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Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather – Thyme to Play With Your Food

There’s a storm coming and you have a full schedule. The hypothetical given is that this is NOT Day One of the storm, rather the week of a forecasted weather dynamic headed in your direction.

Using Choice Dining Spaces for Maximum Usage – Setting up the Cooks, the Kitchens, the Orders

Today you have a full schedule. Morning buffet breakfast for the Community Economic Development group in the hotel courtyard (65 seats); power luncheon for the University Advisory Board in the private dining room (14 seats); and an evening annual membership reception for the Chamber of Commerce (225 seats). You can thank your reputation and excellent group sales staff for keeping your schedule fully booked. You’ve probably found it useful to have your additional chefs de partie on call for heavy workloads, yet space is limited in the kitchen to cook everything on pre-orders as well as the regular dining call-ins for room service. If your hotel is set up with a catering kitchen, this would be the ideal time to use it for your specialty (pre-cooked) menus and buffet service, while the main kitchen retains orders for service to the main dining room, room service, and any ancillary dining spaces under your helm.

An approaching storm days out does not necessarily mean you will have cancellations – remember what happened with the Republican National Convention in Tampa last Fall?

The Plan

You should consider establishing a “contingency” plan should a storm approach and you still have fresh inventory on hand. Think about using choice dining spaces, including the hotel lobby and other accessible common areas to stage a market or even an indoor “piazza” with bistro-style dining, using quick buffet setups throughout. The hotel guests (including those unfortunate stranded travelers who have found respite in the hospitality of your domain) will find a sense of calm and comfort – you are preparing the most memorable day for some of these guests, and under certain circumstances … a saving grace. Think and plan on such emergencies and set up a special clip tab in your SOP manual.

Stay Connected

Whether a storm is on its way or not, keeping a readily accessible and posted worksheet for each group dining is SOP. However, aside from maintaining your whiteboard updates, having a bi-directional communication network which aids in real-time updates on work orders, schedule changes, and point-to-point conversation to directed individuals sharing your system will prove to be the best investment made to connect with your staff – especially for an emergency, such as a storm at your doors.

The Lights Are Out and You’re Still Cooking – Get Creative

You may be out of thyme to spice up your last dressing, but it’s still a classy moment with rice and mushrooms drizzled in a buttery sauce with fresh-picked lemony thyme from the kitchen herb garden you harbor in the courtyard planters. Use it, or lose it. Bunsen burners can still heat your butter; it shows you have not forgotten your role as executive chef and how you have trained your culinary team to effectuate tasteful recipes from little else left in the pantry. Light some candles (battery-operated even better and much safer, too). Propose directing your waitstaff to assist in creating quick fruit-and-vegetable “topiaries”, using every morsel of salad makings, toothpicked kumquats inserted throughout for color and aromatic vibrancy to this collage of food display – and to be eaten by a very thankful roomful of guests and hotel personnel. During a “big storm” the dining event may well be your most important role – and the most appreciated and memorable experience your guests will ever encounter.

So, it’s OK to play with your food.