Assistant to the Assistant

I don’t know about your work load, but I can tell you that mine is pretty intense.  For many years, I was the sole “sales guy” within our company.  This left me with the daunting task of not only seeking out new business and creating quotes for those potential clients, but taking and placing orders for existing customers.  It didn’t take long before my cup was not only overflowing but leaking dangerously all over the ground. That’s when I got my greatest gift, an assistant!  (Yes, you can all hear my sigh of relief).


My assistant is to me my right arm and sometimes even my left.  I hand her just about every task that I don’t want to forget I have to do and that I don’t think I can possibly get done.  She answers the phone, she takes orders, she soothes nervous brides, and she sets up my meetings.  Seriously, she does it all.  And I want her to understand how much I appreciate her and all she does to keep me and our company looking good.  However, the other day I saw that look come over her eyes as I handed her a new project that reminded me of the look I saw in a client’s eyes years ago.


I don’t spend a lot of time meeting with CEO’s and VP’s of companies.  I spend most of my days in conversations with their Administrative Assistants.  I know how loaded their plates are already but I’ve also noticed that a company “Event Coordinator” doesn’t seem to exist anymore. So, in the end, whose desk do you think events and their planning lands on?  You guessed it – that poor Admin’s!  It was on one of these such occasions, that I noticed that glazed look I mentioned early come over one of the Admin’s faces I was meeting with.  She had been given the daunting task of planning a fun and interactive event for over 500 employees and had called me to help with catering.  As I started probing for details on themes and entertainment, there came that look!  She said to me how in the world am I supposed to handle all of my responsibilities, the overflow from my boss’s desk and somehow manage to plan a stellar party?!?!  I remember I just looked at her and said, “Hire me.  I’ll be your assistant.”


I don’t think most of our customers realize how far we will go to ensure their event is a success, even if that means we book EVERYTHING!  Several of our customers take advantage of this service and literally give us a budget, guest count, a brief concept for the event and let us take care of everything from there.  We keep them looped in as we secure the vendors, entertainment, and/or rentals needs.  On event day we ensure all vendors show up, are paid, and do the job contracted.  Clean up occurs and then my customers get a much deserved pat on the back for creating a fantastic event.


Now, we must clarify…we are a catering company.  So, we need your food and beverage service first in order to provide you all the extra bells and whistles.  But my point is if one of these events get dropped on your lap, call on me for more than just the food and beverage.  We’ve been doing events for over 30 years. Planning and organizing them is in our blood. Take advantage of ALL the services we have to offer you.  I can’t do much to help clear the glazed look out of my own assistant’s eyes, but I can help to clear yours!

Honesty is our ONLY Policy

The other day I went into the grocery store for a few items (which somehow always multiplies into at least half a cart).  Among those items was a greeting card.  I stuck the card near my purse in the upper portion of the cart so it wouldn’t wrinkle.  When I discovered all lines were full and that the self-checkout was empty, I headded there instead.  I quickly checked myself out, bagged my groceries and headed to the car.  Just as I finished putting the final bags in the car, I noticed that dang greeting card sitting in the front of the cart, not bagged and ultimately, not paid for.  Here in lies the dilemma.  Do I go back in and pay for this card even though I’m already all the way to my car, no one knows I haven’t paid for it and I certainly didn’t intend to steal it?  Or do I just throw it in the car and promise to do something good for someone else later on down the line?  Of course, I can even further rationalize my potential “stealing” by the argument that the store is charging like $4.00 for something which is in essence a freaking piece of paper!  It’s not going to hurt them one bit if they don’t get my money.  It’s probably like losing a quarter to them and I’m sure I’ve overpaid at least that and then some a time or two when they rang up the prices wrong.  Right???

No, not right.  I went back inside and paid for the card.  I’ve often wondered how many people would do the same thing but I realize it is irrelevant to the fact that this is the right thing to do and I just can’t shake that feeling.  I can tell you, hands down, that I was given this ridiculously annoying streak of honesty from my Dad (the elder Who of Special Moments).  He would go back into the store for something like that every time, without question.  He probably doesn’t even run that little dialogue in his head – he just goes straight in and pays for it.  Because it is the right thing to do.  And for my Dad – that’s pretty much all that matters.

