Some Local Businesses Face Tough Obstacles Before Cashing In At RNC

Marigold Catering owner Mike Smith at the company's Cleveland headquarters. [photo: Matt Richmond/ideastream]
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Things are pretty relaxed at Marigold Catering on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. There are four employees preparing sandwiches and fried chicken. A few others are loading a truck in front of the company’s Lakeside Avenue offices. But come convention time, that’ll change. Marigold is one of the official caterers working inside Quicken Loans Arena during the Republicn National Convention.

“We are anticipating doing anywhere from 20 to 30 events a day for anywhere between 3 to 5000 people a day," says the company's owner, Mike Smith. “Our busiest Saturday we've ever done, we did 7000 people and it was one giant p arty, which is easier to execute than 20 small parties.” 

Serving that many people, over that many days, at an event this big, brings up a whole series of challenges, says Smith. They’re going to need more staff, for one thing. Caterers from Tampa Bay, Miami, Memphis, Louisville and Phoenix will all be coming to Cleveland to help out, says Smith. And they’ll have to work around the clock, or pretty close to it, to keep people fed in the Q.

And that’s not all. The Q’s kitchens are set up for concessions, not high-end food. So Smith will rent better equipment. They’re lining up housing for all the caterers coming to town. He’s had to cut back his menu because of the amount of food he’ll be serving every day. Most of it has to be in the Q on Saturday before the convention starts, to allow time for a final security check. From then on they have to limit their deliveries to the arena.

The giant food service company, Aramark, usually runs food service in the Q. But Smith says they probably won’t deal with all these headaches.

“And they just show up with a bunch of bottles of Jack Daniels and Stoli and make all the money."

And the companies moving all these conventioneers around? They’re also getting ready.

Mary Jo Mazzarella is a sales manager at American Limousine Service, on the near west side. They’ve been getting more bookings than they have cars available.

“I think every vehicle in this city will be utilized. I’m sure the Euclid Beach Rocket vehicle is rented. Probably the Oscar Meyer Weiner vehicle is coming to take someone around I’m sure," says Mazzarella.

They’ve called in cars from partner companies in Pittsburgh and Detroit and Columbus. And American Limo has already started looking for new drivers, wanting to hire them early to make sure they work out before they start driving around delegates.

“Every Saturday this table is filled with chauffeurs training prior to the convention to ramp up our staff," says Mazzarella.

And then, once they get those cars and drivers out on the road during the RNC, figuring out the best way to get around will be a challenge. Mazzarella says they’ll also have to deal with changes in security restrictions, temporary road closures, sudden traffic jams, lineups waiting for valets at hotels, trips to the airport, making sure the client can find the car in a sea of black town cars.

“It’s gonna be a challenge. It's like the racetrack - every 19 minutes this places is going to go wild. And I hope it's19 and not every three...”

But that’s just the way it is in the transportation business says Mazzarella and she says the city deserves this kind of excitement.

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