I admit it. I have had some of the world’s best service training and have integrated many of these practices into my business and brand. And yet, I still always consider the nature of the event, the circumstance and have a keen appreciation for humanity in all its facets, styles, and also fully acknowledge everyone has a different style of “getting it done” at the end of the day. And yet. And yet…..
There are a few things that are deal breakers for me that will most likely ensure I will never refer you:
- Being unresponsive on email or phone during the pre-event planning stages. Completely unresponsive.
- A pattern of habitual late responses– we are talking a week or more- to try and get one simple response, and a pattern of this habit. I understand we have pockets where we get behind. I’m talking of this as an M.O.
- Drinking alcohol at an event during one’s work time – or even on a break when one has to return to continue work. I don’t care if the client has openly invited you to partake of a drink because they are feeling generous. It. is. never. ok.
- Eating or smoking in guest view.
- Helping yourself to appetizers- displayed or tray-passed – during the event and in front of guests.
Did the Banquet Captain offer you a little sampler behind the scenes? No problem ! You are out of guest view. I’m addressing those vendors who reach to help themselves to appetizers being served to guests. Or even those staged appetizers that have been placed meticulously – as a masterpiece of art- on display, untouched and waiting for the first guest arrival. They are not for you. They are for the client who has paid to have their event be a work of art and for their guest count. And here’s the thing: even if the well-meaning catering staff offers you appetizers during cocktail hour, that doesn’t mean you should take it. I’ve been offered countless times to take an appetizer while working and will refuse it, no matter how enticing they are (and believe me, we work with the best resorts and caterers in the world and it is grueling to turn that down) or how hungry I am. However, if they offer me a nibble behind the scenes or prepare me a little plate I can take and consume behind closed doors, away from guests, I will.
- Not being responsible for your service or product and making me or other service providers figure things out for you “day of”. Not sure where electricity is for your product or if your location is going to work for your service? It’s ok to quickly ask, but ultimately, it is your job to come to the site in advance and scope it out and take responsibility for the service for which you were hired. If you may need extension cords, it is your job to provide them and make sure that if they are crossing areas where guests or staff walk, that they are securely fastened with mats, proper tape, tubing, etc. Not sure the best places for photographs? It is your job to learn the property in advance so you can do your job and we (and everyone else) can do theirs.
- Calling, emailing or texting to ask me the address of the wedding location “day of” after it being given to you in the full event roster, production schedule and timeline , as well as personal confirmations via phone or email prior. That is just laziness. The way I see it, if you are not paying attention in the planning stages to something as basic as the address of the wedding location and when painstaking efforts have been made to include you and take care of you, what kind of service will you be able to give my clients or future clients?
Making the event about you by insisting on your vendor meal being at a different time from the other vendors and the pre-designated Vendor Meal Time. I understand that there may be more ideal times for you and your service to take your break. But guess what? Every service provider has unique needs and timing issues, too. It varies for everyone. I acknowledge that you work hard. I am clearly aware that you have put in long , hard, physical hours for your service and also that your brain and body do not work as well without food and water to sustain you. You are not alone in this. With the exception of full service hotels and resorts who often are able to set up a Vendor Buffet in a side private banquet room that is for the exclusive use of the vendors for an entire window of time, allowing flexibility to each vendor for his/her meal break time, most off-site caterers must carefully time their meal production in a quasi-kitchen (where they are already not working with ideal equipment) and cannot be asked for “special exceptions” to the implementation of perfectly timed cuisine – timing that is essential and for the benefit of their clients– which interrupts the kitchen flow and service production. Additionally, most caterers detest vendors coming up and being asked for “special exceptions” for an individual meal or two in the heart of mass production of a meal for a wedding or special event. They will not tell you this, so I am . Right here. It not only is in poor taste (pun intended) to do so, but I can guarantee you that the caterer (or resort/hotel/venue) has taken note and will not be so keen to refer your services again, either. When I work with an off-site caterer, I always ask them when they will be offering the vendor meal so I can communicate in advance to all vendors to plan accordingly and also support the caterer and their implementation of a flawless meal and service to their number one priority: the guests.
Therefore, the only acceptable, professional options for taking your vendor meal are: 1. Wait until the pre-designated Vendor Meal Time. It was set up that way for a reason. 2. If the designated vendor meal time does not work well with your service flow and timing, it’s time to “adult” and take charge of your life and pack a meal or snack for yourself to “tide” you over until your vendor meal is ready and/or 3. If you let your Coordinator or Catering Manager know in advance, a Vendor Meal can always be saved for you for way later in the evening, when it may be more convenient to take your meal. Finally, another Vendor Meal option altogether: 4. Order a boxed lunch/dinner style vendor meal that may be picked up and consumed whenever you wish.
And do I really need to say that it is never ok to go through a buffet line before guests, or in guest view? It is proper and professional to wait until the buffet has been removed from the guests to the kitchen that vendors can go dish up or get their plated meals – and eat out of guest view.
Our special events industry is a small one world-wide. Nationwide. And especially Santa Barbara-wide. The above points really are “industry standard”. If this is not “your” standard and you don’t wish to increase referrals, then you are probably just fine where you are. But please remember that event professionals are always talking and sharing information with each other about the style of others with whom they work. While there will always be personal style differences, there is a huge difference between a “style preference” being “casual“, and that of just downright sloppy unprofessionalism.
Bottomline: it’s about grace, manners and remembering we are in a service industry and the client and their guests come first. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. Remember, it’s not just your fellow vendors watching you: your potential future business is also watching you and your choice of style in how you conduct yourself while you work.