Feeling Overwhelmed Planning
Holiday Parties? UNH Hospitality Management Professor Says Using
Operations Management Will Simplify Efforts
Contact: Lori Wright
UNH Media Relations
Dec. 8, 2005
DURHAM, N.H. – The refrigerator may not even be empty of Thanksgiving
leftovers, yet the holiday party season already is in full swing.
For many the stress of party planning, combined with tackling shopping,
can take away every ounce of Christmas cheer. However, holiday meals
and parties can be simplified by taking an operations management
approach as taught in the Department of Hospitality Management in
the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University
of New Hampshire.
“In a recent Wall Street Journal article, some of the
top consulting firms made suggestions like disinviting difficult
guests, cutting out green beans almandine because it causes problems
with the flow of the meal and similar recommendations, which fail
to address the real solution. If you plan the meal and develop a
schedule for putting a meal together, whether you have 10 or 100
guests, it actually is quite simple,” says Joe Durocher, associate
professor of hospitality management.
The first step in any party operations management plan is to create
the menu. Durocher says hosts and hostesses should write down every
dish that will be included, with a brief description of the steps
that must be taken to prepare each dish. Decide which dishes will
be made from scratch or purchased already made. Then develop a shopping
list. “For experienced cooks this can be done off the tops
of their heads, but for some it makes sense to consult a cookbook,”
Next, develop a production schedule. This should include a schedule
for doing local shopping, since in many cases, going to two or more
food stores is necessary to find the standard and specialty items
needed. The schedule also should include ordering specialty items
in advance to ensure that they arrive before the big event. “If
you order a Yule log online, order early as sometimes vendors run
out. If you plan on serving a spiral cut ham from an online site,
order weeks in advance and specify a deliver date just a day or
so before you want it. And if you plan to serve a locally raised
free-range turkey, put your order in three to four weeks in advance,
just to make sure they have one for you,” Durocher says.
Pre-preparation is the next critical step in the operations management
of a holiday party or meal. If done properly, all that’s left
to do on the day of the event is to assemble and cook foods with
little or no dicing and chopping.
“Make sure you have a supply of heavy-duty closable plastic
bags to store each ingredient as you ‘prep’ them. Use
a magic marker to write which dish the ingredients will be used
for. If you need onions for several dishes, divide up the onions
into individual bags for each dish — that minimizes the chances
that you’ll put all of the onions into the stuffing only to
discover on the day of your dinner that you need onions for some
other dish,” Durocher says.
Those who can’t set the table the day before the dinner should
at least assemble all of the tableware needed. Creating a list of
items days before the event will help determine if there is anything
needed before it’s too late. “Don’t wait until
the last minute to set the table. The visual impact of a well-laid
tabletop will inspire guests as they arrive,” he says.
“Finally, check the oven frequently to ensure that it is still
at temperature. Murphy’s Law applies to holiday preparations
so if the oven breaks down, quickly pull the bird out, carve off
some thick slabs of breast meat into cutlets and sauté them
on your stovetop,” Durocher says. “Stay cool and enjoy
Editors: Joe Durocher, associate professor of hospitality management,
is available for comment at 603-862-3387 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students in Durocher’s Meeting and Conventions class are using
operations management to plan the UNH Holiday Party. If you would
like to see operations management in action, please join us for
the UNH Holiday Party Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
at the Whittemore Center Arena.