This weekend, we hosted an abbreviated version of the last meal served to first class passengers on the RMS Titanic
the night the ship hit an iceberg and subsequently sank 100 years ago. Only immediate family were invited; dress was formal.
Menu planning began a couple weeks earlier, followed by several shopping trips for necessary ingredients, appropriate wines, supplemental glassware, flowers, and other accessories (including music). Actual meal preparation was spread over three days. Dishes needed to be cleaned, tableclothes ironed, and places set and readied.
Guests arrived at the generally appointed time, dinner began around 6 p.m., and we continued on through course after course. After more than three hours of dining, we gave in and combined the final desert courses.
In the 100 years since the Titanic sank, the event has been scrutinized from many angles. It has become a metaphor for hubris, social inequality, and the collapse of mortgage markets. Many analogies are valid and many have been repeated, restated, and revisited, though still worth pondering. (An Internet search will provide an abundance of Titanic-related reading material.)
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Our approximation of a dinner on the Titanic helped personalize and added relevance to all the 100th anniversary coverage and analyses. It was revealing in several ways. One was simpy the abundance and excesses enjoyed by passengers on the Titanic, and presumably by the well-to-do in daily life.
Another marvel was the logistics of feeding passengers (and crew) on Titanic. Can you imagine the planning, preparation, scheduling, coordination, and staffing required to choreograph each meal, and to make sure you provided a quality product that satisfied or exceeded the expectations of your customers?
Customer service was a key selling point of the new ocean liner. Like first class passengers on the Titanic, your customers expect good service, and they might not appreciate or be aware of how much effort goes into providing that service and making sure everything stays on schedule. They will, however, notice deficiencies in service and product defects. It’s one of many lessons from Titanic worth heeding.