This is an interesting trait to have when you run a business.  Honesty in business is definitely a good thing for anyone and certainly something that I would assume most people hope for.  But when you’re a true to the bone, no questions asked, painfully honest company it can sometimes cost you some business and/or cost you more to do business.

I thought about this as I paid for my greeting card and the many times that honesty has been a hard pill to swallow.  Like the time we got to bid on a 1000 person catering event when we desperately needed this kind of business.  The recession was upon us and not many people were doing large catered parties.  I remember how hard we worked to create the best price.  We cut as much profit off as we could and planned to labor ourselves even just to find a way to get some overhead money in and keep the employees on the payroll.  But we lost that bid.  That happens.  You can’t win them all but the piece that really got us was that we were out bid by 35%.  35%!?!?  We couldn’t even imagine how that was possible and we knew we would have been losing money to try to do it at that price.  Well, months later we happen to be talking to someone who had been at the event and on the planning committee.  When we asked about the event and the chosen caterer, she sheepishly said that it didn’t work out too well.  Turns out that caterer only brought enough servings for 650 guests.  (Pretty easy to do the math on that one…bid for 1000 at f35% less and bring 35% less food).   We couldn’t believe that a fellow competitor would outbid other caterers under the pretense that they would supply 1000 servings when they only intended to bring 650.  Totally dishonest.  But at the end of the day, their checkbook had revenues that ours did not.  Personally, I sure hope there was a repercussion but I will never really know.  All I learned that day though was that honesty can be painfully expensive.

I’ll admit that was an extreme example (and I think you can still sense the bitterness).  But that commitment to do the right thing gets in the way almost daily!  Case in point, the other day we all stood around analyzing the quantity of food that was going to a customer.  We were a little bit short on a protein. The yield after cooking was less than we expected and it just wasn’t quite enough. It was potentially not even noticeable to the customer, but we knew it was less then what they had paid for.  And in the book of Al and therefore Special Moments, that fell into the not quite right category.  So, off we went to the store to do the right thing.  To buy the additional protein and get it cooking.  The cost of being honest often means a longer workday and more expenses then you budgeted for.

My intent when I sat down to blog about my honesty experiences was not to toot the “we are the greatest” horn for everyone.  But more to share the realities of what’s it’s like to live day in and day out in a family business.  I’m sure everyone has some things that Mom and Dad taught them over the years that echoes in their brains.  Some of those things, you’ve probably long since tossed out the window.  (I don’t have to eat the crust of the bread Mom…it is NOT where all the nutrients are.)  But some of those lessons stay with you and become a part of who you are.  In spite of the often frustrating curse of an honest spirit, I’m glad to have kept that trait and that our family still uses it every day in our business.  It makes it easier to sleep at night, lets me look people in the eye and I never have to watch my back.  But even better for me is when I get to say, “Of course I paid for the greeting card, Dad.”

Where’s The Beef!

Well folks… I’m dating myself by starting off with “Where’s the Beef?”  I believe that quote got made famous by an elderly woman shouting it out in an old Wendy’s commercial.  Stuck in my mind though, so their campaign worked!  Anyway, as promised I told you in my last blog that I would help you figure your protein quantities for your next large group event.  I also told you I would assist in how to best use different cuts of beef.  I’m sticking to beef, pork and chicken this time around – maybe I’ll touch on seafood and fish another day.

Let’s start with beef because beef is the hardest cut of meat to figure.  There are so many cuts that are the same but they are called by different names.  This is a selling tool for FullSizeRenderdifferent parts of the country.  Flat steak, blade steak, tri tip etc.  Think about how much time you have to prepare your meal and choose which cut you want based on that.  If you have plenty of time, consider a beef brisket.  These cuts are great tasting but need a long time to cook.  Low and slow as we call it.  (Low temperature for a long time.)  You would not want to start a brisket at the same time as a prime rib.  The brisket is a much denser cut of meat and takes much longer to cook.  It also needs low temps to tenderize the meat.  So, if you’re in a hurry, pick a leaner beef that you can either throw on the grill or in the oven for a much shorter period of time.

