PARTY PLANNING GUIDE
TABLE OF CONTENTS AND CHECKLIST
- Pick a date
- Pick a Theme
- Draft a menu and format
- Decide on what type of food you want to service
- Decide on a format
- Draft a menu
- Draft a budget
- Build a team
- Reservations and Check-in
- Advertising and promotion
- Cooks and Servers
- Consider Entertainment
- Schedule a planning meeting
- Schedule the day of the event with your team
Marketing your party
- Three months before the event
- put a “teaser” ad in the Pilot
- Two months before the event
- Put a full page flier in the Pilot
- One Month prior to the event
- Book the kitchen staff with House Chair
- Get your keys
- Check kitchen supplies
Lay out copies of the flier at the open house before the event
Day of the event
- Set up tables & chairs, including serving tables, set the tables
- Set up the check in table, guest register, name tags, change
- Reserve a table near the kitchen for your staff
- Turn on the coffee maker, set up lemonade stan
- Cook and serve
- Oven empty and off, coffee pot off
- Tables and chairs put away
- Empty refrigerator, keep or throw away leftover food
- Pick up debris from ballroom, bar
- Lock up
- Take the tablecloths home, wash and fold them.
- Return the tablecloths to the kitchen
- Return the keys
- Mail event receipts, reimbursement request and reports to the Treasurer
PLANNING GUIDE AND TIPS
Contact the Social Chair (see list of current names at the bottom of this post) with a theme and dates you could organize an event. The Club’s dinners are always on the 4th Saturday of the month. There is no event in December owing to the Christmas holidays, the November event is a low-key leftovers dinner the Saturday after Thanksgiving and there is usually no event in August owing to the proximity of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and dinner. The AGM, though, does need a host!
PICK A DATE
You should pick a date a minimum of three months ahead of time since your first ads should be in the Pilot two months in advance of the event—and you’ll need time to, at least, outline your plans.
PICK A THEME!
Or decide on one later. Ethnic foods are particularly popular. We had a wonderful presentation on making hi-tech sails for the America’s Cup and on the research behind the designation of Point Reyes as a National Historical Site.
The Social Chair will post your event on the Club’s Social Events calendar. If you have a photograph of illustrative of the event’s theme or of the menu that would be particularly appropriate, please email a copy to the Social Chair.
YOU”RE READY TO GO!
As host, you are responsible for creating a team and, with the help of that team, planning the event and menu, budgeting, assigning tasks and reporting. Other members of the team typically receive the reservations and payments, check in guests at the door, manage the decorations or entertainment and, of course, help with the set-up, cooking and serving and clean-up
Draft a Menu and Format
1. Decide on the type of food you want to serve based on your theme: This can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. The Social Chair can help you with suggestions, review menus from past parties, or discuss the pros and cons of the formats
2. Decide on the food format:
- Self-serve Buffet (people serve themselves generously!)
- Served Buffet (portion control, but you need volunteers)
- Sit-down with servers delivering plated food (crew of servers needed)
- Boxed (informal)
3. Draft your menu. Your original menu plan may change subject to budget constraints, preparation requirements, the skills of your team kitchen or capacity restrains, but it is a good idea to start the conversation with your team with a menu in mind.
The Club’s kitchen provides:
- Most of the pots, pans and utensils you will need. A glaring exception is knives, which seem to disappear from the Club.
- Coffee, salt and pepper, paper goods including napkins
- Various sizes of real plates, cups and utensils
- Plastic glasses and glass pitchers for water, useful if you are serving chili or curry or something else hot and spicy.
- Regular plates, bowls, silverware available.
- The count on plates and other pieces is stated on the cabinets. If you discover shortages, notify the House Chair.
TIP; the oven of the Club's commercial range needs to be turned on at least one hour before it will reach the desired temperature.
Note. The Club will not reimburse expenses for utensils, vessels, aprons or other additions to the kitchen unlessapproved in advance by the House Chair.
Draft a Budget
Social Events are one of the Club’s few revenue sources and are expected to cover all of the actual costs of the evening and make a contribution to the Club's maintenance. Breaking even, that is spending as much on food and entertainment as the revenue from an event brings in does nothing to support the Club’s overhead: maintenance and repair of the kitchen, repair and replacement of the cookware, dishes, tables and chairs, maintenance and refinishing of the ballroom floor and so on.
Start with the assumption that you will be serving a minimum of 70 to 80 people. This figure includes your team, possibly 12 people, and probably three people at the bar, all of whom eat for free, so with 80 people you will have 65 paying guests. At $25 per person, that’s $1,625 in revenue. If the kitchen help costs $150, and five hours is often needed to clean up after an event, you will have $1,475 for food, decoration and entertainment. Hired performers will also eat for free.
