By Rob Schaefer
Abundance seems to be the last thing on anyone’s minds these days. Most corporate cultures are so focused on what is lacking that employees are paralyzed and unable to feel happy, secure, prosperous or appreciated. That common phrase that everyone uses these days, “Be glad you have a job,” is starting to get old – especially when the company is actually doing well. Employees work hard year-round, and with the holidays right around the corner, it is time they are rewarded. In today’s work climate, you have to create your own bounty, because nobody’s handing it out!
While I don’t profess to be a moneymaking guru, I do know that prosperity is attracted to prosperous thoughts. If you’re giving the impression that your company is desperate and in need, soon, it will be. No one wants to buy from unhappy and broke people. The same goes if you cut too many corners on your events – your guests will feel the cheapness! While no one is saying you have to have elaborate, costly celebrations, now is the time to show your employees and clients your appreciation.
Some companies fear the public’s perception of celebrations. However, there is a great way to avoid this! Team up with a local charity and make your event about helping others. For example, many local food banks are dangerously low on supplies because no one is giving. Have your guests bring canned goods and non-perishables to the event. Even have a prize for the guest who brings the most!
There are many charities in need and many ways to help them. Not only are you celebrating your employees, you are also giving back. What are people going to say? “Shame on you for raising money for that nonprofit!” While this is a great way to give back, even if you don’t partner with a charity, don’t be afraid to stand up and tell others that it is your right to honor your employees and their accomplishments.
Another reason companies hesitate to celebrate the holidays is the fear of offending guests due to religion or culture. A great way to make everyone feel welcome and included is to work with nontraditional holiday colors. You can avoid the cliché red and green and incorporate your company colors instead. In addition to the colors you choose, dazzling looks can be created using everyday items and things you may already have in your home or office.
Start by thinking positive! You will never be able to please everyone, but if you do your job and deliver a quality product, you will come close. Selecting delicious foods and the right colors, fabrics and décor to enhance your theme will guarantee success! On Oct. 20, 2011, planners were invited to an open house at the Coronado Ballroom and Meeting Facility in St. Louis, where I presented three nontraditional holiday looks that would make any guest feel special. It was a treat for me to speak with such a wonderful group of planners and the positive feedback was overwhelming. I hope you can find inspiration in the following ideas as well.
Metallic finishes have made their way back into the spotlight. One of my favorites is copper with its natural warmth and glow. It is associated with home kitchens, cooking, baking, and finely crafted and vintage items. In the 1960s and 1970s, copper was one of the most popular finishes for appliances. In the decades of TV dinners, instant cocoa and boxed mixes, it made homemakers feel like they were still cooking from scratch. Amid the sea of polyester, sleek furniture and orange shag carpet, it led us to believe that Mother was still in the kitchen cooking a hearty home-cooked meal.
Copper is a wonderful tone to use on a breakfast buffet, a comfort food station or a hearty lunch station that includes items such as stew, seafood, crusty breads, cheeses and wine. I also suggest fully saturating the table with a single color. Doing this creates a rich, full and harmonious look.
Metallic finishes also afford you the chance to use many artificial decorations that would normally look cheap or flashy against another color. If the event is in a space with lower ceilings and beams or light fixtures that enhancements can be strung from, I like to use copper lamé ribbon and garden lanterns. Or, suspend wreaths above the tables. Wreaths are not just for walls anymore! Use metal plant stands, copper votives and grapevines to add texture to your presentation. Copper-colored acrylic chargers create nice, inexpensive culinary platters. Just keep in mind that a little metallic goes a long way!
As many of you know, I like to use company colors in employee gifts and holiday favors. However, in these lean times, I suggest offering an item that is the same color as your event theme color. In this case, I used a copper toned beverage holder.
Blue is the least common color in food, which is why it has been used as a china color for centuries – it provides contrast. An intense blue, such as cobalt, glows in dim light and is perfect in an office or home setting for a rich, elegant feel. In this display, I used poly-cotton floor length linen in cobalt and accented the table with simple metallic shred and feathers. With the influence of the British royal wedding, feathers have become a popular fashion accent. Using that as inspiration, a fanciful arrangement of greens and peacock plumes makes a stunning centerpiece. Feather toppers such as this can be rented or made by your florist and then reused. Peacocks are associated with elegance and refinement and provide a beautiful holiday inspiration. In addition, you can use a tiny bit of purple and teal for additional glamour. Using two different size metallic wreaths suspended above the table at different angles gives the impression of butterflies or something whimsical dancing midair. It is unexpected and joyful!
