Catering for corporates has always been the bread & butter for zebratasty. So when a couple asked us to cater their wedding banquet, on an outdoor sit-down format, our gut reaction was 'no thanks'. But with our owner being somebody who always over-estimates his capacity and over-simplifies things, we said yes. This 'yes' was made back in the second half of 2020 and guess what we only got to execute this project in January 2022 due to the pandemic. So a long wait but we got there.
Preparing for a sit-down style banquet is quite different from a buffet or a cocktail reception. You can have as many live stations as you like, live carvery, live iberico ham slicing, live cocktail mixing or a couple dozen wait staff passing around canape or re-filling drinks, guests won't have expectation to be served at just about the same time as everyone else invited to the party. For a sit-down, all plates within each course have to go out within a five, ten-minute window. In our case that's a total of 150 plates for each course of our 4-course menu. Plate too early guests will get a lukewarm dish; plate them too late wait staff will start taking the heat outside. In total, we brought a team of 3 chefs, 3 assistants and 15 wait staff.
Preparation isn't just about the staffing. Being a caterer, we frequently have to move dining utensils, cooking equipment and furniture to and from the venue. This time is no different. Except it's a bit more challenging than putting on a buffet or staging it in an indoor location. Usually for a buffet you can get away with two plates per person, meaning guests will grab salad and main course on same plate, then perhaps dessert and fruit on another, that's all. For a sit-down, there's bread plate, salad plate, dinner plate, dessert plate and in our case also a soup plate. Same goes with cutlery. You can imagine the look on our staff's face when they saw the flight of stairs leading up to the venue.
Fortunately for them the couple hired a rental company for the furniture, and yet the company arrived late and our team had to wait quite a bit before the dining tables are ready for table setting. As with most weddings, over-running is rather normal but we started to get a little anxious when it's past 30 minutes the scheduled banquet start time. One, most of the food were prepared & cooked in our kitchen facility then transported to the venue. So the longer the time span before the food got eaten, the higher the chance of it's texture and flavor being compromised, despite all hot food being kept in electric hot holding throughout the process. And second, we would rather not ask the couple for staff over-time on their big day; corporates, not so much.
We finally got the signal to send out first course plus the host gave us an instruction to follow the original finishing time of the banquet. This meant only one thing, we had to be very very quick and precise in our service, from plating to sending out and collecting plates. Having worked with most of the staff, and knowing their experience we were confident the team could pull this off but seeing them actually executing each course, one by one, and noticing them returning with empty plates, filled us with a lot of joy, pride and relief.
Congratulations to the couple and congratulations to our team for successfully making a tense sit down banquet fun and exciting!