Once you’ve settled on your meat choice, you now need to figure out how much you are going to need.  Let’s say you are having 10 people over.  Start with a portion size for each person such as 8 ounces.  Take 8 ounces and multiply it by the number of guests (so 8 ounces x 30 people wIMG_2013ould equal 640 ounces).  Take that number and divide it by 16 ounces to get your overall pounds.  In our example, the 240 ounces would be equal to 15 pounds.  This is where most people make a mistake though.  The 15 pounds is what you want to have left for your guests after it’s been cooked.  You’re going to lose some weight in the cooking process and in the fat count.  To be safe, order 30% more then what you need.  Using our example we would need 19.5 lbs of uncooked beef in order to get those 8 oz steaks for everyone.  Be careful if you’ve picked prime rib though, there tends to be more fat on this cut.  We recommend using NY Strip roast in its place.  We have found over the years that we have cut into a prime and got a big fat surprise.  Nothing like losing several pounds of product to a large fat pocket that you were unaware of!

Now let’s move on to the pork.  Pork is a bit easier because there aren’t as many cuts to deal with.  Chops, short ribs, baby backs, shoulder (Usually called butt) and tenderloin are the most common.  (Trivia Break…why would you call shoulder meat “butt”?  Well back in the day, pork shoulder was shipped in a container called butts.  Handy piece of info for you to pull out at your next event!)  Figuring the portion size is the same as beef so follow the same mathematical equations I gave you above. Ribs are different – just figure on about two serving per rack and you should be pretty safe.  (Chef’s tip – cut the racks in fourths to keep people from taking more than they can eat. Leftovers are more fun than wasted food on plates.)

Finally, we end on chicken.  Chicken is the best on “yield” (waste).  You don’t need to plan for as much waste but if you keep it at 30% you will definitely have leftovers.  If you’re wanting to make a grilled chicken breast or some other whole chicken breast dish, use 6 ounces as your portion size.  If you want to cut costs, choose dishes that can be made with white and dark meat instead.  Breast meat is more per pound than leg and thigh so if you can cook the two and then mix them you will save yourself some money.  Things like enchiladas or tacos work well for this.

And for fun, consider having a mix of your proteins.  You could offer both chicken and pork enchiladas instead of just having one kind.  Or you could pair your steak with some chicken.  I recommend having a smaller portion of each protein if you do that rather than going half and half since you will always have some guests who want to sample one of each.

There you have some of the secrets of planning a large meal!  And I can’t stress enough how fortunate you are as a consumer to have a restaurant supply store at your disposal.  So, don’t forget about the Chef’s Store I mentioned before. (They are located at McClintock and Southern in the NE corner shopping center.)  You’ll save yourself a lot of money as a host if you learn to break down those larger cuts of meat.  And if you’d rather not figure that out, that’s what we here for.  You can always scrap all this math and shopping and cutting meat and just hire us to do all that grunt work for you.  Either way you choose…Party on!

Why Pinterest Might Not Be Your Friend

Pinterest?  Not my friend?  How can this be! I’m not trying to be harsh with the Pinterest lovers (I’m one myself) but when it comes to weddings, it is not necessarily your best friend.  Many budding brides that search on Pinterest are still in that new first excitement phase right at the beginning of their engagement.  And Pinterest is a great place to start when you’re searching for ideas or trying to get a general feel for the kind of wedding you want to have.  Unfortunately, Pinterest can often give an unrealistic expectation of what your wedding should look like without enough information about the massive time or cost it will take. I have been in the bridal industry for a couple of years now and I have noticed that when I ask a bride what she is looking for the first thing that comes out of her mouth is “Well, I saw this on Pinterest and I fell in love with it”.

I don’t want you to view this blog post as me bashing on Pinterest, but more of an educational experience on what can actually help you plan your wedding. Pinterest i55e4bbce1700004301569192s the perfect place to get ideas and to begin your planning. But remember it cannot tell you exactly the time and money it took to create a beautiful masterpiece like this candlelit ceremony isle. Here’s where I say it’s not your friend.  I’ve experienced many brides who are so incredibly disappointed when the reality of the cost of this idea that they had their heart set on rules it right out of the picture.  If you use Pinterest as a starting point and then move forward with actual pricing research, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and potential disappointment.

