Q. Can you please say something about people who respond yes to a catered event and don’t show up and don’t even let you know why they didn’t attend. Don’t they realize that the meals still have to be paid for?
A. It is very frustrating when guests respond to an invitation indicating they will attend an event and then for some reason, do not. Yes, they should realize that someone is paying for their meal, whether they attend to eat it or not. The most frustrating part of this scenario is that the person does not contact you to apologize for not being able to attend. Even if it the individual calls the day before the event, the day of, or even the last-minute, to notify you they will not be able to attend, at least you can remove a place card so there is not an empty seat. Or, if you get a call from someone who can attend at the last minute, you do not have to tell the caterer to add one more meal.
If someone is a “no-show” at one of my events, and I do not hear something from them within a few days following the event, and before I come to any negative conclusions, I do call that person to check to see if she or he is OK. Hopefully the person was not in an accident, had a death in the family, or fell terribly ill. At least I then know what transpired and can respond accordingly. It also lets them know I did miss having them attend and I was genuinely concerned about them. It is also a subtle reminder to them that accepting an invitation should not be a thoughtless decision.
Whatever the situation may have been which prevented the person from attending your event, that person should have made the effort to notify you within a reasonable amount of time to explain and apologize.
If setting up a large event, one can always expect a small percentage of guests, who although R.S.V.P., they will come, will not. Since every meal ordered must be paid for, providing the final count to the caterer must be a very closely evaluated and calculated number. As a general rule, for a group of 300 people, for example, you can estimate that 1 percent of that number will not be able to attend even after they have accepted your invitation. That is three meals you will not have to pay for if you deduct that number from the final count given to the caterer. Therefore, if the cost of each meal is $50, you will save $150.
However, if you are wrong and all 300 come, you will be spending some time negotiating with the caterer to come up with three more meals and three more seats. That is why the count provided for a sit-down meal, is the most critical unless you are able to have a couple of empty seats set up, “just in case.” Some caterers, however, may only agree to set place settings for the exact number provided.
If the event is a cocktail type, heavy hors d’oeuvres event, you can normally take off a larger percent of potential “no shows” before you provide the final count. The reason is guests who attend a cocktail event may come for only a short time and do not eat many hors d’oeuvres because they spend their time talking to the people they feel they need or want to talk to, and then leave.
Another consideration is this: If it is a mixed group of men and women, women will not eat as much as men. If it is a group of professionals attending a cocktail hour immediately following office hours, they may eat more than expected and if you provide too low a count, the hors d’oeuvres will run out which would be very embarrassing. Cutting the count on a group of hungry bikers or hikers who have just finished a long ride or hike may also not be a good idea.
Hopefully, the next catered event you host will be a more pleasant experience.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.