Event Planning and Management Tips from Top Caterers
P&G people profile
Rebecca Dewick, Senior Events Manager, Returning to P&G with a bang after a decade away.
Q: Rebecca, welcome (back) to Payne & Gunter as Senior Event Manager. Could you give us a bit of background about your time in the catering industry?
RD: I started off my Event Management career after finishing university, when upon arriving home near Ascot I promptly got a job at a local hotel. The races were due to be held and therefore they needed some extra staff to help with the annual event trade. It was here that I cut my teeth in the hospitality sector and learned the importance of building relationships and delivering excellent service to guests. Providing a professional and helpful concierge service was essential to give guests an experience that was memorable for all the right reasons.
I worked my way up to Sales and Duty Manager, and then moved to a 4* hotel at Heathrow. In 2005 I joined Payne & Gunter as an Event Manager and was lucky enough to work with Payne & Gunter veterans Bethan and Lucy, before leaving in 2009. However, I couldn’t quite keep away and assisted the team at the BRITs every year I was away!
In 2012 I worked as Hospitality Manager for the Absolute Taste & ISS Olympic Project 2012, on the rooftop of the Westfield Shopping Centre. Then I moved on to Head of Hospitality and Events at Gather & Gather working at Sky to provide daily corporate hospitality requests as well as event solutions on demand, and at scale. And here I am back at London’s originals, Payne & Gunter as Senior Event Manager where it’s been non-stop so far with amazing private, corporate, and major events.
Q: What do you think makes you good at event management?
RD: I am very organised, but also flexible enough to know that you can’t plan for every eventuality. I’m fairly pragmatic and methodical, with great time management. This comes from having trained for swimming throughout my adolescence – fitting in training schedules with school. This also helped me get along with a diverse range of people and manage peoples’ expectations carefully. I believe getting the most out of every day is important - you can’t get more hours into a day, but you can try and be efficient with every minute. To put it simply. good time management and people skills are essential for event management.
Q: What would be your perfect event to organise?
RD: Every event is different and perfect is a tricky outcome to define, because it means different things to different people. Having great clients and working well together to make sure the event is enjoyable for all parties. We recently got a televised thank you for all of our catering efforts at a major golf event, and appreciation does go a very long way.
Private parties, awards dinners, gala dinners, corporate events, hospitality boxes - no matter what event we are catering for or where it is, seeing all of the hard work pay off - watching people enjoying themselves and hearing from the client how much they loved the event makes it all worthwhile. Surpassing expectations and showing guests a great time is the perfect outcome.
Having said that I did come back every year to cater the BRITs, so read into that what you will…
Q: How far in advance would you recommend starting to plan an event?
RD: It really depends on the size of the event, the people you want to attend and the time of year. The more time you give yourself, however, the more choice and decisions you have. Giving yourself 6 months is ideal. But annual events in peak event seasons can take 12 months, if not longer! Especially if you have senior business leaders, VIPs, and are competing with similar events at the same time and your event is ticketed. Even if you don’t have the details, get your event in the calendar with a ‘Save the date’. You also need to set a deadline for RSVPs and confirmations, so you don’t end up with spaces at the table and on the guest list...
Q: What are the first 3 things you need to consider when planning an event?
1. Have an idea of what you want. Even if it’s as basic as the format, you can’t leave everything to chance. A good brief should set the scene and ideas and themes can steer the direction of the whole event and all of the details.
2. Get your timings right. From the day of the week, start and end times. Also, financial year starts and ends can impact what you have to spend or if you’re charging or ticketing the same rules apply when targeting businesses. When the event is taking place is important to ensure general availability and the specific time will be important when it comes down to the logistics of getting there and back.
3. Have a reason to attend. A venue can be a big draw, so where you hold your event can make all of the difference – so if you want somewhere iconic, you need to get in early! What’s in it for the guest attending? If it’s a performance, exhibition, launch or giveaway make sure this is at the core of the event – maybe this influences the theme from invitation to end.
Q: What format would you recommend for a smaller event?
RD: If you’ve got a more intimate event then reception drinks and canapes with a sit-down dinner can be relaxed or formal. Keep it simple, but special with delicious nibbles and sumptuous banquets that make your guests feel the VIP treatment from reception to nightcap.
Q: What format works best for larger events?
RD: Creating food theatre by theming food stations and having chefs cooking live for audiences is a great way to cater for and entertain a crowd. This generates buzz and excitement around the food and drinks, making the catering centre stage. Link the theme of the event with enhancement props, flowers and set the food out in a creative manner with different heights, formats, and colours.
Q: What details make an event stand out and why are they important?
RD: Table layout and place settings can make a sit-down dinner feel thoughtful and different. Plates can make a big difference and also enhance the food’s presentation from the colour to the shape. Also, china, cutlery, glassware is important, it’s easy to take these things for granted and the level of formality can certainly influence these factors. Sometimes people only notice when something is wrong. At Payne & Gunter we know how to scale standardisation - inspecting place settings and making sure each table looks the same at large events with quality maintained across the board.
Even serving condiments is an important detail not to overlook from pinch pots versus grinders, a gala banquet or fork buffet – the salt and pepper dispensing should be in keeping.
Considered menu design with dishes having a wine pairing to accompany (with the appropriate glasses of course) makes the food and drink work together in a way that feels effortless and enjoyable to the guests.
If you’re looking to organise an event and are in search of top caterers, look no further and call us on 0330 123 0407 or email us at email@example.com to discuss your requirements.