We Paid For It, Didn't We?

Odd thing happened today at work. One of the junior Client Managers (fresh outta college, still learning the ropes) was given a rather stern tongue lashing by…the catering/cafeteria manager.

Back story. There was a mgmt meeting in our office that was cancelled. Lunch was being catered (sandwiches/chips (crisps), pasta salad, cookies (biscuits), bottled water, soda) and since 24 hour notice was not given, the catering group (external company but they are onsite) would not cancel so it was delivered anyway. The mgmt decided to let us have the food. Only six of us were there to eat, so we had our fill (it was catered for 10). When we were done, we collected the leftovers, the plastic plates and forks/knives/spoons, paper napkins. and bottled drinks, cups and the paper ice bucket (still full of ice) and headed back to our desk.

All was good.

Then today the junior Client Manager was called by catering (she ordered the food) and ripped apart. The catering group said we had no right to take the leftovers or the unused paper/plastic products. JCM is a meek sort and took the tongue lashing without flinching. Her feelings were hurt but she is not complaining. I feel sorry for her.

I will admit, I am a tightwad (actually most of my group is). That is why we always are on the lookout for “freebies”. We have collected plastic ware in the past (along with leftovers) from previous meetings. The cafeteria wants to charge us if we get anything from them (plate, ketchup, napkins, etc) if we have not purchased something (I kinda understand that) and our company does not supply cups/plates/cutlery to use on a daily basis…we provide our own.

JCM’s boss has stated many times “I paid for this, I should be allowed to do what I want with the leftovers” and always gives us minions drinks/cookies/chips, etc when there is extra. I am sure when he finds out his protege was tongue lashed he is going to go ballistic.

So, who is right here? I always thought that if it was disposable and part of an order it could not be reused/returned once it was placed with the order. I mean, there are open, plastic knives and forks left over, is it a health violation to return them to stock an reuse them? Everything we took was either disposable or was food and all of it was part of the order.

On what basis did you not have the right to take the food and disposable utensils? Did they say? If the lunch was ordered and paid for by the boss/department, then the boss/department should be able to dispose of them as they see fit. The only exception I can think of is a non-perishable item that the company could put to use elsewhere.

Even that would be borderline as an exception. Unless the catering company is providing bottles of tomato sauce/whatever rather than the usual sachets then it’s highly unlikely there will be anything in that category.
It looks like the catering company is a separate company contracted to provide services - and in that case it is none of their business what happens to anything after they have provided that service.

I think that the catering manager is absolutely and completely in the wrong and deserves to have someone go ballistic on them for that rubbish. If I was the junior client manager’s boss I would be demanding an apology and seriously contemplating a formal complaint to the catering company.

I have to agree with MikeP and go further, I would take that caterer off the preferred list of providers of services and let them know exactly why. Those things were paid for and therefore the property of your company, which purchased them. Lay a little law on her.

Thanx for the feedback everyone. A couple of people thought I was making a mountain out of a mole hill about this…I was not overly sure until I asked a few people in and out of the loop.

The catering company (as far as I know) is external (an external companyruns our cafeteria and those people deliver the catering to the meting rooms/private dining areas). We have had run ins in the past regarding leftover hot food (the mgmt team will have customers over to our site and serve a higher-end catered lunch once a month or so) and our requests to have the leftovers boxed up. The catering group refused to box up the leftovers in the past (citing food safety as the reason) so we have requested “to go” boxes to be sent with all the hot catered meals so we can box it up ourselves. We normally do not do that with the cold stuff. We might have to now.

Part of the complain centered around the glassware (big serving plate and bowls) being misplaced by my team (one of the contractors brought it up with all the leftover food to be grazed upon during the day…SOP for us. It was returned to catering the next afternoon, in person). I think that is what set the whole crap storm in motion, but I don’t feel it was warranted.

The other part of the complain was taking all the disposable stuff from the serving cart. The catering company set out over 150 fork/spoon/knife (about 50 each - all unsealed) as well as a huge stack of paper (higher quality( napkins and plastic cups for a lunch catered for 10 people…a bit overkill in my opinion. I can see 1/3 or even 1/2 that number but the amount sent was way too much. We pay a premium for our catering (considering the quality of some of the food) so any leftover plates, etc should be ours, IMHO.

One other thing that may have driven this is that I heard rumblings that various contractors have been helping themselves to remnants of things left over (partial roles of paper towel, toilet paper, trash bags, coffee, coffee filters, hot cocoa, tea bags, condiment bottles, etc) and they have been trying to crack down on that. That should not be an issue here, but it might be.

We are waiting to see if the JCM’s boss chimes in…I will be surprised if he does not. He is incredibly vocal about stuff like customer service. He has been known to not follow the catering rules in the past just to make his point known to our facilities mgmt, since they are the ones who are responsible for the choice of the subk’s.

The contract for catering is evaluated yearly and this company won the 2014 contract as an incumbent, beating out a couple local groups. Prices went way up when they came on board (the quality did as well but they started micromanaging things more in the cafeteria). We have no choice but to use them since we are not allowed to go outside the company for catering.

Dollars to donuts they don’t clean that out and restock it normally. According to their logic you guys are stealing the week’s worth of plastic ware and napkins.

The peons getting left overs from conferences and catered meetings is a time honored tradition. It’s part of what makes meeting days acceptable for the rank and file.