Taking the Cake

Posted on Sunday 17 June 2007

Guests like to bring in the craziest things for their parties. Sometimes they tell me they are bringing these assorted trinkets, balloons, foodstuffs, flowers and such. Sometimes they don’t. Usually, the more stuff they bring in, the less attractive the whole event becomes. I speak not only of my experience in my restaurant, but of those in the business who share their stories with me via email. In fact, I welcome more stories from others in the industry who have raised an eyebrow now and then at what guests haul in to be “served.”

Recently, in my place:

* Fruit-of-the-Loom T-shirts to be used as chair covers at a formal dinner, complete with a slogan written to the guest of honor;
* badly printed “personalized” cloth napkins that were impossible to fold, so they just looked sloppy and awful on the tables;
* baskets of potted plants that were so over-the-top too big, we placed them on the floor instead of the tables;
* so-called snot-falvored’ jelly beans as “favors.” Yum.

One email recently recounted the story of a “penis cake” being brought to a fine-dining establishment, to be served to a party seated in the middle of the main dining room. Um, how do you cut that? Who actually eats that? Nice touch for the tables unlucky enough to be sitting adjacent to them and in full view of ‘it.’ Are you JOKING? Do you really think that was original and clever?

So, please, catering coordinators, servers, managers and owners–I would love to hear the best and the worst of the answer to, “Is it okay if I bring in … ?” And to the patrons out there–don’t be shy–tell all!

Yours in perpetual incredulity,

–The Gal

13 Comments for 'Taking the Cake'

  1.  
    JAF
    June 18, 2007 | 1:15 am
     

    My restaurant isn’t fine dining per se, but white tablecloth and by no means casual. The penis cake reminds me of an incident I experienced – a bachelorette party with what I was told would be a penis cake – at least neighboring tables might miss that one if they’re far enough away. When I went to the walk-in to retrieve it, I found that it was actually a male torso cake, complete with a banana for the erect penis and some milky looking globs of icing intended to look like semen. Classy. I was afraid to walk through the dining room lest any customers see it.

  2.  
    June 18, 2007 | 3:48 am
     

    For my step-daughter’s 18th we took in a cake my wife had made for her. That’s it. That’s the only time we’ve ever taken something into a restaurant, and it wasn’t even rude.

    Clearly I’m not challenging the catering industry enough. I need to get out and upset a few more people.

  3.  
    June 18, 2007 | 10:12 am
     

    I find most catered affairs rather bland. (No offense to you) The same boring food choices, bland wine, “Oh look, they made the butter look like little flowers!”, the same songs, same overenthused DJ..

    I always love when there is something different. Bertie Bott Jelly beans, personalized shirts, bubbles, etc. Maybe it’s because i’m just not into formal. I could care less how the napkins look on the table, what the centerpiece is or what anyone is wearing.

  4.  
    m
    June 18, 2007 | 10:55 am
     

    I’ve added my own personal touch to several parties in restaurants. Talking with the restaurant staff ahead of time has yielded good results. I’ve listened to their recommendations and adapted my expectations as needed. My added floral arrangements are low, compact, designs. Once I used small bud vases at each chair, a favor for each guest. I’ve also had small gift bags in each chair, or beside the silverware if it is a better fit.

    Only the restaurant offered really crappy desserts – a national chain that I’ll not mention, the best option in that small town – so I brought the guest of honor’s favorite chocoate cake from a favorite bakery. I definitely cleared that with the restaurant ahead of time, they accommodated it, but charged me with slicing the cake. Not a big deal to me.

    Once I gave a party at a upscale place that was located way out of town in a lovely wooded area. I was happy with everything, except the maps they provided were beyond awful – badly drawn and hard to read (had been xeroxed way too many times). I redrew the restaurant map (a skill learned in college finally came back to help!), and added written directions that would lead guests no matter where they were coming from (some from 100’s of miles away). I gave an original to the restaurant that they could use in place of their awful map.

    What has been most successful is to keep everything fairly compact and tidy, and to ALWAYS discuss it with the restaurant staff ahead of time. The restaurant can make or break a party, and trusting them to do what they do best usually works very well.

  5.  
    June 18, 2007 | 12:06 pm
     

    Can’t wait to hear more stories!

  6.  
    stephanie
    June 18, 2007 | 12:22 pm
     

    I handle events at a major hotel where our clients routinely bring in incredible things (Formula 1 racecars, helicopters, livestock, the AIDS quilt) to transform our ballrooms for their events. The worst was an incontinent Clydesdale, and the most surprising was a guest who wanted to hang a large flag for a diplomatic event. He told me that it was big, but the event was in a 30,000 square foot ballroom, so I told him we could figure out how to hang any size he brought in – until he showed up and once we unrolled half of it (half!) it was already too large to fit in the room.

  7.  
    June 18, 2007 | 10:35 pm
     

    The worst thing anyone could bring to special events is that idiotic, specially shaped, impossible to clean up confetti. Bridal showers seemed to be the worst offenders. Those tiny little shiny pieces would show up days later scattered to and fro throughout the restaurant. We finally banned it at all the restaurants I managed. No broom invented could clean up that crap.

  8.  
    Name changed to protect the innocent :-)
    June 18, 2007 | 11:08 pm
     

    At a previous meeting, someone wanted to ride into the ballroom on a horse. The doors from the back of the house were too short for a horse and rider, plus the poor creature would have had to ride up to the fourth floor in an elevator. Luckily, he was talked out of it after a couple of weeks.

    I like using gobos around the room. One of our themes was “The Time has Come.” Various styles of clocks were projected on the walls around the room.

  9.  
    Restaurant Gal
    June 18, 2007 | 11:19 pm
     

    Name Changed–Seriously, a horse? Amazing.

  10.  
    Juliet
    June 19, 2007 | 8:12 am
     

    I work at a restaurant in New Zealand that does many functions. We’re having one tomorrow, a working conference or some such, over the time most people commonly eat morning tea. Instead of croissants or anything like that- these people are bringing in chocolate bars to have with their coffee and tea. Say what??

  11.  
    Name changed to protect the innocent :-)
    June 19, 2007 | 10:16 am
     

    Yes, really. It was crazy.

    At another event, someone wanted to ride in on a motorcycle. Imagine the exhaust fumes filling the ballroom. Ugh! Luckily, that didn’t happen, either.

    Just think of all the crazy things that you don’t hear about because someone talked sense into some crazy person’s head…

  12.  
    June 19, 2007 | 3:26 pm
     

    Circumsized or uncircumsized?

  13.  
    Amanda
    June 20, 2007 | 4:29 pm
     

    Um, how do you cut that?

    Er…call in a rabbi?

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