- Pre-set as many courses and as much flatware as possible. With a 3-course meal, pre-set the salad and dessert at each place-setting. If there's room, I would also recommend pre-setting coffee mugs to avoid extra noise during the dessert course.
- Set a strict agenda, and stick to it! Provide the hotel or venue with as precise of an agenda or "show-flow" as possible. Discuss with the catering manager in advance when is an appropriate time for the meal to be served. Make note of any pertinent times during the evening when staff will need to vacate the room.
- Eliminate elegant additions like wine service or champagne toasts. As lovely as they are, this is an extra lap that each server must make around the table in addition to meal service. Glasses clink and clank and wine bottles go empty after 4 pours, sending the staff to the nearest replenishment station often.
- Be prepared in advance for special meal requests. Nothing puts a hiccup more in service timing than those spur-of-the-moment vegetarian, gluten free, vegan or allergic guests. Upon registering for the event, try to capture that information from your attendees to prevent these unwanted delays at the last minute. Otherwise, the servers will be running to accommodate.
- Serve a duet entree. Having 2 proteins on the plate will eliminate even more special plate requests, much like my suggestion above. This will free you from the burden of organizing a split-entree scenario, labeling placecards with each individual's selections. A handful of your guests are guaranteed to ask for something else when they see there neighbor chowing down on something more appealing. Go for a seafood and meat combination or a red meat and poultry combination. Both will please a variety of pallets and save you some service hold-ups.
by September 24, 2012