Prep Before Your Vacation for a Stress-Free Comeback

Beach bum. Outdoor adventurer. Culture queen. Festival fanatic. Culinary tourist. Whatever your vacation persona may be, your goal is most likely the same as everyone else’s: to leave your job behind and lose yourself in another world for a few blissful days with amazing food, friends and family.

Ideally, you’ll come back refreshed to a job where you are recognized for your brilliance by coworkers who are eagerly awaiting your return – not because things are running off the rails, but because you’re da bomb. This is totally possible. You just have to think (in the vocabulary of those employed by The Walt Disney Company) like a ‘cast member’ and focus on two things: the task at hand and the follow up to that task.

Project manager using Gantt chart, tasks planning and scheduling, computer

If you’re not familiar, Disney incorporates the “three o’clock parade” idea into its customer service training. It’s predicated on the idea that cast members will no doubt be asked every day “What time is the three o’clock parade?”

Rather than simply feeding guests the obvious answer, cast members are trained to think beyond the basic information and anticipate follow-up questions, enabling them to provide a richer response, layered with insider details that enhance the guest experience.  When asked, cast members confirm the three o’clock start time, but then  add on “extras” — sharing the best time to line up for the parade, recommending a prime spot for viewing the entertainment, and maybe some other tidbit, like which dining venues can get them in and out in time for the start of the parade.

By taking this three o’clock parade approach into the corporate setting, you can prep three critical entities for your vacation, and you’ll not only increase your chances of truly leaving your office cares behind and unplugging for awhile, but you’ll also be setting yourself up for a less stressful return to business.

Three O’Clock Parade Entity 1: Your Boss

As soon as you have your vacation dates approved, start looking ahead at your major tasks or projects for that timeframe. Note all of the details – deadlines, deliverables, resources, dependencies, collaborators, etc. – in a document or spreadsheet to help you flesh out the full body of work you need to account for. Then working backward from the last day or two at the office before your vacation, lay out your plan for what you can realistically accomplish before you leave, what can be rescheduled for after your return, and what you’ll need to have coverage for while you’re gone.

Business investors discussing business matters sitting at table in office.

If you’re working on any time-sensitive projects, be sure to email a copy of your plan to your boss. Or better yet, take the initiative to schedule a coffee or breakfast meeting with them to sit down and go over your plan. Be prepared to address their top concern – namely, how will your absence impact this project – but then also be prepared with the answers to whatever next two questions naturally follow from that concern.

Three O’Clock Parade Entity 2: Your Back-up

The next person you need to prep is your back-up. Your back-up has his own job that he’s not going to just drop while you’re off having fun, so be clear about what you really need him to do. This can be done over a nice business lunch. Lay out all of the details on important projects, and provide access to the resources he’ll need in order to be prepared to act in your stead. Share that insider-level of information you’re keeping in your head so you’re not leaving him in the lurch.  Your back-up will appreciate it, and have everything he needs to respond to requests while you’re away.

Three O’Clock Parade Entity 3: Yourself

When you’re making sure you’ve taken care of what everyone else needs from you before you leave, don’t forget about what you can do to help yourself. Start by blocking off the last two hours the last day and the first two hours when you return for yourself. With those timeslots blocked, you’ve made time to deal with out of office reminders for email and voicemail, and can take care of any last-minute tasks that pop up.

Businesswoman typing corporate e-mail using laptop at office des

Set clear expectations about whether or not you’ll be reachable while you’re away, and, if you are reachable, by cell phone or email only? Under what circumstances? You might also leave a note on white board with your vacation dates, and send a team email or leave a printout of resources on your desk that you anticipate might curb those emergency “what’s our social media login” types of interruptions.

Create a new document on your computer, and dump all of your work worries, everything that’s on your mind, into it. Then shut it and leave it behind, knowing it’ll all be there when you get back.

And your last task: schedule a team lunch or happy hour for when you return so you can catch up, share stories, and recognize individuals for their work while you were gone.

 

How To Plan The Perfect Company Picnic

Gorgeous sunshine, oh how we’ve missed that warmth! Feeling it again on our faces has us thinking of field days and class parties and – lucky us – now that we’re all grown up, that nearest adult equivalent: the company picnic.

Like any party variety, your company picnic can be mildly enjoyable or it can be memorably, ecstatically amazing, depending on your MASTER PLAN. Yes, the whos, the whats, the hows, the ooh-yes-pleases and all of the other don’t-forget-about-these details all need to be accounted for in one great big company picnic master plan. Whether you’re already knee-deep in arranging this summer’s big shindig or haven’t even begun to think about it and are starting to feel a little panicked, allow us to offer some suggestions on putting together a killer Company Picnic Master Plan.

