Having worked for several hotel banquets by now, I would say that I have accumulated a slight amount of experience and “know-hows” in banquet servicing. Before I started working for banquets, I actually had a pretty idealized notion of banquets: highly likely to be first class food cooked by experienced chefs, utensils that are germ free and definitely sparkling clean, and the food MUST BE hygienic.
I am most sorry to say that some of the assumptions above are not true.
Please note that the following are just my own conclusions and they MAY NOT be true for every hotel or banquets! Also, regardless of all that’s said below, hotels DO actually have a high standard…just that I expected more (heh!)
Below I will share with you 5 Shocking Truths about banquets that you probably don’t know.
1. The Food is Not That Hygienic
I am not saying this for any hotel in particular, but for most BUSY banquets. For those of you who have attended banquets before, you will know that roughly 7 courses (sometimes 8, including Louhei) are served by the banquet waitresses in a period of roughly one hour or a bit more. This may appear to be a leisurely process for those of you who are enjoying your meal, but THESE are what the waiters/waitresses have to do:
- Clear all your dirty plates from each course
- Bring dirty plates (at least 10, and they are porcelain) to the potentially far-off kitchen
- Collect fresh plates from kitchen and bring back to side station
- Collect the new course of food from side station
- Portion the food onto the individual plates at the side station
- Serve everyone at the table
- Top up everyone’s tea/ drinks
- Run to the bar to get that one or two person white/red wine or soft drinks
- Run back to the table and repeat from first step
So basically, in that hour or two when you are enjoying your food, your servers are running about endlessly to ensure that each course is served on time. Not only so, some hotels request that the servers should be the one to be pouring out the tea rather than the guest, which means more work.
Thus, it is definitely hard for the servers to wash their hands after each collection of the dirty plates (which are actually still food that you have just eaten, logically) before they serve you the next dish. Unhygienic? Kind of. I remember myself being OCD and washing my hands after each collection of used plates, and I was really lagging on the serving and my co-workers kept telling me to stop my obsessive hand washing. But know that hotels also have a strict regulation about cleanliness, hence your servers really do try to wash their hands as often as they can!
Trick to having really clean food? Ask for your courses to be served over a period of 2 to 3 hours. That way, the serving and clearing is less rushed and waitresses get the time to wash their hands before they serve each course!
2. NEVER ask for warm water
Or cold water. Or any water as a matter of fact. Since waiters are typically not the ones to get you the water (depending on the hotel), this is usually the bartender’s job. For ice water, I once seen my co-worker bartender adding just ice to tap water (which, logically, is cleaner than bottled water impressions aside) for ice water. For warm water, boiling water is mixed with tap water. For normal water, its usually just tap water.
Thank god we live in Singapore where the water is really clean and hygienic, and my friends and I drink from it really often. Can you imagine if this is done in…say China?
My suggestion is to ask for wine, juice or tea. I feel like those are the safest options.
3. Unsaid drinks cost more
This doesn’t apply to all the banquets, but it is also a cost saving strategy (that I actually quite approve!). For instance if the hotel is offering a 1996 white wine and a 2014 red wine, then your waiters are most likely tasked to promote the red wine…since it is more recent, and by logic, cheaper. So I guess you will no longer find it weird when your server asks, “Red wine for you, Sir?”
Similarly, in terms of juice, guava juice costs more (I was told that) than orange. Hence if the guest requests for “juice”, you are automatically served orange juice. And, if you ask what juice are available, DON’T agree to the first juice that your server suggests (like orange crush). I mean, if the price of the juice actually matters to you!
But then again, don’t ask for some exotic juice like kiwi or dragon fruit. They probably don’t exist in the hotels!
4. Check your utensils and wine glasses
Most of the utensils are washed by aunties and uncles in the kitchen whilst plates and glasses are typically washed by dish washers. Due to the huge amount of utensils, plates and glasses used for each banquet, they are not washed meticulously: in the sense that they are not scrubbed one by one. It is likely that utensils are soaked in soapy water followed by clean water, then wiped.
However, the better thing is that your waitresses take the effort to wipe EVERY SINGLE ONE of the wine glass and utensils/plates with a clean damp cloth. Even so, it would do you much good to clean each of your utensils/plates/glasses prior to the meal to ensure top most hygiene! Ask for tissue or water to moisten your napkin for cleaning, waiters will gladly give them to you!
5. Most banquet servers are part-timers
Normally, the cost of EACH person at a table of TEN in a banquet is more than $100. Yet banquet servers are paid very little even though they work themselves to death before, during and after the banquets…
Yes, they are paid a miserable $8 to $8.50 per hour, and they usually have to work for 6 hours at the very least. For ladies who wear court shoes, they can barely walk after 6 hours. Some of the banquet servers are long-termed part time workers, some are students on holidays, hence the quality of the service may vary drastically from banquet to banquet. Typically, even newbies are trained by agencies, hence they are not completely clueless, though they may be a lot more confused and slower in their movements because they probably don’t even know their way around the hotel. Yet.
Thus, I am beseeching all those who are attending banquets to be kinder to your servers, especially if they are confused or slow. If you give them angry looks or condescending glances, they will feel really flustered and worried, which may negatively impact their performances even more! Servers really appreciate it when the guests are cooperative, such as not taking too long to finish a course (by long I mean long after everyone else’s dishes have been cleared) or helping yourself with the napkin. Sometimes, even an encouraging smile or “thank you” will motivate them to work much harder to making your meal pleasant!
There you go! Here are the top 5 shocking things about banquets you probably didn’t know…in fact, I have more! Tell me in the comments below which of the above do you find most interesting and remember to follow me on facebook or google (check sidebars) for more tidbits!