A Question From Selected's
Electronic Discussion Group
We are “putting our toe in the water” of the whole catering movement by offering some basic refreshments during calling hours. We also have a for-hire caterer whom we have engaged whenever families want substantial refreshments or a light meal. The idea is to offer (at our cost and on every case) chilled water, lemonade and non-perishable cookies we’d be able to store. Not sure we want to get into coffee or tea at this point. The few times the caterer has done this for us, people drank the cold beverages and the coffee sat. Am looking for input on what members are doing: Dry lemonade mix? Concentrate? Other beverages? Types of cookies that go over well? This would be set up on a draped table just outside visitation rooms.
We use iced "fruit water". Lemonade is a standard offering at our paid receptions (powdered "Country Time"). We put some sliced lemons into it the glass dispenser (such as you see for the fruit water) to add to the appearance. Frankly, I think the frozen concentrate would taste better – and I will talk with our caterer. We bake Otis Spunkmeier cookies in each location – and provide these at the arrangements conference. For a reception that includes cookies, the caterer bakes the cookies – usually chocolate chip and oatmeal.
I spend more time at the funeral home than my house so this is my living room. And if you are sitting in my living room I am not going to charge you for a drink so for 25+ years we have not charged for water, coffee or soft drinks. Some abuse it. Some don't. But it makes us look good and makes families very comfortable. We do tell young children they have to ask their parents. Not us.
We offer water, coffee and fresh cookies at all our visitations for no charge. We also do warm, fresh cookies for arrangements at no charge. Our goal is to make their time at the funeral home feel as much like their home as possible. We've gotten good feedback on offer refreshments for both occasions.
We have a "one cup at a time" coffee machine in our lounge, which makes regular, de-caf, half/half, hot chocolate, mocha, and hot water, all at one cup at a time. We do not have cookies, etc., yet, but we have a small refrigerator in the lounge also. NO MICROWAVE. As our arrangement offices are just off the lounge, we offer them to families that wish to bring in their own cold cuts, deli stuff, etc., for the visitation hours. We have a tablecloth to cover the arrangement office tables for this time.
We always provide coffee and water during arrangements and during visitations. Additionally we have a nice wood basket in all of our arrangement’s rooms with a mix of non-perishable cookies and crackers. This is very well received by the families we serve. We generally purchase these items in bulk from our local Sam’s club, hope this helps.
I am going to let you in on something so simple you will think I'm crazy. Cucumber Water! Sounds funny but you will be surprised at how people react. We take a nice glass beverage dispenser purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond, fill it with water and ice along with one diced cucumber. It is places on a marble table with small cups close to the family during visitation. My wife and I saw this presentation at a Ritz Carlton so there is this element of class that people love.
I also employ a hospitality manager that meets the family during the initial arrangements. Her job is to listen to any special requests they may have and find a creative way to make it happen. Every family gets something different to show we listen. It might be a special pastry or something as simple as a special type of candy that mom always had in her purse. These items are placed in the lounge during the visitation. We might deliver a warm apple pie or a dozen sweet rolls to the house the morning of the service. Even families that chose direct cremation receive something. It is just an easy way to show that personal attention.
We make available water and flavored coffee for arrangements. During visitation and services we provide coffee, tea and slushy in our cafe area. The slushy machine is great for all ages.