And get help along the way as much as you can!  If it is in your budget, hire a Wedding Planner. They can become your best friend because they too have loads of ideas of great ways to make your wedding special.  But, unlike Pinterest, they have connections to professionals that can make those ideas a reality and hopefully pricing information to keep you from turning down a path that’s just not in your budget.   It is also a good idea to take your online research past Pinterest and into wedding sites where you can read reviews and articles about previous weddings and what worked and didn’t work for those brides.

When it comes time to choose your food, bring those ideas with you to your caterer.  But remember to trust us when it comes to letting us advise you on how they will work.   We really want to helebc59af9-4988-41d5-b5f2-84c3e3d998afrs_2001.480.fit_p you and we know what the limitations are for certain items.   And sometimes those cute simple things you find online require a lot of labor which unfortunately will cost you more money.  We can advise you on what those things are so you can decide what’s worth paying for and what’s not.  Trust us, we spend our time on Pinterest too.  It’s filled with cute, trendy things that we wouldn’t want to miss out on. But our years of experience have given us a better understanding of what can be recreated within your budget and requests.

Once again, this isn’t a bashing blog on Pinterest.  It is exciting getting married and I don’t want to discourage you with what you want to eat or decorate or even wear.  Search on Pinterest to your hearts content, just be aware of what can actually be recreated and how much time and money it will take.  If you follow that path, you might actually find Pinterest can be your friend after all.

CATERING SECRET (One of the them at least)

As the owner of a catering business, it’s not always in my best interest to give advice on how to throw a party without us.  I mean, obviously, I don’t want to disclose all the catering secrets and create a world of DIY caterers out there!  But let’s face it – you’re not going to use a caterer for every event you throw and my hope is that I can offer you enough useful advice for those smaller occasions that you’ll remember me for the bigger ones!

Ok, so let’s just say it’s one of those occasions where you’ve decided to have some people over and handle the food yourself.  Although you thought you’d save money by not using a restaurant or a caterer, you’re still feeling like you need to take a loan out just to buy all the food.  And maybe you thought since you were going to do it all yourself, you could serve some good steaks and some shrimp but now you’re blown away by what that is doing to your bottom line.  Perhaps you scour all the grocery ads to find that great deal but even the headlining specials are still insane.  Top Sirloin at 7 bucks plus, and tenderloin, well, that is out of the question.  Shrimp is not looking much better either.

How does this all work you wonder.  Here is the scoop on the protein portion of your meal.  (If you’re a vegetarian, the rest of this blog is probably not for you!)  Of the protein options you’re most likely to select from (beef, chicken or pork), beef is the most expensive choice.  I’ll spare you the details but it comes down to supply and demand folks.  To get a cow ready for market takes 2 years, whereas it takes 18 months for a pig and 60 days for a chicken.  So for that party, if you’re on a budget, chicken or pork would be your best option.  And trust me there are so many different ways to prepare those proteins, you really can’t go wrong.  However, if you still want those steaks and shrimp, I have an option for you.

When doing larger parties, GET OUT OF FRY’S (or Albertsons, or Safeway, or B1385058022101ashas – any grocery store really.)   Load yourself into your car and head to the Chef’’Store at McClintock and Southern in Tempe.  This store is as close as you are going to get to buying wholesale.  You do not need a business license to buy from this store like you do at most restaurant food wholesale locations either so it’s a perfect place for the DIY caterer.  This location is run by US Foods.  Since you are buying a larger quantity, you can take advantage of bulk pricing.

Now to get your best value, you have to know your beef cuts. This is US Foods, you are in essence buying from the same place most valley restaurants do.  This means good quality.  Most of the meats are “choice” which is the best cut by US standards.  You won’t find pre-cut steaks at this store so look at the roasts in the cold food section.  You will find roasts that range in price from $11.59 per pound (Tenderloin) to $3.79 for Ball Tip.  Ball Tip is not very good for a grilled steak.  It is used to make deli roast beef because of the long cooking process.  If you want a good cut of beef for close to that price range (around $4.00 per pound) grab a Tri Tip roast and cut your steaks out of that.  Keep in mind these roasts range in weight from about 17 to 23 pounds.  You can always freeze a portion of your roast or of the steaks you cut for a future event if you don’t need this much.  Yes, it is going to take some skill on your part to butcher that roast into steaks, but that’s what Google is for.  (You’re on your own for this – I can’t give you all the secrets!)


