Recently, I was invited for a travesty of an event which was, euphemistically put, quite the shipwreck, and I don't think there was any one particular entity to be blamed for it. Nevertheless, since I had to suffer through it-or half of it as I left midway-let me share how not to conduct a client engagement event. Big brands, listen up.
It all started when BMW invited me to The Leela Palace, New Delhi-and after reading this, won't probably ever again-for an event which was supposed to be like supper theatre, a murder mystery to unravel as the dinner progressed. They had possibly hired some agency which then engaged this fancy hotel, but all in all, the overall lack of attention to detail and any sense of refinement was beyond baffling. Let me deconstruct how this Titanic was sunk from the start.
1. The invite said 7.30 pm strictly. It was confirmed to me twice. Assuming German precision on behalf of my hosts, I turned up on time only to find that now one had two hours to kill over cocktails as the other guests were clearly pulling a Delhi! FML already.
2. While most guests were late, many didn't turn up at all, leaving me on a pretty deserted table. Thankfully, I was right at the back from where it was easy to avoid the pedestrian performance.
3. Next, the bar setup looked shoddy at best. It was a glass table with bins and boxes in plain sight and supermarket juices still in their tawdry cartons prominently displayed up front. The drinks were fine (it's hard to muck up a Talisker or a Tanqueray, frankly), but the lonely barman was hard-pressed to serve a thirsty crowd-in-waiting.
4. By contrast, the wines, modest as they were, were certainly not worthy of an event of such calibre-and how the hell could they omit sparkling wine? That said, there was no sparkling water either.
5. The elephantine car parked right up front at the entry remained unaddressed, appearing more as a road block than the centrepiece which it actually should have been. I am glad I walked up and opened its door because only then, almost like a genie, a gentleman appeared and proceeded to tell me about the car. It was impressive and, in retrospect, those five minutes were pretty much the highlight of my evening.
6. Winston Churchill once remarked about a dinner: "Dinner would have been splendid… if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the Duchess." Here then is my sum, in a tribute format: "The evening would have been splendid, but the bread was drier than the humour, the scallop staler than the acting, the jokes poorer than the chef's imagination and the starters on my plate had been there longer than the dead body in the play. As for the servers and their serving expertise, they collectively had lesser mileage than that brand new car outside!"
All in all, I spent an evening feeling overdressed and underwhelmed. As stated above, a catastrophe of such level-one that makes me want to override my general stance and publish a review of an event-is not achieved by one party alone. It requires all involved to be commonly and collectively callous about the things that really matter. Either they assumed that the people who drive around in luxury cars have no sense of refinement or were brazen enough to insult the average intelligence in the room.
An event endorsing luxury has no room for mediocrity. If the organisers expect clients to drop top denominations on their ware, be it food or a fancy car, they need to work hard to maintain that sense of prestige, and collaborate with entities who understand nuanced and delicate handling.
The writer is a sommelier