Note: The Club’s policy provides for two free drinks per team member, tickets for which are available to the host from the Bar Committee. These are not included in the event’s expenses.
If you budget to break even at 80 people, having 100 guests will contribute $500, 120 guests will bring that to $1000 and a full house, with another 16 people in the bar, will clear $1,400.
So a condensed budget might look like:
Revenue $2,125 100 meals. 85 paid @ $25 person
Meat $ 238 34 precooked chickens @ $6.99 Lucky
(136 leg or breast quarters, more than enough for 136 people)
Roast potatoes 40 40 lbs. red potatoes
Oil & spices 20 Olive oil*, garlic, rosemary, salt
Carrots 30 15 lbs. @, $1.49 plus butter
Salad 120 4 x 5lb bags @ $5.99/lb
Dressing 10 Balsamic vinegar, mustard, *Oil
Bread 28 14 loaves @ $1.99 Safeway
Butter 20 5 lbs @ $3.99
Apple crisp 45 30 lbs @ $1.49
Sugar, spices 15 Sugar, flour, margarine, oatmeal
Total food $ 566
Entertainment $ 650 Live music
Decorations $ 100
Kitchen clean-up $ 150 5 hours @ $ 30 per hour
Total Expense $ 1,466
Contribution $ 659
With expenses of $1,450, breakeven for this dinner would be 59 paying guests, a fairly conservative number. Given this budget, you might want to add ice cream to the dessert!
If you need help estimating the quantity of food you will require, check with the Social Chair.
TIP: while comparatively expensive, the Palace Market appreciates the Club’s efforts at buying locally. With enough notice, they will place special orders, although often with a minimum buy. Buying pre-washed and packaged salad mixes means you can pick it up fresh on Saturday morning. Ice cream would still be hard in their freezer until you needed it at 4:00 PM. They offer us a 20% discount.
BUILD A TEAM
You will need people to:
- Handle reservations and the money, then manage check in at the door.
- Coordinate entertainment, if applicable
- Coordinate your advertising and promotion
- Organize decoration
- Set up the dining room chairs and tables, set the tables, arrange for serving tables, set up the coffee machine.
- Prep, cook and serve the food
- Clear the tables after dinner, put away the tables and chairs
- Lock up
- Wash and return the tablecloths
TIP: While not a necessary task, the Pilot editor will want photographs of your event. Designate a team member to take or collect good images of your show and let the Pilot editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) know who that is!
The bar is not the host’s responsibility but you will need to advise the Bar Chair when you plan to serve dinner. Normally the bar opens around 5:30 PM for a dinner being served at 7:00 PM.
TIP: Special events may suggest special beverages. You may want to make special arrangements with the Bar Chair if you want a special beverage, e.g., Mojitos for a Spanish Night theme or green beer for St. Patrick’s Day.
Contact the House Chair for kitchen clean-up and dishwashing. Do not plan to do this with your event staff: the kitchen has no dishwasher but uses a sterilizer on already clean dishes. Plan to have the kitchen help arrive about the time dinner is being served. The kitchen help is paid $30/hr. and is part of the event’s expenses, either paid directly or as reported to the House Chair for payment.
Some specific team assignments:
Reservations and check-in
The Host will generally have plenty to do with the planning and organizing and probably most of the buying. Handling the reservations and check-in at the door almost needs to be delegated. The reservation taker, as he or she will be the most familiar with the names, should also handle check-in.
As reservations are received, organize them in alphabetical order so they are easy to find on the reservations list. Note whether the reservation included a check: even though your flier will read “Your check is your reservation” people often call or e-mail saying they plan to come, especially for a popular event.
NOTE: our sales tax exemption requires that we accept payment only from Club members. Check your Directory if in doubt.
Have at least $100 cash on hand at the door to make change for the inevitable drop-ins, many of whom will have a $100 bill! Record their names as well on the reservation list.
Setting the check-in card table (in the cleaning locker in the hall) in the hallway with two people in attendance is recommended. This way most people will be accounted for despite the inevitable distracting conversations which will ensue.
Several years ago, since it was evident that many people thought that the dinner after the Annual General Meeting was free, the host bought paper wrist bands to identify the paying guests. It was the first year the AGM dinner made any money. Wrist bands are available in the cleaning locker.
Total the received checks and cash. To the best of your ability, reconcile the receipts with the guest list. Hold both for the Host. Deposit the cash in one of the team member’s accounts and send that member’s check for the cash to the Treasurer. Please don’t mail cash!