Your shrimp meal is back in the picture as well.  The Chef’Store has frozen 21/25 shrimp which makes great skewers for the BBQ.  The 21/25 is the approximate amount of shrimp per pound.  These flavorful babies come in 2 pound bags, so you have around 44 shrimp per bag.  For the BBQ, you want raw, tail on and deveined.  The bag sells for $12.95 to $15.95 depending on the time of year.  Put them in a marinade and cook ‘em til they are pink.  (You’ll have to google that marinade too because again…caterer secret!)

So that’s my best kept secret.  The Chef’Store.  (No, they aren’t paying me to say this.  I’m just a pretty big fan of their product and service and a firm believer of passing the word when something is done right).  Go take a peek at this place.  You can buy everything you need at this store and probably will end up with things that you didn’t need but couldn’t resist.  And stay tuned for my next blog where I will tell you how to figure quantities of proteins and how to determine the best use of beef cuts and why to pick them. (More caterer secrets – don’t tell Michelle!).

Budgets….Its OK we all have them!

Sometimes I get the feeling when I ask customers for their catering budget they are almost afraid to share them or I crossed a line by asking.  Like if maybe they just tell me all their wants and desires that they’ll score a better deal if they don’t disclose what they are willing to spend.  Well unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case….
Lets just pretend you’re shopping for a house for a moment.  Your realtor asks you for a pre- qualification letter and/or your budget.  Thinking this is a pretty standard question the realtor is a little shocked by the response …’Um I kinda want YOU to come up with your best price”.  The conversation might continue with a few more questions about size or bedroom quantity, but eventually would end up back to price again.  You continue to dodge the pricing question until finally the realtor gives up and you are now back on your own looking for a house.  Or lets say you walk into a car lot that offers anything from $2000 used rental returns up to high end luxury vehicles,  The salesman asks for a budget and you just tell him “show me what ya got.”  Can you imagine the amount of time you’d spend looking at cars you either hated because they were too cheap and basic, or cars you LOVED but couldn’t afford?   I have a feeling it would be more of the ladder..but still what a waste of time …right?!
This is basically the scenario a customer creates for a caterer when they are not willing to disclose a budget.  Keep in mind our services are designed to be mobile.  Most caterers have HUGE menus and have done just about everything and anything when it comes to food.  We have no desire to sell you something you cannot afford, but understand we offer catering service from $10 per head up to $100.  A range, a starting point, a max budget, and idea…ANTHING is better than “Show me what ya got”.  We publish pricing online so our customers can get a feel for our standard pricing.  I’ll be happy to send you there but still…we all know you have some number in your head.
Look, catering is very similar to a restaurant experience.  Some restaurants require ties and are priced accordingly.  Others are happy to see you in flip flops and shorts with menu pricing to match that vibe as well. All Caterers fall into a niche’ market and price range…just like restaurants.  Our services are not for everyone, we understand that and embrace it! Perhaps the catering you are doing does not require the type of set up we normally provide.  Perhaps you’d prefer something so laid back that it simply doesn’t match our standard protocol.  Other times clients want something so high end that our standards and pricing simply don’t match their needs.   All of these scenarios are OK!
We ask only three things when it comes time to requesting custom bidding for your next Soiree.
1.  Be honest with us about your budget.
Some parties are not a fit for a caterer.  I often tell customers ” with something as small as you are doing my platter pricing simply doesn’t make sense.  You might be better off picking up a few small things from AJ’s.”  Spreading the cost of a Banquet captain over 8 people really adds up fast.  if you are in that financial position and really want to enjoy your gathering vs. play host or hostess all night…awesome!  We’d love to help.  If not…you won’t offend me.  In fact…shoot me an email or call me..i’ll give you some great tips on some easy DIY stuff that will impress the heck out of your guests.  Every gathering is different, from hot dogs and hamburgers Popcorn-and-ice-cream-barto prime rib, I can help you….and really I WANT to help you.  However, understand just like anything service related…you can always do it cheaper yourself.  So be honest with what you are will4f27d8b7-bb56-48be-9c7b-a35510df2907~rs_2001.480.fiting to spend …we promise we can take it :).  If it doesn’t make sense for us to work together at least let me get you the information you need to make the event an success.
2.  Be realistic with your wants and desires vs. what you are willing to spend.
Many new customers or couples think that larger number of guests should equal smaller per person costs.  This is the case when you reach numbers of 500 or more.  However, it costs us the same per person to feed 200 guests as it does to feed 20.  The food costs are simply the same.  Groups that you may consider large (ie 100 – 250) are honestly the group sizes we serve on a daily basis.  So please don’t think that a budget of $1500 is going to effectively feed 250 people within normal service standards,  Other expenses such as service staff and/or china rentals can really drive price per head up and for lager groups service staff is a necessity(with catering you are paying for WAAAAAAY MORE than just food).  Be aware for simple services most caterers need to price items in the $15 per person range.  More complicated service usually ranges from $25- $55 per person.   This can be sticker shocking to people that have never ordered catering before.  Believe me we understand how fast this can add up and are there to ensure you get the best value for the money you spend.  Special Moments wouldn’t have a 97% customer satisfaction rating if we didn’t.  We simply won’t sell you something that won’t meet or exceed your expectations, in our eyes that is just bad business.
3.  Don’t be insulted if we tell you our services are not a match for your budget.
As much as we’d love to work with everyone (believe me..sales people need SALES!) there are times when budgets and expectations simply don’t match our product & service line.  Its a painful thing for a sales person to respectfully decline.  We have ZERO desire to tell you to seek someone else’s help.  However, please don’t take it personal.  Its simply a matter of us not wanting to waste your time.  We really appreciate the fact that you would trust us with your special day, we really do.  We know whats on the line.  For that reason if we can’t effectively serve you within your budget we would rather see you find someone that will than set you up for disappointment. We love you and thank you for asking…it simply won’t work.
I want to thank each and every customer that has ever placed an order with us in the last 30 years.  YOU are why this company exists.  Please don’t take this Blog post as anything other than education and a simple explanation of why our sales people are trained to ask for you budget before sending you an estimate. We truly want to make every single transaction a pleasant one and hope to be asking this same question in another 30 years :).  May you all have a blessed 2016!

