the gaylord kitchen tour that opened my eyes

behind the scenes kitchen tour

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.

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flip book stations – my new favorite event entertainment

flip books for your party entertainment

I am over photo booths. There. I said it.

Why have a boring old photo booth when you can have something so much more fun and interactive?

I don’t mean to be so harsh, photo booths might be perfectly acceptable for your event. They certainly aren’t going away any time soon, from weddings to mitzvahs to corporate events, they are still pretty popular. But when tasked with finding entertainment for an office holiday party that you can read all about here, I thought the flip book station would be a fun addition.

You might be saying, what IS a flip book station? I would have said the same thing as well if I hadn’t seen them in action at a conference I attended last summer. Do you remember those flip books you had when you were younger – you would flip the pages really fast and it would look animated? I remember I had a Steamboat Willy one growing up, if you flipped the pages quickly Mickey Mouse would whistle and pull down the horn.

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how to throw a grown-up new year’s eve party

how to throw a grown-up new year's eve party

I know it’s not even Christmas, but I’m pretty excited about our New Year’s Eve plans, probably because we’ve had these plans for approximately six months. Pretty much since we signed the contract on our new construction home and we knew that we’d be moved in before the holidays (turns out it was just before), we knew that we wanted to have just a few close friends over. And since we live about an hour away from these friends they are going to stay over and I’ll make brunch the next morning.

You may be incredibly excited for your wild and crazy New Year’s Eve plans, but I’m definitely too old for that. I’m looking forward to having a cozy evening with friends, with plenty of food and drink, and definitely some laughs as we’re planning on playing this game.

If you’re like me and you would rather ring in the new year with a group of friends at home (or maybe even a big group of friends somewhere else) – here are some quick tips to have a grown-up party that is classy, not trashy, but still fun.

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how to make your office holiday party less of a disaster

how to make your office party less of a disaster

As I’ve mentioned previously, office holiday parties have a bad reputation. They are either terribly boring or so boozy that it’s an HR nightmare. If you have any pride as a planner at all, you will try a little harder this year and try to prevent both scenarios. While we are well into December and many holiday parties are already planned, here are some suggestions you can try to work in at the last minute, or just start taking notes for next year.

Order more food than you think you need

Food is where most parties try to skimp and the result is a bunch of super-drunk employees who haven’t had enough to eat. That’s not to say that by providing food that people won’t still overindulge, but at least they won’t just be getting tipsy because of drinking on an empty stomach.

Think about the makeup of your employees. If your group is heavily male, order more.  Especially if they are youngish and male. (Sorry to stereotype but it’s true). Do you have interns that will attend the party (you should probably rethink that if you do)?  Triple or quadruple your food order. Interns that are either unpaid or underpaid will consume “free” food at an incredible high rate.

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holiday party favor ideas

holiday party favor ideas

If you are in the midst of planning a holiday party of any kind, you might be worried about favors. First of all, I would think about whether you need favors at all. Holiday parties were one casualty of the economy tanking – some companies eliminated them altogether, while others scaled them down to a shadow of their former selves. If your company (or association, group, etc.) is running low on funds for the holiday party, eliminating the favors might be a good idea. Most likely your employees (or volunteers, or guests, etc.) won’t even miss them.

If you still want to proceed with a favor, consider your budget. If this is a work holiday party and the guests are employees, any money spent on lavish favors could be perceived as money that could have been given directly to the employee as a bonus – so tread carefully. If you do want to spend a lot, make sure you select something that your guests would truly appreciate, such as gift cards (which is basically like giving cash). Consider several gift options – such as a bottle of wine or a fancy cheese basket – that way people can select the item they want more.

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when to use a restaurant for your event

when to host your event at a restaurant versus a hotel or banquet facility

There are often so many options of venues for your event, especially in a large city like Washington, DC or New York. There are different types of venues that are ideal for certain events. There are certain kinds of events that are ideal for a restaurant.

Now, when I refer to a restaurant, I mean just a restaurant. A restaurant that might have a private room, but that isn’t a banquet facility.

The difference between a restaurant and a hotel or banquet facility is how they make money. A restaurant makes money through casual diners. A hotel or banquet facility makes money through events (at least the catering department of a hotel – let’s not worry about all the other revenue streams for hotels, such as on-site restaurants, sleeping rooms, etc.).  If a restaurant primarily makes money through casual diners, they need to make sure if they are giving part of the restaurant to a private event, that they are making as much money with the event as they would if they just had regular diners in that space.

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