Author Topic: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?  (Read 18290 times)

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rose red

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #60 on: February 19, 2013, 11:59:19 AM »
^ But in the OP's case, the guests are all paying the same amount. 

I also don't buy the theory it causes waste to give them options.  If they change their minds, too bad, you're stuck with it.  At least they must like the food if they chose it in the first place.  I may be disappointed if I chose fish and am in the mood for steak that night, but I won't be outraged by being treated unequally.

eta: Maybe I'm just not understanding the culture.  I can't imagine not giving guests options and risk even a few people being disappointed.  I prefer even a simple buffet of finger foods or "cake and punch" reception or even a casual pizza party.  At least you're not surprised or disappointed or feel like a 2nd tier guest.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2013, 12:07:18 PM by rose red »

Moonie

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #61 on: February 19, 2013, 12:20:48 PM »
How much food would be wasted if those who got stuck with something they didn't like simply threw it in the trash? I would think that would be more wasteful than offering people the option of picking what they prefer to eat.

cabbageweevil

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #62 on: February 19, 2013, 12:22:30 PM »
I get wanting to save money to stay within budget. And I also get not giving people a choice, as in, everyone gets chicken. But what I can't wrap my mind around is having two different meals with no choice as to which one you end up with. And whether you can swap or not totally depends on the luck of the draw (other people at your table and their preferences) at best, or at worst, as in the case of the OP's father's dinner, whether you were among the first tables to be served or the last.

In addition, I don't think anyone mentioned this before, but swapping plates around the table strikes me as rather, well, icky. I don't mind swapping with my husband or kids, but but swapping with a stranger who happens to be sitting across the table from me is just weird.

Thinking on this: re the OP's account of her father's experience -- it crossed my mind, re the general take on the situation, and trying to sort out "least-worst" -- perhaps neighboring diners landing up with respectively the more-wanted, and the less-wanted, meals, could decorously trade between each other: Bob gives Tom half of his BBQ, Tom correspondingly gives Bob half of his quiche.

Subsequent thoughts, though -- people tend toward "delicacy" about this kind of thing -- as above -- straight-plates-swapping between immediate family members seen as, just, OK; but straight-plates-swapping with a stranger (let alone switching-and-swapping food between plates) -- seen as not so good an idea.  I'd imagine (no offence meant) male Australians aged 50-plus, new to this "alternate drop" idea, not to be among the more finicky people on the planet -- still, now reckon my notion possibly not too clever.

Cami

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #63 on: February 19, 2013, 12:23:31 PM »
I think the premise on saving money is that the caterer does not have to over-make any of the dinners and avoids waste.  Assume you are at a conference of 100 people and your going to give the dinners an option of beef or seafood.  The caterer would need to be ready to serve 60 to 65 of each of the entrees and also have a few vegetarian meals on hand. So he is really going to have around 130 plates ready.  With the alternate drop, they only make as many meals as guests attending with a few vegetarian options available.  I think what the caterer tried to do here was reduce waste even further by making the second option a vegetarian option.  I bet for this event, if a 100 were attending, he only made maybe 110 or less plates.

Even for weddings where you ask for the meal selection back on the RSVP, some people will forget or change their mind so the caterer still has to plan for some overage.  If 60 people had stated they wanted a beef meal and 40 wanted the seafood, most caterers would have 70 or more beef ready and maybe 45 to 50 of the seafood.
  As an event planner, I regularly serve meals to 500+ people.  Unless it's a buffet, I always require that people choose their meal ahead of time. There is no changing your preference the day of or at the meal either as that decreases efficiency in serving, which if you're serving large numbers is a huge deal as delays cause anxiety in clients and affect the temperature and presentation qualities of the food.

Hmmmmm

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #64 on: February 19, 2013, 12:27:57 PM »
^ But in the OP's case, the guests are all paying the same amount. 

I also don't buy the theory it causes waste to give them options. If they change their minds, too bad, you're stuck with it.  At least they must like the food if they chose it in the first place.  I may be disappointed if I chose fish and am in the mood for steak that night, but I won't be outraged by being treated unequally.

eta: Maybe I'm just not understanding the culture.  I can't imagine not giving guests options and risk even a few people being disappointed.  I prefer even a simple buffet of finger foods or "cake and punch" reception or even a casual pizza party.  At least you're not surprised or disappointed or feel like a 2nd tier guest.

But who is going to be tracking that Aunt Meg requested the fish on her RSVP but now is saying she wanted the chicken?

