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Self-catering the senior breakfast (graduation 2017)

Each year, on the day of graduation, we host a breakfast for the graduating seniors and their families. When we were a joint Math/CS department, we sometimes hosted it at someone’s home. These days, we host it on campus so that students, their families, and the faculty can all more easily get to graduation [1].

When we were off campus, we used to have Kamal cater the event. When we moved on campus, we were told that we had to use campus catering. This year, the Dean’s office told me that our budget could not support having College catering cater the event [2]. And the Dean and I agreed that we would self-cater the event.

I spent Saturday shopping for fruit and plates and such. I had our ASA order bagels and muffins. I picked up some coffee pots to brew coffee, and used our hot-water heater to brew water for tea.

In this musing, I’m going to record what I bought and what we used so that I can be more on target for next year. Let’s see … what did I buy for 160 people?

  • 160 muffins. We could have gotten by with 100.
  • 100 bagels. We could have gotten by with 70.
  • Four pineapples. We needed all four.
  • Five cantalopes. We needed four.
  • Two honeydew melons. These did not get eaten, probably because we put them in a side room.
  • Ten pounds of cherries. We probably needed only five pounds.
  • Ten pounds of bananas. We needed three.
  • Nine pounds of clementines. We needed six.
  • Eight pounds of strawberries. We used all of them. We could have used more.
  • Forty tubs of yogurt. We needed twenty.
  • Ten ninety-ounce jugs of OJ. We needed six.
  • 48 bottles of water. We needed all of them. We should get more next year.
  • A gluten-free egg dish. We could have used more.
  • Three pots of regular coffee. Two would have been enough.
  • One pot of decaf. A full pot was more than we needed. We could brew a half a pot (or, because coffee is cheap, we could brew a full pot).
  • One pot of hot water for tea. That was enough.
  • A quart of half-and-half and a quart of some fake cream that some people seem to like.
  • Four containers of cream cheese. We needed two.
  • A bunch of tea. We didn’t need all of it, but it will get used.
  • Two honey bears [4]. We could get buy with one.

I don’t mind all that much that we had too much food; since we self catered, we don’t have to throw it out [3] and the summer students are clearly making good use of the leftovers. But now that I have some guidelines, we can order more accurately next year [5].

What did all of this cost? $550 plus the cost of the coffee pots. Less than half the cost of using catering. But it also required a lot of my time, a lot of student time [6], and a lot of Sarah DA’s time. I’m not sure that using that time to save the College money, when it’s the College that charges so much for catering, is necessarily sensible. But I guess that’s how things go.

On the plus side, the seniors felt particularly special that we self catered; there’s something different about a faculty member getting up early to set up. And, as I mentioned earlier, we had food left over for our summer students. Plus, we now own more coffee pots!

I’ve promised our incoming chair that I will run the breakfast next year. (The budget was due in November; he’ll be stuck with my plans, so it’s only fair that I help him deal with them.) The other faculty in the department have indicated that they will help.

I should remember that we need to buy more cutting boards, some creamers (that is, the things with a spout that hold cream for coffee or tea), tubs for the yogurt, and ice. If I remember other things, I’ll add them to this musing later.

My biggest mistake? I should not have self-catered on the same day that my son was graduating. However, our budget didn’t really leave me any other option, other than cancelling the senior breakfast.

[1] With the number of majors we currently have, I don’t think we can hold it at anyone’s house any longer.

[2] We had 160 estimated attendees. At $8.40 each, which is what catering charges, that would be $1,344. That’s higher than our on-campus food budget for the whole year.

[3] Throwing out food is one of my concerns about College Catering. I now bring plastic bags to almost all College-Catered events and encourage folks to take food away.

[4] It appears that some people do not know what a honey bear is. It’s a squeezable honey container in the shape of a bear.

[5] And yes, I’ll be the one self-catering next year, too.

[6] Thank you, especially, to the students who stayed late or came back to clean up!

Version 1.0 of 2017-05-24.