Sponsored by DSquared Hospitality Company
Like everyone in the event industry, DSquared Hospitality Company faced an absurd number of obstacles in the last 2 years. But on September 18, 2021, a perfect storm of calamities almost took down the ship in an event unlike any we’ve experienced before.
When our client partner of 7 years, the Grammy-Award winning Seattle Symphony, decided to bring back their annual Opening Night Gala in person for 2021, we looked forward to the chance to once again create a high-end, memorable event together. However the night was – wait for it – going to look a little different this year
Originally, the Symphony planned for their 300 (masked and vaccinated) guests to attend a full orchestra performance followed by a reception inside of Benaroya Hall. However, two weeks before the event, COVID concerns resulted in moving the post-concert celebration to an outdoor venue a couple blocks away.
“I don’t know how this is going to work.”
The day of the event arrived, and with it, the rain. While mostly covered, the public atrium, located between skyscrapers, created a wind tunnel that exacerbated any inclement weather – not an ideal location to serve an upscale dinner to elderly patrons. During the rainy set up, our team realized that some partially covered tables would have to be moved out of the path of the rain, changing the entire floorplan. DSquared’s Chief Operating Officer, Reed Haggerty remembers, “At 2:30 on the day of the event, our event décor planner said – ‘Reed, I have never seen anything like this in my life. I don’t know how this is going to work.”
With a few top-tier donor tables maintained, the majority of the seating assignments became a free for all - to the confusion of the arriving guests. “Not only are we dealing with high level donors,” emphasizes Reed, “We’re dealing with high level donors and telling them something they don’t want to hear. We need to send a message of ‘You’re not getting what you were expecting, but you’re still being taken care of.”
One of DSquared’s company philosophies is to always consider the needs of the guest first. With this in mind, our team became the ultimate ushers, going above and beyond to escort those challenged by the new layout to find an open seat, as well as offering to bring them a blanket, a drink, or a plate of food, even though the reception included small bite stations, not plated courses.
The calm before the storm.
Despite the layout challenges, the event itself flowed beautifully. From the time the guests walked from Benaroya Hall to the outdoor venue, and all while they were eating and drinking, the sky remained clear – even through dessert!
In an hour and a half, 300 guests were served appetizers, two small plates, bar service, and dessert. And during that time, the CEO of the Seattle Symphony gave a 10 minute speech, during which servers were off the floor. “That’s pretty impressive,” boasts Reed.
“I felt like we were on the Titanic.”
Then, toward the end of the night, our worst-case scenario arrived.
“There was a point in the night when the wind and the rain really kicked into high gear” recalls Reed, “There were probably 20 of us standing under pop up tents which were lifting off the ground, even after being weighted, holding them down with both hands so they weren’t flying away and potentially endangering the guests.”
Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes’ Director of Sales Emily Schiller adds, “Everyone who is holding down the tents is getting completely soaking wet. It’s like standing in a shower. Things are blowing over, like fake walls that they had brought in – loud bangs – people are screaming, people are running – it’s pure chaos.”
All the while, DSquared’s General Manager of Benaroya Hall, Ryan Schiller, is at the VVIP table, serving high-end bottles of wine to the Symphony’s top donors. He said later, “I felt like we were on the Titanic, and everybody was trying to escape, and my group of people were just sitting there listening to the violins as the ship was going down.”
“But here’s the best part about that situation,” Reed adds, “Ryan continued to take care of these folks while the rest of the event was breaking down. That’s our guest-first philosophy.”
“Honestly I felt so proud when I looked over and saw all of our managers - in SUITS - holding onto tents for dear life but still smiling and trying to be gracious while just getting DUMPED on,” emphasizes Emily, “I felt so proud. We’re so good at what we do, we know how to take care of guests.”
Read the rest of the story at dsquaredcompany.com/news-and-announcements