The People Behind the Scenes

As you walk into the Special Moments kitchen you see the high-rise ceilings and the plate of desserts that catch your eye.IMG_0104

You could be a loyal customer, but seldom do you ever get to see the people that are behind the hours of prep-work, cooking and cleaning that it takes to get your meal from the kitchen to your event.

For this week’s blog, I went into the kitchen and learned more about what it takes to plan for multiple events and the people behind the scenes.IMG_0109

I came around noon, when they would be working on prep work. I did not want to be in the way of when food was heading out to customers.

As I walked around I could see mounds of prep work piling together. There were desserts, there was salsa, there was chicken, empanadas and cheese. I wish I ate before I came here.

The aromas of the food poked my shoulder and begged for my attention.IMG_0102

I had the opportunity to speak with April Davis, one of the chefs that have worked at Special Moments for eight years.

Davis said that her favorite food to make is Italian food.

“There are so much fresh herbs and fresh vegetables that go into making different sauces. It’s fun to make it and eat it,” she said.

Davis, who is one of many people who are behind the organization of running the kitchen over the years discussed the immense amount of work that goes into cooking for multiple events that includes hundreds of different people each.

“It’s important to be organized and knowing how much food to prep, how many pans and oven space you will need. It’s all about rotation and timing and making everything sent out as fresh as possIMG_0103ible. Having a good staff that knows what they’re doing and having a good food knowledge- knowing how long certain foods can hold is also important,” she said.

Davis stressed that one of the most important elements of cooking is the presentation of food.

“People eat with their eyes first,” she said.