If you've ever been in catering then you now it's not a theory about waste.  About 10% of the people will truly not remember what they selected on an RSVP card 6 weeks prior (or what their spouse filled in for them on the RSVP card) so when the waiter comes by and says "fish or steak" they are going to pick what sounds good right then. 

I've only experienced the alternate drop once and that was a a banquet in Perth. I was really surprised by the concept but it seemed like it was perfectly acceptable, everyone seemed to be able to trade for what they wanted, and quite a few split their entrees with someone else.  But the people with dietary restrictions were able to ask for a separate meal. 

I don't have a problem with the alternate drop but you better have two options that are comparable and something that most people would enjoy. 

ETA:  since I quoted someone previously who used the ^ sign it looks like I am responding to Cami, which I wasn't. 

Cami since you are currently in the business, who do you track who gets which entree for 100 plus guests?  Do you also require assigned seating?
« Last Edit: February 19, 2013, 12:30:56 PM by Hmmmmm »

rose red

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #65 on: February 19, 2013, 12:42:49 PM »
Cami since you are currently in the business, who do you track who gets which entree for 100 plus guests?  Do you also require assigned seating?

I'm not Cami, but most American weddings does have assigned seating if they serve plated meals.  In the Chandler/Monica wedding episode of Friends, there's a scene with Ross meeting Mona at the table outside the reception room.  That table has placecards with the names and table number of all the guests.  That table is exactly what I've experienced at weddings.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2013, 12:44:35 PM by rose red »

Mikayla

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #66 on: February 19, 2013, 12:50:11 PM »


If the rationale for this is to save waste, I don't get why they couldn't just put 2 equal type options on the response card and ask the guys what they want.  Then just make a few extras of each in case someone forgets what they ordered.  But, at least from my experience, this doesn't happen often, especially with fish and red meat options.

According to an Australian wedding site I went to, giving people the option on the RSVP still causes waste because people forget what they ordered or they see the other dish and change their mind on the day.  So caterers still have to risk waste.

Yeah, that's why I said in my experience, because even as I was typing it, I saw that risk.  But I've ended up as the de facto organizer of events at several places I've worked, and I've done it this way many times without problem.  Or at least a problem I was aware of!

I did hear once of someone who did this and then mailed meal tags to people, like a red one for meat and a yellow one for fish.  That seemed extreme to me, but it might be another option.

Rohanna

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #67 on: February 19, 2013, 12:55:23 PM »
Sounds to me like a way to turn every event into an uncomfortable dominance-asserting display. Will Bob handing over the BBQ to his boss mean he doesn't get fired, or will his show of "weakness" cost him that promotion? Does George handing the steak over to his wife mean she wears the pants, or does he really just love quiche? Will Brittney be grounded if she doesn't pass up the salmon to her seafood loving Mum?

Okay, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek- but I can see a lot of ways this could become rather uncomfortable.
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Belle

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #68 on: February 19, 2013, 12:58:10 PM »
But who is going to be tracking that Aunt Meg requested the fish on her RSVP but now is saying she wanted the chicken?

If you've ever been in catering then you now it's not a theory about waste.  About 10% of the people will truly not remember what they selected on an RSVP card 6 weeks prior (or what their spouse filled in for them on the RSVP card) so when the waiter comes by and says "fish or steak" they are going to pick what sounds good right then. 

The majority of seated dinners that I've been to have a small indicator on your placecard that tells the serving staff which meal you ordered. You pick up your namecard with the little symbol in the corner (e.g., a rose for fish, a heart for beef, or yellow placecards for fish, pink placecards for beef), find your assigned table, and when you sit down you put the namecard in front of you, where the serving staff can see it. Nobody has to remember what they ordered six weeks ago. (I know I would never remember!)

Hmmmmm

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #69 on: February 19, 2013, 01:04:39 PM »
But who is going to be tracking that Aunt Meg requested the fish on her RSVP but now is saying she wanted the chicken?

If you've ever been in catering then you now it's not a theory about waste.  About 10% of the people will truly not remember what they selected on an RSVP card 6 weeks prior (or what their spouse filled in for them on the RSVP card) so when the waiter comes by and says "fish or steak" they are going to pick what sounds good right then. 

The majority of seated dinners that I've been to have a small indicator on your placecard that tells the serving staff which meal you ordered. You pick up your namecard with the little symbol in the corner (e.g., a rose for fish, a heart for beef, or yellow placecards for fish, pink placecards for beef), find your assigned table, and when you sit down you put the namecard in front of you, where the serving staff can see it. Nobody has to remember what they ordered six weeks ago. (I know I would never remember!)

