RULES OF CATERINGThere are two dates in the
caterer’s calendar when all involved feel like
giving up, selling up or throwing their hands up in
despair. These times are at the end of August and the
Christmas and New Year holiday. You feel worn down by
the continuous grind of business pressure, never having
five minutes respite and problems piling on top of
other problems not yet resolved. At all other times of
the year we are confident, happy, urbane, smiling and
generally full of good cheer. All businesses have their
crosses to bear, but in the catering industry with all
its complexities we probably get more than our fair
share. These problems that are an intrinsic part of
running a business are what make it challenging and
should be tackled with a philosophical, positive
attitude and a readiness to learn. Having said that you
can on bad days think that Sod and Murphy are alive and
well and perched firmly on either shoulder. Below are
some of the things I have learnt through my years in
the business. You will recognise some and probably be
able to add a few of your own. I am sorry if it sounds
a little pessimistic but there is a useful side to
pessimism in that if you expect everything to work
brilliantly and it doesn’t you will be constantly
disappointed. But by expecting the worst and it not
necessarily happening is a pleasant surprise -
that’s how I keep smiling.
THE RULESIt is always when there is a lull in
dining room conversation that someone drops a tray of
glasses in the kitchen.
Parties booked before eight o’clock will be late,
those booked at eight o’clock will be on time,
and those booked later will be early. Meaning that with
all best planning in the world fifty people will be
piling through your door at eight o’clock
demanding food and drink and blaming you for bad
organisation if they have to wait any longer than two
and a half minutes for anything.
Noise levels in dining rooms increase in direct
proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed.
The decibel level of the loudest conversation in the
dining room is in inverse proportion to the amount of
thought going into it.
The party that decides not to have starters will choose
the main courses that take the longest to prepare.
People become 100% more charming as soon as they have a
drink and some food in front of them.
It is never the people having the interesting
conversation that invite you to join them after dinner.
Those people who try to economise on their evening will
have longer faces than those who splash out.
If there are candles on the table someone will start
playing with the wax.
If five things go wrong in and evening it will always
be to the same table.
It will always be at the busiest point of the evening
that the party of eight ask for eight separate bills
and can’t remember what they had.
The customer is not always right but it’s a jolly
good idea to let him think he is.
The amount of highly involved ritual that a person puts
into choosing, perusing, mouth swilling and gargling
his wine is in inverse proportion to how much he knows
If a party chooses the main course you have run out of,
they will also choose two wines you haven’t got
and the pudding that’s off the menu.
The least romantic people always seem to book first for
The ceoliac, the anaphylactic, the vegan and the person
allergic to garlic always come on the same night and
only inform you when you go to take their order.
On the hottest night of the year there is always one
elderly person who comes to dinner wearing a cardigan
and a jacket which they refuse to part with, orders
soup and then has a fainting fit and blames you for it
being too hot in the dining room.
The main course that hasn’t sold all week
suddenly becomes the most popular dish on a Saturday
night when you’ve only got five portions.
It is the people who eat every last scrap of food on
their plates who can’t see the irony when they
complain that the food was inedible.
People booked at seven o’clock always arrive at
ten to seven.