Expectation, Perception, Execution

Posted on Fri May 17, 2019.

Many people have a certain perception of what they think a place looks like or what the standard is/should be before they have been there. Others have an expectation of what they want the place to look like and what they want to receive in terms of catering, equipment, etc.

Written by Reinette Marais, owner of George Lodge International

Every event has two sides to the story. The people preparing for the event and the people experiencing the event.

Let me take you on a journey from the moment we receive an enquiry for a conference/function/meeting or whichever form of event.

We take pride in answering our emails as soon as we receive it, if possible. If we are however busy attending to an actual function, we will answer your email within the first few hours, or first thing the following morning if it came through later.

We understand how important your event is to you, so the more detail and information we receive from you on your expectation for the event as well as what you perceive the outcome to be, the better we will be able to assist you to make a success of your function.

There are many details to consider when asking for a quotation, a conference package isn’t just a conference package. Most of the time the budget of the client plays a big role, but we always try to cater to all our clients’ individual needs. When it comes to the catering, the client has to specify how many coffee breaks they want, should we include snacks in all of the breaks, do they want lunch or not, if so one- or two-course. Will it be a full day event or only half day or even just an hour or two? As you can see all of these factors have a huge impact on the cost and outcome of the event.

Once all the required information is received; a formal quotation will be given. On acceptance of the quote, the planning and preparation of the event will begin.

Nandi, my conference coordinator, takes great care to discuss the event with you in as much detail as possible. From the arrival time to coffee breaks, lunch times, dietary requirements and seating style. We know that the success of any event lies in the small details and accurate planning. (Nandi is also my future daughter in law – at George Lodge we are all about family!)

For the delegates that attend the actual event, these details are mostly taken for granted, but if these are not planned out carefully the whole day can end up in a disaster. For most people attending a conference or training session it is just another day out of their normal working environment. For us it is an opportunity to make a first and lasting impression.

At George Lodge preparing for a conference is indeed a team effort. The staff members at the Lodge have all been here for so long that they feel like a part of my family already.

First and foremost, the client’s requirements for the seating arrangement must be followed. The venue setup is done by Andries (permanent handyman) and Maria (waitress at breakfast and conference assistant). This gets overseen by Nandi who has discussed the requirements with the client.

In most cases, unfortunately, the person who books the conference and the facilitator on the day of the conference is not always the same person. This can sometimes create a change of seating arrangement or change in the schedule/times by the facilitator according to his/her requirements.

The day before the event the coffee station is set up in the venue with cups, tea, sugar, sweetener, etc. according to the amount of the attendees. Glasses and mints are set out on the tables as well as Wi-Fi vouchers with detailed instructions on how to log into our Wi-Fi.

At this stage I have started planning the snacks for the following day (muffins, croissants, etc) as well as the lunch and dessert. Once this is done the ingredients are ordered and purchased and the food preparation will start. Depending on the size of the conference this can be a few hours or a few days of preparations.

The day of the conference has finally arrived and ice cold bottled of George Lodge branded water is placed on the table of each delegate. Fresh flowers are placed in the venue to give it an extra personal touch and a welcome sign is set out in the foyer indicating in which venue the function will be.

The coffee station is prepared with freshly brewed high-quality filter coffee with milk, and of course hot water for the tea lovers. All the final touches get taken care of by Nandi and Maria and we are ready for the arrival of the delegates.

After everybody has been welcomed by Nandi at the door and Maria has ensured everything is ready for the arrival coffee break, the day is finally ready to begin.

When delegates arrive, we normally have to deal with a lot of expectations and different perceptions of our establishment. Many people have a certain perception of what they think a place looks like or what the standard is/should be before they have been there. Others have an expectation of what they want the place to look like and what they want to receive in terms of catering, equipment, etc. These expectations may not always correspond with what their company has booked or budgeted for.

Sometimes this is a real tall order, but we give great attention to detail in everything we do and hopefully at the end of the day we have exceeded their expectations and changed their perception of our establishment for the better.

I normally work behind the scenes. I am not a qualified chef, nor do I have any trained cooking skills. But Pinterest, food magazines, cook books, and social media is my inspiration for cooking and creating dishes.

Sometimes it takes a few days before I finally decide on the dish I want to prepare for lunch, or sometimes just a few minutes. Some nights I even lay awake thinking up ideas of how to plan and execute the preparing, cooking, plating and serving of the food.

I take great pride in the collection of crockery, cutlery, tableware, linen, etc. that I have collected over the years. I am a firm believer in giving attention to the way that things (food/ambience) are presented or displayed.

For me it does not matter if there are 2 or 40 people at a conference, the important thing is to make them feel that you have taken an effort in preparing their food and the way that you present it. The taste is obviously the most important, but the first impression will determine greatly whether you will enjoy it or not.

While I am busy preparing the food, Maria and Nandi clears the area of the first coffee break and set up for the second coffee break as well as their snacks like muffins/croissants. Here I need to confess that I don’t bake these myself. I buy the muffins from a very reliable store, but we always make sure they are displayed on one of our nice stands or plates or wooden boards so that they just look delectable.

I always prepare the food to the best of my ability and try new things all the time. I will definitely not say that I am a master chef, but a Pinterest chef definitely. I love plating my food in nice crockery. It is a proud moment when that food gets served and people are surprised when they see the detail and effort that went into the meals and desserts.

But of course, when preparing food there are always loads of dishes to be cleaned, and believe me, I can use just about all the utensils in the kitchen when cooking! Thankfully I have a dear mother, known to the staff and guests as Tannie Lenie. She graciously does all the cleaning up after me while we serve lunch.

While everybody is enjoying lunch, Maria and Nandi refresh the venue. Empty water bottles, sweet wrappers and dirty coffee cups are removed and replaced with fresh jugs of water and clean cups.

After lunch the team of housekeeping staff come to assist Maria with all of the dirty dishes. The kitchen and dining room are cleaned and prepped for the following morning’s breakfast.

The final coffee break for the day is prepared in the conference room to give the delegates that extra caffeine kick to get them through the afternoon training. And the next day we just do it all over again!

Hospitality can be a very hard and ungrateful industry to work in, but thankfully at the Lodge we all love what we do and we have a passion for people.

So next time you attend another conference or training or any event for that matter, remember all of the effort that a team of people has put in to making your event a success and turn your expectation into a reality.