Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

By Carly Ziemer, Director of Sales
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I have been part of this crazy family going on 8 years now, and what a ride it has been! When I first started, catering was brand new to me. I only had about 2 years of event experience under my belt so I had a lot to learn and no idea what I was getting myself into.  TC has grown a lot since those days and so have I.  But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

Let me fill you in on a few lessons I have learned thus far….

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A few months after starting with Two Caterers, I was working on an event for 200 guests. At the time, this seemed like a huge event.  Today, if you tell me 5,000 people I might flinch, but 200: we got this. 

Ok, back to the story… The client had ordered a two-entrée buffet, and then about 3 days before their event they decided to take off one of their entrées.  I made the simple changes and sent them off to the client.  The day of the event rolled around, we were packing out all of the food and I noticed the kitchen was sending out the steaks that I had taken off earlier that week… Big Oops!  I forgot to tell the kitchen and let’s just say… it did not go over well.  I will never forget our chef sitting me down and telling me that it took 2 people 4+ hours to make those steaks. 

I sell food everyday but I don’t make it. Our culinary team are the experts and they put in so much time and effort to make sure our clients receive a high quality product.  On the positive side, we were able donate the steaks to a local non-profit.  I am sure they were a great treat for some well-deserving people. 

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Obviously, being in the hospitality industry, we always want to be accommodating to our clients, but sometimes we can’t always say yes.  Sometimes "yes" can get us in some trouble. 

I was working on an event at one of the exclusive venues we were managing at the time. The organization that owned the venue treated it like their home - as they should - and they were very particular about the way it was cared for.  For instance, there were certain rooms that were off limits to our staff and clients. 

My client on this particular event was, let's say, a little difficult.  She asked for everything from the moon to the stars and didn't quite understand the meaning of "no".  The evening of the event, the client kept asking me about certain rooms and I kept explaining to her that they were not available for use. After about the 5th time of her asking I did the easy thing and let her use the room - I immediately regretted my decision.  At the end of the event the room was a disaster, and I knew I was in trouble. 

I called the venue manager the next morning and personally went down to clean the room. One of our team mottos is: Do what’s right, not what's easy!  By letting the client have access to that room, I took the easy way out, not the right way.  If I would have held my ground and said "No" in a firm, fair, & friendly way, the situation could have been avoided.  This became a great learning lesson and our relationship with the venue continued and became stronger.

Last one, I promise…

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I was working on an elaborate, last minute event for a family.  There were lots of pieces and parts that needed coordinated and the client was very particular, and had high expectations. Through the planning process things were going smoothly, all the vendors were working together well, and everything seemed to be on track. 

Event day rolls around, and here comes Murphy and his Law.  Without getting into too much detail, let me give you a quick rundown….

  • Event Planner didn’t show up
  • DJ arrived 2 hours late
  • Guests arrived 1 hour early
  • We had food for 150 guests;  200 showed up
  • The power went out at the venue

As all of these things were happening, the client looked to me to fix them.  Though I was doing my best to help remedy the situation, the client’s frustration keep growing. If I remember correctly there was yelling of not so nice words and some finger pointing while I was holding back the tears.

At one point in the evening, after I got the power back on (from throwing extension cords over the balcony and plugging everything in to the basement), I was on the loading dock in the back of the venue about to lose it. I just wanted to walk away.  But I couldn't.  I had a whole team of staff with me that was feeling all the same things I was feeling.  

So I took a deep breath.  And I called my boss, Angela.  

If I remember correctly she was in a great mood, and informed me she was watching Duck Dynasty.  I said, "I am sorry to ruin the show but I need help.  Please come!" Without asking a question, she hopped in her car and was there in a matter of 20 minutes.  It was important that she come and help calm the client so my team and I could get the situation under control.  After about 2 hours of chaos, the event finally came together. The dance floor was a-rockin, and the guests were enjoying themselves. At the end of the day I would say the client walked away with a good (maybe not great) event.

I am lucky to have these experiences that have helped me grow. I am able to pass these lessons down to my team so that they, hopefully, will not have the same troubles.  I am still learning every day how we can be better and stronger for our clients. 

Sure, there are days when this job can be stressful, exhausting, and overwhelming, but most days it’s the best!  I absolutely love what I do and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else or working for another company.  I couldn’t get through any of this without my TC family behind me. They have my back and won’t let me fail.

Signing off,
Car
 

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