“Be our guest!” Thus, Lumiere, Beauty and the Beast’s iconic speaking candle, introduces his gigantic smorgasbord with gusto and fanfare. While mimicking Lumiere’s gargantuan feast is unnecessary, taking a leaf from his hospitality book guarantees an event manager one amazing business dinner.
Business dinners are a long-standing corporate tradition, used to conclude fiscal years, celebrate new milestones, introduce new management, or a host of other prestigious events. They integrate entertainment with professionalism and allow different corporate levels and branches to mix and mingle. A successful business dinner commemorates company achievements, recognizes successful employees, and entertains the guests.
Planning starts approximately 12-28 months before the event. Before anything else, ask the question, what should be the atmosphere? A business dinner may be formal or relaxed. A hint of caution: any company who is barely bobbing their head above the fiscal water should refrain from formal, expensive dinners. These may be construed as wasteful spending.
A posh, roomy venue is an appropriate choice for a business dinner. There should be plenty of space for guests to walk by tables. The location should be booked sometime in advance. Also, a contingency date should be selected.
How to contact attendees? Formal dinners require elegant letters, while less posh parties need little more than a well-written office memo or even e-mail. Regardless of method, the first invitation should be sent 2-3 months before the advent, with the last reminder one week beforehand. All solicitations should prominently include dates, times, basic agenda, and a well-placed marketing ploy to attract the wavering.
As for food choices, Lumiere may be on to something. Formal dinners require four- and five-star courses, while casual festivities need three-star (think Applebees) fare. This choice, however, leads to another quandary: self-serve buffet or maitre d’ service? Buffets promote community and congeniality but sacrifice sophistication; maitre d’ service reeks of elegance and French hospitality but leaves the palate wanting. Simply decide which set of attributes is most important.
When selecting entertainment, local burgeoning bands, DJs, rank-and-file comedians, puppeteers, etc. should be foregone. The event manager should carefully choose professional, engaging keynote speakers (motivational or informative) and classy musicians to set the mood.
When attendees enter, they should sign a master RVSP roster (yes, RSVP’s are essential) and be lead by ushers (solicited volunteers or paid staff) to their assigned seats – give VIPs subliminal preferential treatment.