What’s In Store for Weddings this Year

Hopefully by now you are all big fans of our blog! I know you all don’t know me as a Taylor, but I definitely feel like part of the family! My name is Mimi and I am Special Moments’ newest addition to the wedding side of the business. I love weddings and worked almost every one we have catered for since I started working here. Your wedding is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, right? YES!  I have made it my personal mission to make that happen!  I’ve found that Special Moments is a great company to work for because this family of “Who’s” takes in their clients as friends. They know that ALL of our clients, whether they are brides or corporate clients, are special in some way!

If you take a look at our website, you will see that we have been working to make it more of a resource for brides.  I added our newest page this month featuring our Décor Set-Ups that we can do for you. If you haven’t seen the lovely pictures yet click here! I also put up our newest wedding package for this year which you can view by clicking here.  I try and improve our website on a weekly basis; we always have new ideas coming out!

One of my favorite parts of my jobs is reaching out to our brides to make them aware that we are here for them and that they are being heard!  Any questions? I am here, if not by phone then at least by email.  We pride ourselves on being accommodating to everyone who gives us the honor of catering for them.  Working with this company, I have noticed some great things that we do for our clients.  I’m always so happy to be on site to help make sure that all of the big plans and dreams that our brides have shared with the sales team get transformed into reality on the big day!  I know that a few of my brides even have my cell number because I want them to know that I will be there for them if they need me. There’s so much to plan for in a wedding and so many things to worry about.  Your caterer should not be one of them!

We have a great opportunity coming up for future brides!  Beginning in March, we will have Open Houses monthly that will feature some samples of our food that we know you will enjoy! Please feel free to check out our wedding website here and book a consultation with me so that we can make you the happiest for your happy day!

Don’t let a Cop Spoil your Event

“Rules, Rules and more rules.”  I believe that was a paraphrase of a recent client.  Events are a great way to fundraise because they provide an experience instead of just an object.  This means that consumers are willing to spend more money than they would if they were simply buying something. We at Special Moments deal with special events on a frequent basis and over the years have discovered that there are some misnomers out there.  The biggest issue we run into is when clients want to charge an entry fee and serve alcohol.  Here is the scoop…if you are charging an entry fee or asking for a donation and alcohol is being served, you most likely need a permit.

It breaks down like this.  Any time money is attached and you are serving alcohol, in the law’s eye you are “selling” alcohol.  If you have read any of our previous blogs you might know before I am retired from law enforcement.  As an owner of a catering company, my firsthand knowledge of these laws have helped many of our clients not make a big mistake.  Just think of how that fundraiser would flop if your CEO got a citation for 10393710_10153068391899222_4872330187324003126_nselling alcohol without a license!  But it isn’t as scary as it sounds.  I’ll admit it’s a bit of a painful process but once you take the steps necessary to make it all legal, you will have a very successful fundraising platform.  There are two parts to the process.  The first is to acquire the permit through the city and the second is to get your license from the state.

One of the major fallacies out there is that anyone can go and get a liquor license or that someone with a liquor license can supply alcohol for you.   Your company or group most likely does not qualify for a liquor license.  Liquor licenses are only for the premise they are housed in.  Therefore unless your event is in a licensed building, your food and beverage vendor cannot bring a license with them.  This includes both caterers and restaurants.  The only way for your group to get a liquor license is to hook up with a nonprofit charity.  It’s possible that your organization is a nonprofit and that will mean even bigger returns for you.  If not, find an organization that is and offer them a great opportunity to raise money with little to no effort on their part!

Here’s how it works.  The state liquor board has a special license they can issue to help nonprofits raise funds.  This license is limited to a certain number of events each year.  By joining forces with a nonprofit, you can have them draw the liquor license for your event.  What’s in it for them?  The nonprofit is required to receive 25% of the gross profit from any alcohol sales.  If the alcohol is included in your ticket price, a portion of the ticket would have to be assigned toward the alcohol (must be fair market value). It really offers a winning solution for both parties.  If your organization is not a nonprofit but you want to use alcohol as an incentive to raise your ticket price or as a way to enhance your event experience, this is the only legal way you can do it.  For the nonprofit, they earn 25% of your alcohol sales while doing very little work to get it! IMG00063-20101228-1737

