By: Tony Crisci
What does it take to feed one thousand people?
It takes a lot of planning, for one. It takes a lot of manpower, for two. It takes three restaurants, two twelve-hour workdays, and six thousand beverages—give or take.
It also takes a team of people who are willing to challenge the status quo.
When ZeroCater was first founded, we had one simple purpose: Make it easy for companies to feed their people. After expanding from Silicon Valley to New York, Chicago, and DC; we saw our model expand to reflect the needs, clients, and sometimes unorthodox requests present in new markets.
One such request came from Conductor, a digital advertising agency headquartered in New York City. Each year Conductor throws a two-day marketing conference called C3. With 48 sessions, 1,250 attendees, and lots of coffee breaks; C3 is one of the largest marketing conferences on the East coast.
Naturally, our first question was, “Just how are all these people getting fed?”
We first met with Conductor months ago, and—to say the least—they were very hesitant to work with us. In past years, a caterer had prepared every meal onsite. C3 is Conductor’s premier event of the year, and the last thing they wanted was to have food run out. An onsite caterer was, in their minds, the only way to guarantee their would be enough for everyone to eat.
There was only one problem: No one was impressed with the food.
When we started brainstorming, we envisioned making the food the focal point of the event. What if we brought in local NYC restaurants, and made each dish worth talking about? What if mini bagels and specialty cream cheese replaced the standard muffins from previous years? What if a full-spread taco bar replaced the typical catered lunch? What if we made the food less of an afterthought, and more of the main event?
The NYC ZeroCater team sat down and put together a proposal. The initial proposal used three local NYC vendors, an all-day espresso bar, plus the manpower to ensure the event ran smoothly. Conductor loved the idea, and both sides signed on the dotted line.
With over 1,000 people to feed, and six meals (breakfast, lunch, and snack) to provide over the course of two days, our team went to work. Throughout the planning process, the event coordinator for Conductor came to us with various requests:
We had offered an all-day espresso bar, but what about beverages for the rest of the event?
We had no idea if we could find a vendor to supply 1,000 beverages. All we could say was, “Sure, no problem.”
Next came an idea for an all-day popcorn machine, for people to snack on throughout their sessions.
We had no idea where we were going to find a popcorn vendor. “Sure, no problem,” was our immediate response.
Finally, she called asking for trash cans and trash bags. “Is that something you could provide?” she asked.
We had never, ever, brought trash bags to a client. Once again, our response was, “Sure, no problem.”
Our team decided to divide-and-conquer. We went to Home Depot and stored trashcans in our tiny NYC office until the night before the event. We called the very person who supplies water and soda to our own employees, and contracted the same vendor for C3. Finally, we found a company to provide popcorn machines for the multi-day event. Each ZeroCater employee pulled two-consecutive twelve-hour days, arriving onsite at 5AM to meet the bagel vendor at the door. It took over 90 minutes, and an unknown number of trips, to simply transport each meal from the delivery truck to the main hall.
As a manager, I could not be more proud of how our team stepped up and were as creative as they were. They never said, “No, we can’t do this,” but instead thought outside the box in every possible way. Down to the day of the event, I said, “Listen, this event isn’t going to be pretty,” but they got the job done.
One of our company values states, “Be a beast.” I could not be prouder for my beast team in NYC.
Tony Crisci is the NYC Sales Manager for ZeroCater