STEP 1

Answer this: what’s the purpose of your picnic? Believe us when we say that your response, when filtered through your company culture, can help you crush your party plan.

Company tradition, employee appreciation, morale boost, celebrating a milestone, and team-building are all great reasons to throw a party. But throwing some potato salad on a picnic table does not say big love from the C-Suite.

A picnic themed around the year the company started can speak to tradition. Hosting your event at a stadium party room and treating employees to a Major League Baseball game cheers on great teamwork. Renting out a luxury venue says this company is celebrating success with the people who helped make it happen. Don’t bypass this opportunity to make your event truly meaningful to your attendees.

Happy multiracial families round dancing at the beach on ring around the rosy style - Multicultural happiness joy concept with mixed race people having fun outdoor at sunset - Vintage backlight filter
Whether or not you invite kids will be a key factor in all activities and foods you plan for the picnic.

STEP 2

Set your limits. Your power to throw the ideal company picnic exists at the magical intersection of budget, attendees, and timing. Identifying these three constraints will help you sift down options into a perfectly optimized Master Plan.

  • Know your budget. Where’s the money coming from (if it’s not yours, buddy up with whoever you’ll need to have expense approval from), and of course, how much do you have to work with?
  • Know who’s invited. Is this event for employees only? Employees and families? What about contractors? If your purpose is team-building, an employees-only guest list is perfectly appropriate. You need to have a good estimate on the number – and a rough guess as to the age range and activity levels – of your guests from the start.
  • Know when you want to party. Host your company picnic during a workday and you’re sure to get strong employee participation, but be sure to clear the all-hands time away with your leadership team first. Host on the weekend and you’ll run into more scheduling conflicts, but you’ll also be sending a more family-friendly/inclusive message about your event. Have a meaningful date on which you absolutely must host your picnic? Recognize that your venue options may be more limited with a rigid target date, be flexible if you can, and if you run into too many issues, use this as motivation to start planning next year’s event further out.

STEP 3

Pick a theme. Themes give your event personality and help spark the details that tie your event together. Seriously – hit on a theme that blends your company culture with your party purpose and your picnic will become legend. Anything that engages your group’s enthusiasm, from music festivals to carnivals to superheroes, can be your inspiration. Some other examples …

Young woman playing baseball with cap glove and ball
If your company culture enjoys healthy competition, a sports theme would be perfect!
  • Sports. Ideal for companies whose employees are anywhere from somewhat to extremely athletic/active/competitive. Throw your event at a community park and organize tournaments for softball games, relay races, frisbee golf, volleyball, flag football, and so on – complete with team tee shirts and trophies (to back up at least a year’s worth of bragging rights). Decorate with custom team pennants and banners and serve ballpark favorites like hot dogs, French fries and caramel corn.
  • Just Cause. Ideal for companies whose employees are particularly focused on volunteering or environmental issues. Organize a group volunteer activity with a nonprofit group – something like a charity bike build-a-thon, planting a community garden, or holding a bagging session for a food bank. Use compostable flatware, plates and napkins with your meal. Decorate (yes, even if you’re holding your event in a park) with live plants that employees can take home after the event.
  • Reality TV. Say what you want about reality TV, but give employees the opportunity to “speak to the camera” and bust out their competitive skills, and see if you don’t discover hidden talents galore. The competitions with this theme are key – for survivalist and ninja warrior types, obstacle courses, scavenger hunts and challenges are awesome; or give in to the drama and have departments put together group skits, songs, or dance-off routines for the chance to be your company’s next top whatever.

STEP 4

Make the food count. With the other elements simmering nicely, we can now talk about our favorite part of the master plan: the food. Picnics totally revolve around food. Mess this up, and it will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. So, skip the bring-your-own-stuff-to-grill routine and save yourself major headaches. Trust the food to the chefs, restaurants and caterers who live to tantalize others’ taste buds. Talk with the restaurant’s event planner/catering manager. They can handle the food delivery and should be extremely knowledgeable about safe food handling and serving temperatures. Ask if they’re open to customizing the menu to fit your theme – and listen to them when they give you advice about quantities and what will and won’t work for your picnic location and logistics.

Beef burgers ready to serve on food stall.
Let Dinova help you find the best outdoor caterer for your company picnic!