And this is where I start thinking "logistics nightmare", I've got more important things to do, and tell the caterer to "guess-estimate" it based on the preference.

MommyPenguin

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #70 on: February 19, 2013, 01:13:52 PM »
It doesn't seem like it would be that complicated to me.  As others have said, usually with a sitdown dinner you have assigned seating.  So a waiter enters the dining hall with a tray with six plates of beef.  He heads towards a section of tables and places a meat dish at each place setting with a pink symbol next to the name.  Another waiter is just behind him with a tray of six fish dishes, and he fills in at the same tables with fish dishes.  Third waiter puts the chicken dishes down as he's going through, and the first few tables all have their meals while the waiters head back to the kitchen for another tray.  It's not as complicated as taking orders and doesn't require all that much more effort than bringing out a tray of six beef dishes and going around the table to put them at alternating spots.  You wouldn't have to make much extra, maybe a few extra in case a waiter drops a tray or somebody shows up without RSVPing, but you'd need a few extras for situations like that with the alternate drop as well.

ClaireC79

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #71 on: February 19, 2013, 01:16:02 PM »
I went to one wedding where the placecard was folded over and inside your menu choice was written down - so you could be reminded of what you ordered (and I suppose the wait staff could check if there was a dispute)

Belle

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #72 on: February 19, 2013, 01:25:28 PM »
It doesn't seem like it would be that complicated to me.  As others have said, usually with a sitdown dinner you have assigned seating.  So a waiter enters the dining hall with a tray with six plates of beef.  He heads towards a section of tables and places a meat dish at each place setting with a pink symbol next to the name.  Another waiter is just behind him with a tray of six fish dishes, and he fills in at the same tables with fish dishes.  Third waiter puts the chicken dishes down as he's going through, and the first few tables all have their meals while the waiters head back to the kitchen for another tray.  It's not as complicated as taking orders and doesn't require all that much more effort than bringing out a tray of six beef dishes and going around the table to put them at alternating spots.  You wouldn't have to make much extra, maybe a few extra in case a waiter drops a tray or somebody shows up without RSVPing, but you'd need a few extras for situations like that with the alternate drop as well.

It doesn't seem that complicated to me, either. If you're the person throwing the party, it's one extra box to mark when you record the RSVP (Attending? Yes/No and Meal Choice? Fish/Beef). The caterers know how many meals to make - no guessing necessary - and the servers do as Mommy Penguin described. One server carries a tray of fish and one carries beef, and you serve according to the placecard.

Going back to the OP's situation, it very much seems like a "know your audience" situation. I would rather everybody have the same meal than two different meals of different value. I love food, and watching somebody eat something really tasty while I made do with something I didn't like would irritate the heck out of me. I would probably go home and cook the better meal just to kill the craving! But if we all ate the same meal, even if it's not as good, I wouldn't mind as much because I wouldn't be drooling over the "better" meal.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2013, 01:29:11 PM by Belle »

bansidhe

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #73 on: February 19, 2013, 01:47:31 PM »
I'm from the US and had never heard of an alternate drop, but the whole practice sounds rude to me!  What if I hate the dish I'm given and can't find anyone at the table who wants to trade?

I've never heard the term "alternate drop" but I have experienced the practice - in the US, believe it or not! It occurred at a business get-together I attended and everyone was caught off guard. We were waiting for someone to take our orders when suddenly, the wait staff showed up with food. The main course was either beef or chicken. Too bad I'm a vegetarian and they hadn't thought about that possibility (this was in the late 1980s). Some kindly table-mates gave me their side dishes, thank goodness.

I haven't experienced this again and would rather not. I can understand why the men in the OP were miffed. A combination of not understanding the concept and the disparity between the two dishes was a recipe for disaster. The rudeness in that scenario lies with the folks who planned the event.
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kglory

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #74 on: February 19, 2013, 02:16:03 PM »
I'm in the US, so we don't have this custom here.  But I think the biggest difference between this dinner and a wedding is that for this dinner, the guests paid $100 to attend.

At a wedding, you pay nothing to attend (well, aside from gifts, travel, etc., but there is not the sense of paying for your meal as in a restaurant.)  I've been to some weddings with food I liked and others with food I didn't, and there just is this understanding that it will be a bit of a crap shoot whether the meal is to your taste or not, but you just make the best of whatever food is served.

But if I paid $100 for dinner, I'd expect to have something I like!  And even worse if I were served something I disliked, but saw that half the guests, who paid the same amount I did, got an entree I would have liked.

That's why even if this custom does work, I can only see it in a "free food" situation such as a wedding.