When I was in Nashville a few weeks ago for The Special Event conference, I had the opportunity to go on a behind the scenes tour of the Gaylord Opryland Catering Kitchens. I love behind the scenes anything, but especially things related to hospitality. Even though I’ve been a planner for years and I know more about hospitality than the average person, I love every opportunity I get to see “back of house.” So naturally, I jumped at the chance to see the kitchens.
I was one of the few planners on the tour – mostly it seemed to be catering professionals from other (smaller) hotels or banquet facilities. Many of them ooh’d and ahh’d at the sheer scale of the Gaylord operation since it was noticeably bigger than their own. Several asked questions about procedures or logistics that I didn’t really understand, comparing their protocol to the Gaylord’s.
But even as a planner, I found the tour fascinating. The Gaylord is an enormous convention hotel, and our tour centered on the catering kitchens, so food that was prepared for the hundreds or thousands of meeting and event attendees, not the regular hotel and restaurant guests. The largest meal that they had prepared and served at once was 4500 covers (individual plates), or a buffet for 12,000. Imagine the logistics to make that happen!
As I looked at the BEOs hanging up for the next meal period (and that was a light day) I thought about all of the times when I had been late in getting information to my caterer or conference services manager. My lateness probably caused unnecessary stress in the kitchen for that event.
As a planner we often pride ourselves on developing great working relationships with our supplier partners at hotels, banquet facilities and restaurants. I have friends who work “on the other side” and I have a pretty good understanding of how that side of the industry works. But I’ve never worked in hospitality myself (I’ve also never even worked in food service – my high school jobs were at the local library and in retail).
The short tour of the Gaylord’s kitchens may not have been life changing, but definitely gave me a moment to stop and think about what really needs to happen to make my events a success. I have always believed that suppliers and vendors are truly partners in an event’s success, but it was great to get a glimpse into the logistics of it all, to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around my event alone, and that while great hotel staff in any department will bend over backwards to make something happen, I need to be more aware of what I’m really asking.
I would encourage all of my fellow planners to seek out a similar opportunity; to peek “behind the scenes” and learn more about what goes into making our events successful.
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