Bonus: Not only can catering professionals deliver deliciousness to thrill your attendees, they typically are also extremely well connected. Ask for recommendations on service providers and rental companies they usually work with – for everything from sound systems and tents to tables and chairs and portable toilets – anything that might not be already available through the venue.

STEP 5

Brainstorm the extras – and go for it. Don’t forget about entertainment (again – go for something that ties into your theme, whether that means a live band, deejay, emcee, fireworks or even a special “celebrity” guest). Consider arranging transportation to and from the event – particularly if it’s in a difficult area to find parking at during the workweek (think buses, not cars). Give your event a hashtag, create a logo, and take tons of pictures and video clips before, during, and after to promote it on social media (both internal and external – company picnics are a great opportunity to show off your company culture!). Recruit influencers from different departments to help get everyone excited and involved – and help each employee feel a personal connection.

There’s a lot to do, but don’t let it grind you down. Remember, the whole point of this is to throw a celebration. So go forth and execute this choose-your-own-adventure party: plan it, tweak it, do it, own it – enjoy it!

 

Trade Show Survival: From Breakfast to Nightcap

It’s that time of the year again – the moment where that tiny point in your life in which you relished in a somewhat easygoing schedule has been ripped away from you. Being in the office on Monday by 9 a.m. has now been replaced with getting to the airport by 5 a.m., and a quiet lunch at your desk is replaced with swallowing a granola bar while you’re running from one booth to another.

That’s right, business travelers – it’s trade show time. While trade show season can be a brilliant season for establishing long term connections, it’s also excruciatingly tiring and, if you’re not careful, can ruin any healthy eating habits you’ve acquired in the beginning of the year. But we can help you make your time from early morning to late evening as flavorful as possible with just a few adjustments to your usual trade show schedule. So, grab your forks and dig into our tips for trade show survival from breakfast to nightcap.

Top view female fashion accessories on pink flat lay

First, we prep. Before we think about the morning of the trade show, let’s discuss what you should bring to your trip – and what should be left at home.

Things not to pack: Wow, those new heels are super cute. Now put them back in the closet. The last thing you’ll want to worry about as you network from one booth to another is how much your feet hurt. Keep tight-fitting designer clothes at home, too – it’s about function more than fashion in this environment. It also isn’t prudent to bring makeup that’s hard to apply. You won’t have 10 minutes to touch up your matte red liquid lip stain in the afternoon after a cup of coffee. For the men out there, keep those three piece suits at home. Not only are they uncomfortable in a busy setting, but a nice pair of slacks and button down with a blazer will do.

Things to pack: We are a big fan of the black belt and navy pants combination for men – if you’re concerned with matching your clothes, this is always a way to go. Bring shoes that are presentable but easy to walk in for eight hours at a time and business attire that is breathable and wrinkle resistant. Be prepared for extreme indoor weather changes as well – you’ll be sweating up a storm on the trade show floor and if you’re seated for a conference presentation, you’ll feel like you’re in the arctic tundra. Other essentials that we’ve always found important include band-aids, safety pins, ear plugs and hand sanitizer.

Now that we’ve covered some packing essentials, let’s dig into the basics to get you through a day of booth hopping.

Businessmen Meeting Over Breakfast In Hotel Restaurant

Breakfast time. The absolute worst thing you can do is skip breakfast the morning of a trade show, especially if you are working in one of the booths. Allot 30 minutes for a nice sit-down meal of nutritious essentials including fruits, oatmeal and proteins. Utilize the complimentary buffet at your hotel to your advantage for the whole day; prepare for the moments that you’ll feel like you’re crashing in the early and late afternoon hours and stock up on nutritional bars, almonds and a healthy muffin.

On the Floor. Your time on the trade show floor is the whole reason why you’ve made the trip, so it’s important to keep yourself fueled and energized during these prime hours. Would you go for a walk on a hiking trail for over five hours without a bottle of water? Didn’t think so. The same rule applies for a trade show – always keep a refillable bottle of water with you. Don’t rely on a complimentary water station; if you’re working at a booth, you won’t have time to visit, and if you’re roaming the room, you won’t want to lose your spot. Staying hydrated throughout the day will relax your muscles and joints and your brain will function better. Snacks are also important while you’re on the trade show floor. Remember that muffin you stashed? This will come in handy especially at 2 p.m. when you’re feeling the crash hit you, and fueling yourself with free candies from the booths will leave you feeling empty and dehydrated.

Lunchtime. During a trade show it’s more than likely that you’ll be eating in the hotel venue or convention center for lunch. Make the most out of the situation to network with prospective new clients and establish connections. When you’re choosing your foods, stick to simple and fresh fare that’s easy to eat while you chat up the people near you. Most importantly, don’t forget the business cards!

