Some of you have asked why I am doing this, and there are a number of reasons. One is that when I started blogging a few years back I had always planned to tell the story of the best job I have ever had, my years as GM then partner at Max & Me Catering. I think many of the stories over those years are very interesting and make a good read, many of you have told me that it is in fact nice to read. I also plan on writing at least one book some day, so this is practice, and also maybe advance work that I can cut and paste later into a manuscript. Another reason is that for those of you in the catering business these stories can also be educational, with many things you can learn both to do and not to do. Finally, I love history, and this stuff is history. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Saint Patrick's Day 2000. Instead of heading southeast to Manayunk and Arroyo Grille, I head northeast to Carversville and the home office for Max & Me Catering. We had not yet leased office space next to the kitchen and warehouse in Gardenville, so there were four desks in a converted bedroom at Max's house in Carversville. A small rectangular room, if all of us were there at one time you would hit someone else if you pushed your chair back too far. The noise level when all of us were on the phone could get ridiculous, luckily more than two at a time in the office was rare.
|Driving to Bucks County every day instead of Manayunk was a nice change of scenery|
As a signing bonus, Jon & Max purchased me a laptop (my first) a few months prior, and I already had many documents and spreadsheets pertaining to the business as I started that day. Before I began on that Monday, I had focused on digesting their financial statements which were virtually non-existent; and on developing the proposals for Union Pacific Railroad for the upcoming Republican National Convention.Max & Jon had already won the business for a full week of catering for UP in a competitive tasting and exhaustive company examination. They had gone up against two of the top catering firms in the area and won. Max & Me was brought into consideration by PGI, who at the time was one of the dominant Destination Management Companies (DMCs) in Philly. Union Pacific was going to hire PGI to run their programming but in the end they used many of PGI's connections and vendors but did all the events without a DMC. What Union Pacific did was bring in antique train cars from their headquarters in Omaha, following rail lines the whole way until they would end up in front of the then First Union Center where they would reside for the whole convention. We would be serving 3 meals a day, often to more than one group at a time in these old time railroad cars. To save money, UP wanted essentially the same menu for each meal every day, so one breakfast menu, one lunch menu and one dinner menu. This was okay as each party was an entirely different group of folks so there was no worry as to feeding the same group the same meal.
|Union Pacific Railroad was heading for Philly, with a date for our destiny|
|A Jimmy Buffet VIP party on the Ben side. Tents were Ben side or Walt side, depending on which bridge they viewed.|
|Looking down on the E-Centre, now the Susquehanna Bank Center, and the Camden Waterfront|
Thursday 8 Jimmy Buffet Backstage + 2 Parties
Coke 130 BF Tent; Burger Grill and Stations 2 Chefs; 3-4 Servers
Saturday 10 Jimmy Buffet Backstage + 2-3 Parties
Coke 130 BF Tent Burger Grill and Stations 2 Chefs; 3-4 Servers Bud 230 WW Tent Burger Grill and BBQ 2-3 Chefs; Liz + 7 Servers
The shows where we did backstage only were nice events and were profitable for us, but when we had VIP parties at the same time, the profitability increased dramatically. The Jimmy Buffet concerts every year where always the best and we would be bummed the years he only played one date. The radio shows were also excellent for us, and as you can see, this first year we only did the VIP parties for 2 of the 4 radio shows. Since we took over the catering at the E-Centre sometime in May, WXTU and Q-102 had already made their deals and contracted for catering at their shows. We would get to work with both stations the following year.
|Just a few of the artists we served the summer of 2000|
While Jon did the backstage, the VIP parties where more my responsibility. I would meet with the clients, write the proposals and oversee the parties. I would also recruit staff, mostly from my restaurant connections in Philly. The client connections I made that summer, kicked off my entry into corporate catering sales in Philly. In addition to doing the parties, we had our own VIP box, close to the stage with six tickets for every show. To me, these were gold, and I could entertain potential clients, and then wine and dine them in the Black Box area where we fed VIPs and sponsors attending the show on their own, rather than as a group party in one of the tents.
|Watching Tiger Woods win the US Open with Kenny G was a highlight. Not because I'm a Kenny G fan, but he is a really nice guy and an excellent golfer, and golf analyst.|
The RNC planning and E-Center work probably took up 80% of my time the first four months of my new job. The rest of the time was spent booking some smaller parties in Bucks, working events, and helping change over to a new book keeper who would hopefully be able to generate real financial statements.
The crazy days at the E-Center helped warm us up for the insanity that would be the RNC. Coming in the next part of this opus, please stay tuned. As always comments are very much appreciated. And if by chance you have pictures from any of our history, please share with me, almost all the pictures we had are no longer available to me.
Thanks for reading!