Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reminiscences of Max & Me Catering. Part IV.

W. in Philly. Always a good sport.
The stage was set, the contracts were signed, food was ordered, staff was booked, and our home base RV was rented. It was just about showtime in Philly for tens of thousands of Republicans, press, protesters and little old Max & Me Catering from rural Bucks County, was smack in the middle of the whole shebang.
Wish I could have catered this Republican party! Well, Bully!!!
The weight of anxiety and the fear of failure; I find helps me make sure to go over all preparations and work extra hard to help create successful events. I find that for almost every major event I take part in there comes a few hour period where my fear of failure dominates my thinking. I will go over any potential weak points in the execution plan and then mostly pace around, eat too much food, worry some more and then eventually the feeling fades. What if the staff and deliveries can’t get through security in a timely manner? This was perhaps my overriding anxiety touch point leading up to the RNC. How to solve it? Move up call times by an hour or more and take the financial hit of paying out for extra labor hours. Look to cut staff early when possible to help defray additional labor, or try and bill extra labor to client whenever possible. Another huge initiative we undertook to get our people where they needed to be was the “Feed Everybody” concept, especially anyone who guarded an entry point, and any nearby security, plus any Secret Service, Capitol Police, FBI, etc. Feed them all and let them know it was Max & Me doing the honors so any staff saying Max & Me hopefully would be expedited in their travels to our home base.
Union Pacific luxury trains in position for the RNC, one of our trucks is on the left.
As Friday July 28th approached, the day of our first feedings for the Union Pacific Railroad, a couple big curve balls were thrown that would challenge not just our operation, but every single event that would take place during the RNC. First, Local 8 of the Carpenter’s Union was able to get the event organizers to agree that they would be the ones to put up and take down every single tent in every venue and locale. This seriously slowed down the installation of all tents. We ended up being all right, but Brother Jon almost engaged in fisticuffs with one particularly slow moving and ornery union guy.
They said "go get this much booze" so I did.

The other major issue we had to deal with was liquor. The Committee on Arrangements (COA) along with the local organizing committee decided last minute to grant all parties one day liquor licenses. Sounds like a good thing, right? Not. It was too late to put together beverage packages with mark-up. Contracts were signed, budgets were set. I couldn’t go back to a client who was expecting to pay $100  per person all in for their event and tell them now it’s another $30 per person because we now have a liquor license two days before the convention starts. The big effect on us (especially me) was now all liquor had to be legally purchased only from the Pennsylvania “State Store” (now Fine Wine & Good Spirits) system, and we were told to expect inspection proving all booze was purchased in state. This was  a HUGE problem for the Union Pacific Railroad as they had loaded their antique railroad cars with more than enough for the convention uses. Now they had to rely on me and my team to go buy everything they needed at local State Stores that are usually not very well stocked. I believe we had to visit six stores to get everything needed. The extra 12 hours of work came at a time when we could least afford it.
The Tom Delay train set up. Cold storage building in background.
This site is now Lincoln Financial Field.
We had already been catering for the crew building the RNC stage and sets as well as the TV production crews for almost 2 weeks. This was very similar to our backstage concert catering in terms of menu, pricing and style of service. High quality food served on a budget with minimal fanfare. On the Saturday before the convention starting, the high end parties started. It was just a breakfast, lunch and dinner served on the Union Pacific trains, but starting with perfection was our goal. Our clients for UP were very hands on and any little misstep would be relayed to Max & myself on walkie talkie immediately. It was such a relief to see our staff arrive on time and we often heard tales of great resourcefulness in how they found us. This was back in the times when only about 30% of our staff had cell phones and GPS was not in use yet. All catered events back then had to have very explicit typed and emailed directions to make sure all staff arrived. Many staff weren't on email, so they had to either pick up printed directions in the office, or have them told to them over the phone. 
Our industry, like many, has been very favorably improved  and streamlined with technology.
This was our technology for RNC 2000. The most annoying Nextel walkie talkie cell.
I had been intending to cover all of the RNC events in this post, but I have been listening to the blogging gurus and it's already getting too long, even after substantial edits. So I'm going to close this one out and pick up the next post on Sunday July 30th, the night before the convention starts and more parties than any other night.
Important question. When do you stop saying Happy New Year to people you see
for the first time in 2015?
I wish you all the very best in 2015, I have a feeling it's going to be a great year.


  1. Excellent read, Harry.....and......It is not too long......

  2. Well, I enjoyed it and would have kept on reading (but then again, I enjoy suspense!).

  3. Looking forward to continuing the story!

  4. hey ol A good writing, pics! & format. seems like u r enjoying it-happy new year miss talkin B

  5. Didn't read, too long.