Group Of Female Friends Enjoying Meal In Restaurant

At Dinner. You’ve been trapped at the trade show all day and your dinner plans will probably involve mingling with co-workers or wining and dining clients. Under no circumstances should you default to the restaurant right there in the venue – the last thing one will want to eat is what they perceive to be more hotel food! Unless you are already familiar with your guests’ dining preferences, choose a nearby restaurant that offers fare appealing to a wide audience, such as a hip metrotainment diner. For a smaller group, you can make a great impression by seeking out a local gem! If you’re booking a cocktail hour and dinner together with multiple parties, keep both events in the same location so that it’s easy for your guests to locate. Be sure to make your reservation in advance as well – nearby restaurants fill up fast during big trade show events! You can use Dinova’s web search and app to find the most flavorful cuisines near you and book with ease.

Nighttime. It’s almost the end of the day and you’re exhausted. If you’re mingling late at night, keep it to only one or two drinks, even if it’s an open bar. Everyone has a story of that one executive on that one trip who had to be escorted into the Uber by a bouncer, and you don’t want to be that person. Stay hydrated during this time too for a better night’s sleep. Finally, don’t be afraid to call it a night earlier than others. You don’t have to close down the bar to make a good impression, and you don’t want to be too tired when you catch a flight tomorrow or hit the floor running all over again.

Do you have any trade show survival tips that we may not have covered? Mention them in the comments below, and we can’t wait to see you at your next booth!

Spoons Up! January is National Soup Month.

Sitting sweater-bound at our desks, chilly fingers hovering greedily over the meager steam that dissipates too quickly from our coffee, it is easy to grouse and despair over the great yawn of time between now and the lovely sunniness of June. Don’t do it! Resist, we say, or risk missing out on a most pleasurable pairing of gastronomical and meteorological alchemy – because January is National Soup Month.

Young woman eat traditional turkish food from lentil soup

Yes, while most of the United States is (un)usually dang cold, some smart cookie knew what they were doing when they turned the focus for this page in our culinary calendar to soup. From rich and creamy bisques to hearty chilis, toothsome chowders and fortifying bone broths, the enticing range of options is – forgive us – very much chicken soup to our souls.

Apparently, we’re not the only ones who feel this way. According to research published in Technomic’s 2016 Left Side of the Menu: Soup and Salad Trend Report, soup consumption at restaurants is on the rise, both as an entrée (as opposed to a lower profile side dish) and has surpassed salads as the preferred appetizer selection at LSRs (limited service restaurants).

And why not? There’s seemingly never been a time when soup wasn’t on the menu – the history of food is filled to the brim with evidence of soup, with anthropologists excavating waterproof cooking pottery that dates as far back as 20,000 BC. Bonus fun foodie fact for the day: the word restaurant (originally meaning “food that restores”) surfaced in France in the 18th century as a reference to a Parisian shop that sold rich, meat-based consommés made to “restore” a person’s health.

Soups can be decadent with cream and cheese, or low in fat and swimming in vegetables, but they can also be some of the most flavor-filled options on the menu. From Puerto Rican asopao to Polish żurek, soups are a culture-crossing common tie, reflecting the spice combinations of their origins and making them an accessible way for today’s adventurous diners to sip from the bowl of another’s heritage.

So soups are definitely trending – whether marketed as “stocktails” or broth-based beverages or being whipped up at home in an Instant Pot-fueled cooking frenzy – and to all that we say, hooray. Good for us all. Go enjoy a bowl today and tomorrow and the day after that, too.

fire roasted tomato
One of our favorite soups from Newk’s Eatery is their Fire Roasted Tomato Soup.                     Mmm, looking good!

If you happen to be in the South or East, allow us to suggest giving Newk’s Eatery’s soups a try. One of the newest additions to the Dinova business dining marketplace, Newk’s Eatery offers a wide variety of food options including grilled and tossed salads, grilled and toasted sandwiches, kettle-batch soups and handcrafted pizzas. Their soup selection ranges from the tried-and-true menu items such as Broccoli & Cheese to unique southern flavors such as Mississippi Black-Eyed Pea Soup. Whether you’re dining out with a group of clients or ordering in for a lunch meeting, a bowl full of soup from Newk’s Eatery will surely add zest to your palate.

To find a Newk’s Eatery near you and see other restaurants within our Dinova Marketplace, visit our database search and download our app. Keep your spoons up for the rest of the month – and all winter long!