Plan to stay at the check in until the dinner has been served.
Advertising and Promotion
This is a too-often overlooked aspect of hosting an event and the lack thereof is the greatest threat to a successful dinner. Of the Club’s 300 or so members, over 200 take the Pilot by mail. If the Pilot is late, as has often been the case, the message arrives too late.
If possible a computer savvy team member might be able to create your advertising him- or herself. If nobody appears capable, maybe the Social Chair can help identify someone.
Anticipating a new website to be rolled out possibly by December 1, 2015, the first notice of an event will be a business-card size window in the Social Events calendar which will include the date and description of the event and a postage-stamp size photograph. The calendar has a long horizon: the Alpha site already shows events through July of 2016. The calendar entry will be posted by the Social Chair when you book your event although you’ll need to provide the details and, hopefully, a photo.
Your event has been on the Social Events calendar since you signed up so the first part of your ad campaign is already in place.
The next opportunity to advertise should be a teaser in the Pilot two months before the event. Since the Pilot editor asks for copy by the 15th of the month prior to the month of publication, you’d need to prepare copy by the 15th of January for a March event.
- Create a flier. By the 15th of the month prior to the event, your flier needs to be ready. The Pilot will allot a full page to the event. It needs to include date and times (Bar open and dinner served) theme, price (Adult and child if both are on offer) menu (a teaser or in detail) details of entertainment, if any, and photographs or other eye appeal. If you are planning a pot luck, or partial pot luck, give clear instructions on what and how much to bring. This needs to be an 8 ½ by 11 inch camera ready pdf. file sent to the Pilot editor (email@example.com).
Note: ensure the flier include the notices that “Your check is your reservation” and “The Club can accept payment only from Members”
Put out copies of the flier at the open house held on the 2nd Saturday prior to the event. This is a particularly good time coming as it does two weeks before the event. If possible, make an announcement of the event at the open house as well.
E-mail Blasts: currently sent by the Pilot editor, the new website may offer event hosts the ability to send blasts without assistance. At any rate, a blast the week before the event seems to have a very positive effect on attendance, especially if well –presented.
Phone: all of rabbit’s friends and relations!
The closet downstairs across from the shower has many items for decorating (the next to last of the Host Key Sets). If none of these are appealing, or inconsistent with your theme, try your own approach.
Seasonal themes are readily assembled using found material: colored leaves, bright berries, evergreen boughs, pine cones, etc. Many of your team may also have objects at home that relate to your theme that they would be willing to lend to the event.
TIP: Designating one team member to this task is advisable if only to ensure that one individual is responsible for adhering to the budget.
TIP: Be careful to avoid cluttering the tables, especially if the event is full and seating is 10 people per table, as the decoration will most likely be in the way.
Note: The downstairs closet is full, with many users expressing the need to discard much of what is there. Please don’t plan to add to it.
Cooks, Prep Team and Servers
While the reservations, advertising and decoration are generally handled by one or two specific team members, everybody needs to participate in the procurement, food preparation, cooking, ballroom set-up and take-down. Depending on the complexity of the event—whether all the food is to be prepared in the Club’s kitchen, or at the homes of individual team members, or catered, or a BBQ, you will probably need between 8 and 12 people on the team. Identify the special assignments first: if you don’t have a full team until a month before the event it probably doesn’t matter if a whole team shows up on the big day.
Entertainment is not a requirement, in fact many members have complained that the entertainment provided effectively prevented dinner conversation. For a particularly good meal, consider having little more than pleasant background music, if anything. The annual crab feed, for example, needs no more than the crab and conversation for a wonderful evening!
If there will be entertainment:
- Live music: most expensive but may support premium pricing. Most performing groups probably need to be booked months in advance. A couple of months’ notice may not suffice to book a professional group so, if you plan professional entertainment, start looking early.
- Performance: we’ve hosted readings, lectures such as high-tech sail making, the history of Drakes Bay becoming a National Monument, and so on. Both cost and appeal may vary widely.
- Movie: probably inexpensive but makes for a longer evening and, therefore, later cleanup. Plan to serve dinner earlier.
- A slide show, perhaps with accompanying background music, particularly appropriate for ethnic themes if the slides and music complement the theme. Inexpensive but preparing the slide show maybe time consuming.
TIP: Given the Club’s demographics, many members wear hearing aids. Amplified music, in particular, is rarely enjoyable to those using a hearing aid and inhibits conversation.
YOU’RE READY TO ROLL AND THE CLOCK IS RUNNING!
