John: Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Kristi Swett, a fifth generation Woodman and event coordinator at Woodman’s of Essex and today we’re talking about hospital event catering. Welcome, Kristi.
Kristi: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.
What University Events Typically Need Catering?
John: Sure. So Kristi, what are some typical types of university events that you might do catering for?
Kristi: Well, we’ll do catering for a single class reunion. Sometimes we do a large weekend event for homecoming or a large reunion of multiple classes. We can do events if the school is celebrating a large anniversary, we can do different events for fundraising, and for clubs or athletics. Sometimes we’re hired to do events for a single department or school, for example, the School of Education or School of Business.
Challenges of University Event Catering
John: Right. And what are some of the typical issues that you find arise either in planning for or setting up for one of these large university events?
Kristi: The first thing you really need to think of is the location. Is it something that’s going to be indoors or outdoors? Are you going to have it tented? [Have you considered the weather?] If it’s an event where people are flying in, you will not necessarily be able to postpone it, so having a weather plan here in New England is helpful.
John: Right, you’re talking about these homecoming type of events where you have thousands of alumni that are flying in from different places and that’s a pretty large event. You have to be prepared for that if you end up having rain all weekend long. Do you have a gymnasium that’s big enough to house everybody or a cafeteria or something like that?
Kristi: Right, exactly. Some locations do have tents that are large enough to house [large events] if it does rain, but you definitely always want to think of plan B in terms of planning an outside event with weather here in New England.
Tables & Chairs
John: Do universities typically have their own tables and chairs and things like that they supply, or is that something that sometimes they have to rent as well?
Kristi: They would usually go through a rental company. It puts a littleless energy in terms of the staff there. That rental company can come in and set up all the tables and chairs and make sure they have enough pieces, instead of borrowing from different departments and making sure it all gets back to where it goes.
Communicating With Everyone Involved
John: Right, okay. What are some of the other issues?
Kristi: Dealing with multiple planners for one event. If you are doing a large class reunion for multiple classes, you’re going to have the president of each class, you’re going to have someone from the event planning committee sit in, you’re going to have to talk to the janitorial staff and just make sure that everyone is on the same page there at the school. Then in terms of your catering and your tenting and your tables and chairs, you just want to make sure everyone is communicating.
Parking & Shuttles
John: Okay, what else?
Kristi: In terms of parking, if you do have large people flying in or coming in, are they getting shuttled from their hotels or do you have a parking lot large enough to hold the multiple cars that are coming in? How are you working the shuttling? Is the campus really spread out, or is it happening all in one location like at a large field? [Think about it] in terms of getting people from point A to point B throughout the day.
John: Right. Does that present any other issues in terms of having a campus that maybe is rather spread out? Maybe there’s different towns that a university has pieces of their campus in, or maybe they have a large campus that goes across a town line or something like that? Does that present any issues?
Kristi: Yes, that does come into permitting and just making sure you are talking to their correct board of health, that you’re filing your fire and propane permits with the correct city and municipality, and you have hired the correct police officer to do your details. So if it is a large area you’re talking about, you just want to make sure you definitely know where those city limits are.
John: Okay, all right, well that’s really good information, Kristi, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Kristi: Thanks again, John.