Play it again, Sam 13 December 2019 Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
In this week's issue... Play it again, Sam Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
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Forget about the World Cup, we're building for Christmas

01 January 2000
Forget about the World Cup, we're building for Christmas

As the rest of the country indulges in World Cup mania, we have our heads buried in the function diary as we experience a hectic period of bookings, and plan for Christmas.

The past few weeks have seemed unending, while this weekend sees us working with the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club, providing public catering all weekend, canapés and drinks for a private party of 500 on Friday night, catering for various hospitality areas, and providing a members' lunch area for 600 on Sunday.

Knowing that this busy period was imminent, we took on an additional chef who had worked for us previously on a casual basis, believing that he was interested in learning about the intricacies of event catering. When we discussed the position and responsibilities, we queried his swift progression through a number of other jobs, but were assured that this was an opportunity that he wished to benefit from and that we had his full commitment.

It soon became apparent that his speed and standards were not in keeping with our aims. As part of a larger brigade, he had had the benefit of helping hands from others of our team. We now required someone who could be more independent.

A lesson learned

We sat down and discussed how we could help, and gave him two weeks to redress the balance. But it was to no avail, and the time came to cut our losses and part company.

The lesson learned is obvious: no matter how well you think you know someone, seek an independent reference.

On a happier note, my operations manager, Matt O'Donnell, will return from his honeymoon raring to go (I hope) for the Rolls-Royce event, after which we are straight off to Lowestoft for a breakfast buffet aboard a Finnish freighter. Sorry, Matt, you've been with Ruth for two weeks, now it's back to work with a vengeance.

As for Christmas, we are anticipating nearly 15,000 covers in December and I am busy slotting in site visits, meetings with suppliers and clients and, hardly surprisingly, recruiting staff.

Menus for this year have been set since Christmas 1997, but our recurring problem is for New Year's Eve 1999 - clients want costs and menus, but will people really pay a rate to cover inflated staff wages for that one night?

We have already had to apologise to one client who rang enquiring about a three-course meal for the millennium, not making it clear that he wanted a night in the first half of 2000, not the actual New Year's Eve.

I can understand his consternation at the menu price - it's a brave caterer who quotes "from £175 per head" - in response to his misunderstood enquiry.

We have now set the record straight and, as a result, have our first booking for the millennium.

Next diary from Robert Alvarez will be on 9 July

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