John's Jottings

141. Food for Thought - March 2018

Posted on February 28, 2018 at 4:20 PM

A few of us went as visitors to a show in Merle. We’d not been there very long when an argument broke out between a steward and the operators of one of the layouts. Shortly afterwards, the team packed up their layout and left, obviously disgruntled about something.

Later we found out that the refreshment people had told the organiser that even though it was still mid-morning they were running short of food. He had decided to reduce the meal ticket allocation to every layout. This triggered the early departure of that one team. It was undesirable but understandable. Other teams thought of following their example.

Over lunch-time, some layouts shut down completely as their operators went out into the village to find sustenance. Some were away for over an hour, with hastily created ‘Gone to Lunch’ signs put up, while others covered their layout with dustsheets. The paying public thought this was a poor do.

“It’s a charity event,” the organiser explained. “We can’t be giving free meals to everybody.”

“But you didn’t tell us in advance,” the exhibitors told him most forcefully. “Your questionnaire specifically asked for the number of operators and if they’d any special dietary requirements. That implies that we’d all be fed. If that wasn’t going to be the case, then surely you should have warned us in plenty of time?”

“You can always buy something to eat from the refreshment room,” he responded with great insensitivity. “There’s still a few things left.” That really upset the visiting exhibitors.

“We appreciate that you have a problem with judging the amount of food you require, and you wish to minimise costs, but arbitrarily withholding meal tickets is unfair,” one of the exhibitors told the organiser. “Some of us have done charity events where we were told quite clearly in the initial invitation that we’d have to provide our own lunches. And as charity shows, we accepted that. But we knew before we set out and came prepared.” However, the organiser couldn’t see he’d done anything that should upset his invited guest exhibitors.

This brought to mind the catering problem at other shows we’d attended in one capacity or another. At one, meal vouchers were given out, but the number distributed was not passed on to those serving the meals. They kept selling food to all and sundry. Exhibitors turning up after 12-30 were told there was only a limited range of food still available and they should have come earlier to make sure of a full meal. The servers seemed to have no idea about how operating teams stagger their mealtimes so as to keep layouts running.

And then there was a show where every exhibitor was given a voucher worth a generous seven pounds to use at the venue’s own catering facilities. Hot savouries were served in the restaurant, with nothing costing more than five pounds, while sandwiches and hot sweets were available in a snack bar on another floor. The problem was that no change was given for a £7 voucher, or the remaining credit of £2 indicated in any way. The venue was making a clear profit of at least £2 on every first course they served. We hoped the organisers realised they were being ripped off.

An army marches on its stomach,” our chairman commented. “Making sure you troops know when they are next being fed is important for maintaining morale. And if they’re not being fed, then they must be told that well in advance. Doesn’t the same apply to the volunteers who operate the layouts? And we all agreed they did. We also agreed we’ll politely decline any further invitation we might get from Merle.

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