Anyone who’s ever cooked a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for a large family gathering knows how tough it can be to get everything from the preparation to the tabling of dishes exactly right. In my house growing up, those meals were usually for 20 people or more. Putting a smile on all those faces takes amazing coordination and a knack for delivering under pressure. Now imagine working the same kitchen magic when you’re catering for more than 500 guests!
It’s a question we’re often asked by our clients: How does Kiss the Cook Catering successfully cater large-scale events and make it look so easy? First off, thanks for the compliment. Second point: very carefully. While a magician never explains how she does her tricks, we love the idea of pulling back the curtain and giving our fans a chance to look behind the scenes for a glimpse at what we do best.
Take Huawei Technologies’ Thanksgiving party, which we catered last month. The gathering was huge—more than 500 employees—and involved a wide range of dishes including our famous Festive Turkey Feast and all the trimmings that you’d come to expect from one of our fabulous spreads. We’re proud to say that the event came off without a hitch and the client was in love with the results. The clearest sign that our food was a hit: people already full from a huge plate were coming back for seconds!
So, what does it take to pull off a large-scale event like this one? A lot of planning, experience, expertise and team work to make it all come together—not to mention these key ingredients:
The event planner—The most important consideration is hiring an experienced caterer who knows what they’re doing and has dealt with the many things that can (and do) go wrong when you’re feeding that many people over a relatively short period of time. But ensuring the very best results starts with professional event planning. In our case, we’ve vetted a team of experienced event planners who share our vision for how to create a truly unforgettable event. From the moment you’re connected with one of our team members, they’ll guide you through the process, making it fun and easy. What qualities does it take to pull off a large-scale event? Our planners have a long list of qualifications: attention to detail, the ability to multi-task in stressful situations and, most important of all, passion! Do they love what they do? Because if they don’t, they’re not the right fit for our team.
Our event planners care deeply about the success of every event that we stage and take ownership in making it a stress-free, enjoyable experience for all those involved. Remember, our goal is for every guest at a Kiss the Cook event to live the moment and love the food—every time. That also means being there to answer any questions promptly and being flexible enough to customize details to suit your preferences and vision, often on the fly and with little notice. In addition to having the right people planning your party, you need the right systems in place. We use Caterease, a networked event planning software that tracks every detail as we work with you to make planning updates along the way. This explains another common client comment:
“Kiss the Cook makes events easy.”
The logistics—I can’t tell you the number of times that a new client has come to me with a horror story about a past large-scale event of theirs that went horribly wrong, becoming a logistical nightmare and spoiling the experience for everyone involved. Think food line-ups as far as the eye can see and hungry guests bailing to the nearest drive-through once they realized that doing so would be quicker than navigating the disaster at the buffet table. Whether we serve 10 or 10,000 people, it’s all about the math. Our clients trust us to determine how many buffets should be set-up, not to mention the number of servers we need to properly cater to the number of guests on hand. With our systems in place, we can make events of any size run seamlessly. Of course, we’ve had clients that have wanted to reduce costs by cutting back on servers. We remind them that when it comes to crucial considerations such as staffing and other key factors that will impact their experience, we simply won’t budge. That’s because we’re 100 per cent focused on making your event a resounding success. You can trust our expertise—and then be amazed at how easy we make it look to throw a huge bash for a large crowd.
The right venue—It’s possible to throw a great event pretty much anywhere, but when you get the venue right, it takes the entire production to another level. We’ll often help our clients select a venue that fits their vision and requirements, paying close attention to determine whether the space suits the style of service they require for the number of guests they plan to invite. Let’s say you’re planning a gala plated dinner for 800 people. Any reputable catering firm will make sure there’s plenty of preparation space at the back of the house for their chefs to plate out all of the delicious food you plan to serve. However, many clients make the mistake of booking a venue without accounting for the caterer’s food preparation and service requirements, details that can make or break their dream dinner. By working with you proactively to pick the right location, we can avoid those challenges altogether. Already selected your venue? No problem, but consider an advanced site visit with your caterer to ensure everyone’s prepared for the big day.
The service staff—This is a key detail that simply can’t go overlooked. At Kiss the Cook, we have a routine that helps ensure success: our event planners meet with our service staff prior to a gig to do a complete run-through of the entire scope of work, potential challenges, the client’s vision and other important need-to-know details. We cover everything from the agenda and set-up logistics, to the menu and dietary notes, as well as issuing each team member a specific role and duties to fulfill throughout the event. Not surprisingly, the larger the event, the greater the number of staff that are required—which can easily exceed 100 or more. Here’s the good news: we’ve vetted some of Toronto’s best event staffing firms, building long-lasting partnerships with preferred agencies such as The Butler Did It. Because event staffing is all they do, The Butler provides ongoing, rigorous training to their team of waitstaff, bartenders and food prep staff, all of whom operate at the very highest standards of service. As we always say, staging a successful event isn’t only about the food—great service is just as important.
The advanced planning—Organizing an event for 500 people or more takes time, sometimes days to set up and execute. Our process can involve several in-person meetings at the venue to discuss a game plan for your big day, including logistics around everything from set up to clean up. Whenever possible, we’ll do much of that set up the day before, especially for events such as a gala dinner or wedding. That leaves plenty of time for service providers such as florists to add their finishing touches.
The times when things go wrong—The last thing you want to happen at a major event is to run out of food, but it’s a common and shocking worry for many clients who have had that exact experience when working with other catering firms in the past. Maybe it’s the Italian in my background, but running out of food is not an option at a Kiss the Cook-catered event! Have we ever been surprised when some guests’ appetites push the limits of the food quantities we allot for a buffet? Or been shocked to find out mid-way through an event that the two-soft drink per-person budget set by the client was a bit too modest? Of course—even we’ve experienced the unexpected. We’ve also had guests arrive unannounced, much to our surprise. But that’s why we have safety nets such as back-up supplies and contingency plans in place for large events, where the unforeseeable is always a possibility. It’s all about leveraging our experience to ensure we have a plan for any situation. That’s why our supervisors closely monitor food and other supplies throughout the course of an event. If they get even a hint that an issue might become noticeable to you or your guests, they immediately act to deal with the situation. When the unexpected becomes reality, communication is key, and we always work to ensure that you’re happy with our strategy to address the problem.
The trust factor—Whether it’s your wedding day, an annual fundraiser or a corporate event where you simply must impress your own clients or ensure your CEO is wowed by a fine dining five-course menu, it can be hard to hand over the reins to a catering firm. We get what a leap of faith this is for so many organizers. But you’re never rolling the dice when you trust us to handle your event. Why? We provide an advanced food tasting to ensure you’ll love every dish we serve, and an on-site meeting to make recommendations well in advance of the big day. Tools like these are designed to help you rest easy and stay relaxed for your event—your only job should be having fun and mingling with your guests. We’ll even provide a detailed event blueprint with our managers’ contact names and numbers if you have questions or concerns. By the time you experience our in-depth planning process, you’ll be completely at ease and ready to party.
It’s how we make it look easy, ensuring you enjoy the very best catering that Toronto has to offer with no worries and a lot of fun! Because we want to give you plenty of reasons to make Kiss the Cook your favourite caterer.
Looking to book a holiday event? Contact us now!