“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”
– Tom Landry
"Logistics" refers to the precise details of the delivery of goods and services. In catering, it is the planning of the how, when, where and what of your event. Miscommunication and poor logistics are the most frequent cause of difficulties during an event. Luckily, with a little foresight and the guidance of a good event manager, they're avoidable. We know that coordinating an event can be confusing and even stressful. Caroline's Event Manager, Laurie Bohl-Comp, demystifies the process with the following tips.
Whether you're designing your own event or using a trusted caterer (like us!), there are several initial variables which will affect your logistics. It's good to nail these down, up front.
First Things First
The primary factors to consider are the purpose of your event (private celebration or business function), how many guests will be invited, where you're holding it, the time you'd like it to start and finish and what type of menu you'd like to serve. Once you've sketched out these basics, you can begin to organize the details. The answers to each of these will determine what steps need to be considered and implemented. Effective event planning operates a lot like a good flow chart. Most of the considerations will overlap and be self-evident. Some may not be that obvious at first (but that's why we're here!)
Type of Event
The type of event you're planning will affect quite a few factors. It will determine the start time and duration, the catering style (delivery, buffet or table service), the order of the event (the scheduled times things will happen), any rentals or additional services you may need in conjunction with your theme and the type of menu you'll be serving.
It's a good idea to flesh out a schedule for your event. For instance, if you are renting a premises or function hall for a business meeting or a wedding party, you'll want to plan precise times for things like: set-up, arrival, cocktails, appetizers, speeches, food, dances, clean-up and departure. In a private setting, things will be more flexible but you will still be contracting services so it's best to agree on exact times up front. The time and duration (as well as event type) will also factor into what you choose to serve. For instance, boxed lunches may work well for a lunch and learn while a plated dinner would be more appropriate for a wedding. If you are planning a celebration that does not fall during regular meal hours, you might opt for apps or sweets instead of a full meal.
Laurie suggests that you consider the following and include them in your plan:
Does your event site have ample seating or will you need to rent chairs? Often, companies that rent sites and/or provide chair, table, linen and tent rentals will provide you with a CAD diagram (computer-generated floor plan) of your event. It's a good idea to have a visual plan of the table and seating arrangements for any large event like a wedding or awards dinner. It will also map any on-site kitchen, bar, lectern and stage you might include.
Where will people be parking the day of and will there be enough space? Will you need a special permit or variance? If you are holding your event at home, have you reached out to your neighbors to let them know?
Weather, Electricity, Water, Facilities
If you are holding your event outdoors, do you have a plan B in case of poor weather? There are several options here: you can plan and announce a rain date ahead of time, you can stage the event in a place that is indoor/outdoor or you can rent a tent. If your event runs into the evening hours, make sure that you have ample light sources. If you're renting a third-party site, make sure to ascertain what they provide, where the electricity and water sources are and what (if anything) you might have to supply. For instance, if you're contracting us to cook onsite, make sure to discuss exactly what we'll need in terms of equipment, gas, water and electricity. This also applies for speakers, bands or DJ's. Usually, they bring their own equipment but it's good to discuss any requirements up front. You'll also want to make sure that there are enough bathroom facilities to accommodate your guests.
Set-up and Break-down
The times for the arrival, set-up and clean-up of the catering team should be agreed upon and clearly described in your caterer's proposal. If you are managing the event yourself, you'll want to allot yourself enough set-up and break-down time and the necessary supplies. Make sure there are strategically placed trash receptacles on site. It's a good idea to agree on what your caterers will do in terms of clean-up. Whether you choose to use disposables or plateware will factor into what your clean-up will entail.
The Moving Parts
If your event requires plate, glassware, cutlery, linen, tables, chairs, lighting, flowers, Bar and DJ solutions, your full service caterer will have a network of trusted partners that can fill these needs. A good event manager will go over these one by one, explain exactly how they work and how its scheduling will fit into your overall event.
Food Allergies and Handicap Access
If you have the benefit of sending out invites with an RSVP, you can ask your guests if they have any food allergies. If you don't know for sure, it's always a good idea to provide options for those who might be sensitive to nuts, shellfish, dairy and wheat. It's also good to offer a vegetarian dish or two. Another possibility to consider is handicap access. For instance, if you know that one of your guests is restricted to a wheelchair, you can alter the arrangements to make navigation and seating as simple as possible.
If you're interested in exploring a range of exciting possibilities for your next corporate function or private celebration, our expert event team are here to help!