday. Can you take care of that?
Stefan: Sure. I'm on it.
Then Stefan thinks to himself, 'Hey, I love throwing dinner parties! Surely I can take care of this lunch. I'll save the company some money, and maybe I'll get some sorta kickback...' So Stefan asks Emily whether she wants to help him plan this party. They sit down, Emily volunteers to take care of getting a dessert taken care of, and she'll do all the set up and clean up if Stefan will man the phones for her while that happens. Stefan decides to make his grandmother's famous Italian pasta salad, and he'll get the stuff for people to make their own sandwiches. Then they talk about what's happening on Entourage.

Over the weekend, Emily comes down with a bad case of Strep throat. Monday morning, Stefan finds out that he's going to have to go it alone AND also handle both his regular job duties AND answer the phones. So Monday night, after a long day at the office, Stefan runs to Costco to pick up the stuff for sandwiches. Then he runs to a neighborhood store to pick up stuff for pasta salad. He goes home, starts the pasta salad and realizes he's forgotten to triple the recipe. He has a manic evening in which he totally misses Entourage with all the running around, and goes into work with a pasta salad which is not exactly the perfect medley his grandmother had in mind (he bought the neighborhood store out of basil, and still didn't have enough).

Since it's also the beginning of the month, Stefan's got to coordinate reports, and answer the phone, and 11am comes around like it always does, and he realizes with a shock that it's time to set up the meeting room. He's forgotten to buy plates, and since he hates mayonnaise, he forgot that too, but the breads and meats and cheeses are all there. The attendees will have to make do with mustard and tiny plates that say "happy birthday" or have pictures of snow and holly. Everything gets set up, and he goes, exhausted, back to Emily's reception desk. He realizes with a start that he's forgotten the dessert too! He has an assistant manager cover the phones, runs to the convenience store in the lobby, and buys an overpriced bag of mixed candy to substitute.

Sure, DIY (do-it-yourself) sounds like a great idea - you save some money, get out of the office for a while, maybe showcase your favorite recipes - but is it really? Unless your office has extra staff who are paid specifically to run errands like this one, it's almost always going to hurt your bottom-line. Missed time for employees, who then may have to stay late and get overtime to make up the work they didn't do. Clients who think you're too cheap to do it right.

If Stefan had thought to himself, 'Gee, lunch for 25. Sounds like I should call a caterer,' his reports could have been done on time, the meeting attendees would have been wowed with custom-created dishes, and his boss would have said, 'Good job, Stefan. Maybe we'll finally get you that keyboard tray you've been asking for.'