My expertise lies in the City of Tempe, but most cities have a similar process.  Here’s my nutshell version of how to do this process.  In Tempe, you need to head on down to the city and apply for a permit.  You pay the fees, show your fencing plans to create a premise or the floor plan for a building and then attend a review process.  At the review you will be required to answer any questions each city department such as Police and Fire might have and make changes if needed to gain their approval.  After you receive city approval, you then must apply for a special liquor license through the state.  You bring your city approval and your application down to the state office and apply for the license.  Once approved, you pay their fees and walk away with your one day special event liquor license.

If that version sounds a little overwhelming, feel free to call us! We can get you through this process without you lifting a finger.  As challenging as it may sound, it is really not that bad!  And it will assure that no cops appear to spoil what should have been a great event!

Backwards Planning

Having been in the event business for my entire adult life and most of my teens…hosting an event does not hold the typical anxiety for me that I hear so many people talk about.  It really has nothing to do with the fact that I have most elements of an event at my fingertips (although admittedly that does help)!  The lack of anxiety doesn’t necessarily come from years of practice either.  My ability to throw an event worry free comes from the simple philosophy of backwards planning.bp

I assure all of the readers out there that if you can master the art of backwards planning and stick to it, you will also be the host of many an event without much concern.  In fact, I believe you can take this concept and apply it to the simplest of tasks and cut down on stress.  Getting ready to go on vacation, having too many things to get done in a day, cooking dinner for your family… all of these can be simplified by backwards planning.

Here’s out it works in its simplest of forms.  Let’s say you are planning a party for your son’s birthday.  Twenty kids have been invited for an afternoon at the park starting at 1 pm.  Instead of thinking of all the things you need to get done before the party, you start with the party itself.  Let’s say you’ve decided you want the party to end at 3.  Start there.  You know that by 3 pm, you want to have fed the kids cake and ice cream, opened presents, broke the piñata and played your three party games.  Create a schedule with those goals in mind.  (Of course, it’s for kids and everything that can go wrong will go wrong…so don’t set this schedule in stone!)

Backwards Party Plan

3 pm – Parents arrive to pick up kids

2:30 pm – Piñata breaking, playground playing

2:00 pm – Gift opening

1:45 pm – Cake and Ice Cream

1:15 – Begin games

1 pm – Kids arrive/playground play

Now, you have a party planned!  But here is where backwards planning can really take the stress out of your day!  Consider from here what time you will need to arrive at the park to get the decorations up and the games set.  Perhaps it’s 12 pm.  Continue backwards from there.  How long does it take to get to the park?  When do you need to leave?  Let’s go with 11:45 am.  Do you need to run any errands beforehand?  Maybe a cake pickup?  Back up your time even further from there.  If you have times in mind it sets goals for you and it will help to take the rushing out of your day. In addition, you can use the model to set your own deadlines that will ensure stress free execution!  Decide what will fit into your schedule and set goals.  Have the cake ordered the week prior.  Research games and pickup prizes three days prior.  Every piece of your event that you can organize and plan ahead for will allow you to host your party with ease.

This process is especially helpful for large, important events.  For example, I’m currently in the middle of helping to plan my oldest daughter’s wedding.  We started with her wedding date and then backwards planned to set important deadlines.  We decided to send invites out two months prior, which meant that we need to have them ordered three months prior.  This meant that somewhere around four months prior to the wedding we needed to start gathering addresses, researching invite designs and putting an order in to the printer.  We used the same plan to set deadlines for booking the DJ, photographer and florist.  As the day approaches we will use the model to create a timeline for the wedding.  Beginning with the departure of the bride and groom, we will work backwards through the events that we want to have included in her big day and we will create a timeline.  We will use this to create individual deadlines and goals to help us accomplish the reception without stress and worry.

Consider how many times you can apply this concept.  It can be applied to all sorts of everyday events such as getting your kids out the door on time for soccer practice or getting the house cleaned for a big family gathering.  If you start with the conclusion of your event (or any activity) and plan backwards from there, you will be surprised at how much your anxiety can decrease!

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