Food for Thought

This could be awkward …

Erm … can you spare a goujon?

Thankfully, it never really happens like that, but the issue of whether our quiz masters are fed at corporate quiz nights is a surprisingly odd one. It would be a moderately entertaining game of chance, if it didn’t occasionally accompany hunger.

Our policy has changed. For several years, we decided to be overly polite and not explicitly ask to be fed at an event, and we didn’t ask in advance or on the night, and often left it to chance. If it happened to come up beforehand,  our bookings manager might tentatively say that we wouldn’t mind some food if there was any going.

This could be tough – you’d usually have a little something beforehand just to make sure, and then, when time came around, quite often hosts were very thoughtful and generous, and if they weren’t, well, so be it.

After a few years, out of responsibility to our quiz helpers, who often asked in advance and might have come straight from work, we decided to be a little more clear, and ask the question “Will there be food for the QuizQuizQuiz team?” in our questionnaire.

It felt like an obvious improvement – if the answer was “No” well, that’s fine, we can eat substantially beforehand or buy our own sandwich for the break, if “Yes” (as it is about 80-90% of the time, where applicable) hurray! Guaranteed food.

But it’s not so simple. Oh no.

Certain issues arise. It is entirely understandable that the host organiser has several more pressing issues on the night than whether our team is fed, so forgets to mention it to us, which can be awkward; they might also not have mentioned it to the venue, so, even if they say to us “there’ll be food for you” they may not have communicated that to the venue. Or they might have done, but the venue haven’t communicated it properly to their staff on the night.

Of course, these problems don’t really arise if there’s a buffet. Buffet, hurray, we say. As long as at some point someone has said it’s ok for us to have something to eat, a buffet is fair game …

But, when it’s pre-ordered meals, table service, that’s when it gets tricky. Because, even when the client host has said we’ll be fed, in advance and on the night, even, sometimes when the restaurant manager has said to us they know we’re getting food, even then, there is still a further obstacle, and that’s the interesting bit …

Waiters …

I love waiters. I’m never rude to waiters. I know (as most of us, do from personal experience) what a tough job it is, so I note this purely because it’s interesting. Waiters sometimes just do not bring us our food. Even if there is a plate of food for us, they wander round the venue, looking keenly for a mealless diner/participant, stare straight through us, even if we’re giving them our most pleading eyes, and return to the kitchen with the plates. I think it must be something with the attitude of servility ground into them, where they see us, like them, as inferior staff, who cannot possibly be eating high-class food in the open. We are invisible to them as human beings. It really happens like that surprisingly often.

I mean, we are service staff, and sometimes the client insists we can’t be seen eating by quizzers, so asks us to eat, if they do provide us with food, behind closed doors, which is kind of fine, if a bit weird, though perhaps less weird than munching down a plate of food up on a stage in full view of everyone. Something in between is best, really.

Because, the thing is, what most clients realise, but some don’t, is that … how can I put this … we are the most important people there. The whole evening’s success depends on us above all. We’re worth treating well. We’re not rock stars, we don’t have a rider (if I had a rider, it would be samosas … and chocolate hobnobs …) but we are, for that night, a valuable commodity.

So, in addition, a little hint, if anyone’s reading … if there is a mid-quiz food break, then feed us first, if I might be so bold. It seems a little counter-intuitive, when there’s a room full of invited grandees, and we do usually end up being fed last.

Why should we be fed first? Because there is a lot more for us to do towards the end of a mid-quiz food break e.g. marking, making announcements, even restarting the quiz as opposed to finishing our meal. Let us just get our eating out of the way and get on with work.

I had a pretty ludicrous occasion at a large quiz recently (30odd teams), which I’d run several times before and had always been a buffet, but this year was table service. Well, it wasn’t just us kept waiting, but suffice to see barely half the participants had their meal after the half hour allotted for a break, let alone us. The quiz was briefly delayed but we ended up cracking on as the waiters carried on serving. Finally, 1.5 hours after the dinner break began, just as I’m finishing off a round and sending my markers out to collect sheets, the waiters arrive with cold meals. Not ideal timing. It’s not the best look, scoffing down chips while talking into a microphone, so I went hungry that night.

Gosh, this sounds like complaining. Being fed is a bonus, and it usually works very smoothly, and I have had some really fantastic meals in the service of quizzing down the years, but yes, sometimes, it is the hope that kills you.

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