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Back to Business: What We’ve Learned

Everyone was excited about the possibilities that 2020 was going to bring the events industry. Couples wanted those unique dates to commemorate their wedding day (hello 10/10/2020), the new decade was here and people were looking forward to any chance they could get to celebrate. Everything was set for 2020 to be the #BestYearEver with record numbers of events being held … Little did everyone know…

Navigating the events world now is uncharted territory, what was once standard practice has now gone to the wayside. After months of restrictions, stay-at-home orders and just general uncertainty, everyone in the industry was left to wonder when events were coming back, and when they did, what would it look like. 

Brancato's Catering staff donned masks and gloves as they returned to working full service events. Photo courtesy Brancato's Catering.

As things have progressed and restrictions have somewhat lifted, we find ourselves writing a new playbook, one that changes as new information becomes available and we experience the “new normal” that is COVID-19 events. 

Brancato’s Catering has begun executing full-service events in recent weeks, learning something new with each event. Below are recaps of two of these events, what worked, what didn’t and what they learned going forward. 

Buffet Style Service Post COVID-19 Outbreak

Event details:

Date: May 16, 2020
Location: The Barn at Riverbend Peculiar, MO.
Guests: 95
Additional measures taken to ensure health and safety of guests:

  • Manufactured sneeze guard barriers for buffet service

  • Raising buffet lines with table leg extensions

  • Pre-plated salads

  • Tables dismissed one at a time

  • Self-bussing stations for guests

What Worked:

After much deliberation between purchasing or manufacturing, our team ultimately decided to create custom sneeze guards to serve as a barrier between guests and food lines. By making these in-house, we were able to build to specifications and create pieces that truly fit the needs of our event and the space we were working in. Pre-plating salads and portion cups for dressings and condiments helped with speed and efficiency of moving people through the line while protecting those items. Buffet tables placed on leg extensions to raise our buffet allowed for Cambro’s and other equipment to be stored underneath for quick access and ensured our staff did not have to leave the line to get things. Dismissing tables one by one to ensure that only one table was present at the buffet at a time to maintain social distancing was also key to sticking within the guidelines set forth by the county.

Attended buffets with plexiglass barriers were implemented at a recent event. Photo courtesy Brancato's Catering.

What did not work:

Guests were asked to bus their own plates, however guests did not not follow through with this request and had trouble understanding the concept. Staff executed delayed bussing after guests got up to dance. This allowed for our staff to maintain social distancing during the event. 

What was learned and would be done differently:

Preparations and implementation of procedures with sneeze guards, releasing tables, served buffet, staff in PPE and raised buffet tables were all a success for this event and remain as policies moving forward. Self-service bussing was the only change in procedure that was not maintained after this event based on the changes made from normal service. There was less drinking at the event compared to typical weddings and the event ended early which is a trend amongst events in this post COVID-19 era. 

Plated Service Event

Event Details:

Date: June 13, 2020
Location: The Museum at Prairie Fire
Guests: 145 “
Wedding Planner: Whatever is Lovely Wedding Planner.
Additional measures taken to ensure health + safety of guests:

  • Custom manufactured sneeze guards/ drop tables at the bar

  • Disposable bar glassware

  • Rolled silverware set at tables

  • Limited FOH table contact

  • Preset salads/rolls/butter with displayed instructions

What worked:

Sneeze guards and drop tables set to the side of the bar were implemented to offer social distancing bar service at the event. Switching the bar glassware to disposable for one-time use went well and was explained to the client to ensure safety of bar service. Silverware was rolled in the linen napkin to protect the silverware from guest contact on the tables.

Signage was placed on pre-set stables explaining the health and safety procedures. Photo courtesy Brancato's Catering.

What did not work:

To limit contact, plate covers were utilized for preset salads. The roll, butter, dressing, and salad were all placed on the table under these covers. Signage was placed on the table to explain what to do with the plate cover and what was underneath. Most guests struggled with the concept of this and what to do with the plate cover afterward as they did not read the signage posted. 

What we learned:

Serving the plate upon guests arrival at the table seemed to be the best way to service the salad course of a plated meal. After discussion with the staff they came to realize that service at the tables was inevitable and even limiting the exposure to guests was not 100% achievable during an event. 

After executing multiple events of varying service levels, procedures and policies continue to evolve after every event. Be prepared to come up with multiple ideas for any one problem. What you believe may be the best answer can quickly become your worst nightmare during service. Flexibility and quick thinking will prove vital in this ever-changing world.

Andrea Burkhart contributed to this article.

Brian Ingalls

Director of Sales, Brancato's Catering

Brian received his degree in Hospitality Management from Johnson County Community College. Prior to joining Brancato’s Catering, he was the Director of Sales for Affordable Catering and worked there for 9 years from 1997 to 2007. Brian joined the Brancato’s team in 2007 as a Lead Caterer. In 2008 he was promoted to a sales representative. In 2016, he was promoted to Director of Sales. In his current role, Brian is a part of the management team that oversees the company’s sales staff ensuring the overall sales goal of the company is achieved. Additionally, he works to facilitate the growth of the company through business development initiatives and relationship building. Finally, he provides support to customers in the planning...