Another easy but dramatic look uses water, food coloring and clear vases. Brilliantly toned water with floating candles or submerged faux orchids provides a dramatic look. Also, vases filled with monotone ornaments or metallic shred add sparkle. Try taking votives provided by the facility and setting them on a nest of metallic shred to intensify the light and add a tinge of color. Inexpensive tinsel garland wrapped around the stems of goblets or vases looks magical and turns an ordinary item into an extraordinary table accent. And using plain white chargers or plates, a little double stick tape and some feather boa can create fun and festive chargers for your table! Cobalt blue is a beautiful color to use for a hors d’oeuvres presentation, a champagne and chocolate display or crudité or carving station, or as a dinner party color option. Imported blue and white china is inexpensive and unexpected when mixed in as a station enhancement. Your guests are sure to forget their winter blues when enticing culinary options are presented on striking cobalt backdrops.
White is the most versatile and works in any environment, for any religious affiliation. White can go from sophisticated lounge décor to Frosty the Snowman in an instant, working well for adult presentations as well as those for children. Winter wonderland themes are the most neutral, and whimsical winter themed options can include polar bears, penguins, snowmen, snowflakes and white flowers. White also allows you to use just a few high-end flowers to make a huge statement – think calla lilies, day lilies and white frosted branches. Large plastic snowflakes hung above tables in clusters of three, five and seven fill negative space and provide sparkle and movement. Artwork displayed horizontally on tables as a centerpiece gives a fresh look. Simple plastic shelf organizers and dish drainers can be used to elevate food and help avoid visual blocks. Antique cut Glass trays from Grandma pair beautifully with modern white vessels. Glittered snowflakes are unexpected when used as coasters. In addition, anything frosted will add to the wintry look.
However, white can be a doubled-edged sword. Although it highlights the good, it can also put any flaws in the glaring spotlight. White is unforgiving and can go cheap in an instant, so be cautious. Make sure whatever food or beverage you put against white looks stellar. Imagine how awful brown fried food would look against white! Drips and spills are also magnified when using white, so make sure staff is in place to maintain the linens. This is one reason white was once reserved just for formal or high-end dining.
Dessert presentations with fancy confections, candy buffets, cocoa, cookies, high tea, scones and beautiful canapé buffets look gorgeous against white. And raw bar items such as shellfish served on ice are enhanced with white.
When the snow begins to fall and the world is blanketed with white, take a cue from nature and give your guests a delicious cocoa and cookie buffet on a shimmering white backdrop. It is okay to feel like a kid again!
Rob’s TOP 10 Rules for living abundantly
1. If you focus on the lack, the universe will leave you lacking.
2. We must move on and start celebrating life again! Show your
employees that they matter and that you appreciate them with
some type of party.
3. Partner with a local charity or food bank and make the focus
of your event about helping others.
4. Think outside the box with alternative catering options, such
as a delicious breakfast, hot lunch buffet, afternoon dessert or
5. Remember, it’s not the steak, it’s the sizzle! Whatever you do,
make culinary and beverage displays extraordinary. It involves
more than throwing down a few trays on a plain table!
6. Use nontraditional colors and elements to make all guests feel
included and special.
7. Metallic finishes have high impact and work well with many
artificial elements without looking cheap.
8. Copper adds natural warmth and radiance to a space and
reminds guests of home and hearth.
9. Cobalt blue is elegant and appreciated by men and women alike.
10. White is neutral but amplifies what you put against it – good
To all my readers and industry professionals, I wish you a bountiful holiday season. Below is a list of organizations that are in need. You can help create abundance in your life and the lives of others today!
This column is meant to provide practical advice, tips and rules of engagement you need in the meeting and event planning industry. If you have a question, whether it’s how to dress, how to address your guests or what to serve as the main course, e-mail Rob at:
Your question might just inspire the topic of his next column!
Rob Schaefer is Vice President of Steven Becker Fine Dining in St. Louis.
Non-profits to partner with this holiday season:
Our Little Haven – St. Louis
Rich Fanning, Director of Business Development
4316 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108
Phone: 314-533-2229, Ext. 232
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: www.ourlittlehaven.org
Boothel Food Bank – Cape Girardeau
3920 Nash Rd.
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
Phone: (573) 651-0400
Ozark Food Harvest – Springfield
2810 North Cedarbrook Ave.
Springfield, MO 65801
Phone: (417) 865-3411
Web Site: www.ozarksfoodharvest.org