Friday, June 17, 2011

The Battleship New Jersey

I love the Battleship New Jersey. Very fond memories from my Max & Me Catering days (pre-Libre Management) of how we were able to become the leading upscale caterer on the USS NJ, and how it became a very important part of our growth strategy.

When I joined Max & Me in March of 2000 one of my very first tasks was to write the proposal that would get us the exclusive backstage and VIP catering contract at what was then known as the E-Centre (became Tweeter Center, now Susquehanna Bank Center). As we began catering that season, my brother Jon and I began to realize that the expanding Camden Waterfront would be a fertile area to expand our sales. We were able to cater some great events for Opsail that year and some other Camden fundraisers, but we always set our sites on new venues and we realized that the coming arrival of the USS NJ would be a great addition to the growing list of venues where we could work.

Long story short. The Battleship arrived, the contract food service company that quietly got an exclusive badly mishandled an initial event, and the event planner for the grand opening called me a week prior to the event to see if we could handle the catering for 1500 including Senators, Governors, Congresspeople and other dignitaries. We pulled it off without a hitch and became one of the 5 or 6 caterers on their approved list. We were able to get the most high-end catering work, and had a nice year and a half run, until Aramark came in with all they had, including a very substantial front end investment and became exclusive in mid-2003. Since this happened just as we were opening the National Constitution Center, it was actually a blessing because the volume we were projecting to do at the NCC was dwarfed by the actual numbers. It required a huge amount of our overall company resources to keep things at the level we needed at the NCC, thus a new exclusive at the Battleship where we HAD to do all the events and not just the cream we had been skimming off the top would have been an operational holocaust.

This post is already growing too large to get into some of the crazy stories from the Max & Me Catering Battleship days, I will share some of those down the road. The point of today's post was an intro to this phenomenal piece of floating history, a little about the event I went to last night, and an invite (must be approved) to an event on the USS NJ next week.

ISES NJ South had an excellent event on the Battleship last night, it was their annual changing of the guard or installment of new officers and the program was a great panel discussion on utilizing Unique Venues for special events. The program was moderated by EVERYBODY'S favorite person in our industry, my good friend Jim Cohn. On the panel was Jimmy Z from AC (James Ziereis, VP Conventions Caesar's Entertainment); Elizabeth Ahles (Director of Events, Battleship NJ); Stacy Steffen (Facilities Sales Manager, Adventure Aquarium); and Michael Young (President, Activities a Top Tier Event Planning Firm). Food was provided by Andreotti's one of the two caterers on the Battleship now. The panel discussion was interesting, insightful and the moderator kept it to a reasonable amount of time.

This brings me to the most important part of today's entry. One of my clients is the great catering company Feast Your Eyes, they are the other caterer in the dual exclusive that the USS NJ now offers it's clients. Owned by the husband and wife team of Skip Schwarzman and Lynn Buono, Feast Your Eyes has been one of the top area caterers for over 20 years. They bring a great deal of culinary excellence, event management savvy and overall integrity and authenticity to every job they do. Check out: Feast Your Eyes website
The combination of FYE and Andreotti's will bode well for building sales on the USS NJ, they both do high quality work, are smart marketers and can service all segments of the diverse clientele base that books the Battleship.

This coming Wednesday June 22nd, Feast Your Eyes is hosting a promotional event to introduce their clients and prospective clients to the Battleship and some of their delicious offerings. It is a select invite and the event is complimentary. If you would like to attend, please email me: and I will see if I can get you on the list. Event goes from 4:30p to 7p.

Happy Friday Y'all!

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