Schedule a Planning Meeting
Set the date for a planning meeting, preferably at least two months ahead of the event. You should by now have identified most of your team, especially for reservations and advertising. At the meeting try to agree on the other tasks that need to be done before the event and don’t forget to follow up with the team by phone or e-mail after the meeting so they are clear on their marching orders.
Have your menu, portion plan and budget available for discussion and amendment, if necessary.
Have your plan ready for your team meeting. Identify everything that needs to be done and, at the meeting, agree on who will do it. If some of the food is to be cooked at home by members of the team, ensure that the recipes, quantities and time of delivery to the Club on the big day are agreed. Agree on what is to be prepared and cooked at the Club and who is responsible for procuring the ingredients, Assume that everybody will be available for setting up before the dinner and available to clean up afterwards.
Two months prior to the event:
1. Send your finished flyer to the Pilot editor. Camera ready .pdf file in a letter format (8 ½ x 11”). It should be in the editor’s hands by the 15th of the month prior to the event.
2. Re-confirm the menu. If some of the menu is to be cooked at home by members of your team, ensure they know what and how much to cook.
One month prior:
1. Confirm the kitchen help with the House Chair (currently Molly Rosen) He or she should be on board by the time you start serving.
2. Schedule the day of the event and let everyone on the team know when they’re expected. If someone needs to pick up bread from Safeway (which will accept orders in advance for pick up at a certain time), or pick up salad makings or ice cream from the Palace, make sure they know what and when to do,
3. Get your keys. The Social Chair has several sets of “Host Keys” which include the ballroom door, the kitchen doors, the kitchen cabinets, the downstairs closet and the audio closet. The set DOES NOT include the main gate/locker room door that you received upon membership.
4. As soon as you get your keys, check supplies in the cupboards, table cloths, serving dishes, serving utensils, glasses, decorations, etc.
Day of the event
TIP: Meeting at the Club at about 10:00 AM to do the prep work and set up until, say, 2:00 PM will give everyone time to freshen up and relax a little before returning to cook and serve.
1. Set up chairs and tables and decorate. (Use no tape or nails on walls please)
TIP: for extra prep space, use one or two the dinner tables near the kitchen and finish setting them later.
2. Coffee: Make sure you understand how to make it. 3 pots of water are always in the coffeepot and are never replaced; they take at least 35 minutes to heat up. Directions are on the wall.
3. Unlock cabinets.
4. Get out cutting boards, which must be used, on all counters.
5. Check light switches, including dimmers for ballroom.
6. Set up check in table.
7. The cash box is in utility closet
Provision it with the initial $100 to start the evening
8. Set up the guest book and name-tags (kept in the closet off the entry-way) The guest book is used to keep track of members/guests for tax purposes should the Board of Equalization ever check. Name tags and pens are in Misc. drawer in the Kitchen.
1. Dishwasher will arrive
2. Reserve a table near the kitchen for you and your staff.
3. Madeline Hope generously donated a lemonade dispenser to the club. She recommends that party committees bring a few cans of frozen lemonade and put the dispenser out with cups in a convenient location for folks who do not want bar beverages (i.e., kids). The ice goes in the little bowl that hangs down to keep it chilled.
1. Make sure oven is off and empty
2. Clear the tables of dishes and utensils
3. Remove or discard any leftovers
4. Clear the refrigerator of any event related food
5. Make sure coffeepot is off.
6. Return all chairs and tables to their racks and replace the covers
7. Make sure all ballroom, bar and bathroom lights are off.
8. Lock the back (bar) fire escape doors and all bar, ballroom and bath windows are locked.
9. Take the tablecloths for laundering. There should be mesh bags for the. Putting them in the black plastic bags may lead to their being thrown away.
1. Return the tablecloths to the Club within one week. Someone else may need them.
2. Please return keys to social chair. Hand them to the Social Chair or mail them to Stephanie Matthews, PO Box 369, 29 Kehoe Way, Inverness CA 94937.
3. Please fill out the party report and prepare a reimbursement request. Send the evening’s receipts (including your check for any cash receipts) the reimbursement request and the party report to the Treasurer. Send a copy of the Party Report to the Social Chair.
4. Designate someone to send the Pilot editor some good photographs of the event and a brief note about it. Do this before the 15th of the month after the event. Please send any notes about your menu or the experience to the social chair to be added to our files.
Social Co-Chair: Anna-Pia Slothower: firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Co-Chair: Stephanie Matthews: email@example.com
House Chair: Michael Vurek: firstname.lastname@example.org
Audio visual: Phil Macafee, Malcolm Fife: email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilot Editor: Matt Stone: email@example.com
Bar Chair: Rick Michetti: firstname.lastname@example.org