5 Good things to Know When You are in Charge of an Event


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To be a general manager today in the hospitality industry you need much more than just obtaining a title. Any dictionary will define a general manager, commonly called GM, as: Noun—overseeing all administrative functions in the business. But as most of us know, no dictionary can begin to describe what it truly means to step into the role of GM or start to explain why we all love what we do. The word is nothing like a noun and more like a verb.

I assumed the challenge of becoming the general manager of the class for our senior event, which is developed, planned, and executed by the bachelor’s Foodservice Management class as our capstone project. I found a couple of things to be true…

First, the job is demanding because you have to pay attention to all the details. Second, a major piece of it involves leading, helping create a vision, letting the employees be heard, delegating tasks, understanding of all departments . . . even accounting, paperwork, and payroll…all while finding a balance of giving freedom to each team.

I feel like the senior class project really helped me appreciate the greater meaning of GM. It’s important to be flexible, ready to jump into any project, or just lend an ear to listen to thoughts and concerns of the staff. I wanted to share some of the real-life situations within the class that I encountered that helped me shape my opinions on the matter.

 

  1. Too much help is better than not enough. Our class had 21 students to run a highly effective banquet- style service for 140 people. The culinary team of three dropped down to two a few days before the event due to a personal matter. It was a perfect example of a real-life situation where someone gets sick and can no longer come in for their shift. So how did we fix this? I asked each student to utilize their contacts and reach out to chefs and other CIA students to get some help prepping and plating. I am more than happy to say the CIA helped us obtain multiple volunteers to make the banquet a huge success.

 

  1. Have a repair person on speed dial. Five hours before the event was to start, our freezer broke down, melting all of the ice cream needed for the dessert. We were very lucky and were able to make a new batch and use a blast freezer in another kitchen. However, in real life sometimes you don’t have that option. It was a wonderful learning moment to remind myself to always have someone on speed dial that can fix any appliance.

 

  1. Be flexible. Our centerpieces for all 12 tables were glass that we ordered online. Both times they were delivered they arrived completely smashed. Because the event was nearing, another student and I went to three stores, 40 minutes apart, and hand-wrapped different sizes of the same centerpiece to ensure they would not break, and delivered them ourselves. We had to make a small compromise and have two different heights on the tables but that was a small price to pay.

 

  1. Always have a plan B. The day of the event was over 92 degrees outside. Clearly, it would be rude to have guests stand in the heat, so we moved our cocktail hour inside. We were very smart by drawing out a plan B floor plan, which made it very easy and efficient to set up in a timely matter.

 

  1. Wear multiple hats. Just because your job title describes one thing, it’s always in your best interest to ask questions and know all departments. It will only make you more valuable as an employee. During the event, not only was I the GM, I also got in the kitchen and helped cook, spent time making decorations, helped go out and ask for donations, and sat with the finance team reviewing profit and loss statements.

Overall, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I recommend it to any students who wish to become a general manager in the future.

By Olivia Weidner

Olivia Weidner

Olivia Weidner

Olivia is a student in the bachelor’s in food business management degree program with a concentration in Italian Cuisine that will be taking place in Puglia, Italy. She has already completed her CIA associate degree in baking and pastry arts. After she graduates, and as her career advances, Olivia hopes to obtain a position in an HR department of a Michelin-rated restaurant group. She is heavily involved in various areas of the CIA and acts as a great mentor to those who wish to join the future of the hospitality industry.
Olivia Weidner

Proceeds from the bachelor’s degree program charity dining events are split between charities and CIA scholarship funds. The next events are online at the CIA’s restaurant website