Meet the Christmas Party Team: Sam and Sophie

There are now just four weeks until the Cooper Associates County Ground hosts its first Christmas party of the year.

With this in mind we thought we would introduce you to the people who will be making sure that you enjoy a perfect party experience.

Over the course of eight nights Somerset County Cricket Club’s Catering Department will be hosting around 4000 party-goers across three separate venues within the ground.

The sheer scale of the operation demands meticulous planning and a high quality team and that is where Sam Safe and Sophie Cridland come to the fore.

Catering General Manager Sam and her Deputy Sophie are responsible for the delivery of every Christmas party and as they explain, success is down to the whole team each night:

Sam: “We have around 50 staff on site each evening and we can’t deliver a successful night without them. They really are fantastic and they do a superb job. Everyone plays a massive part, from the Event Managers down to the pot washers. A lot of planning goes in to every night and Sophie deals with all the staffing and does a great job ensuring that all staff are in place.”

Sophie: “It’s so important to know that you’ve got a team that you can trust. Every room is split into sections and it’s vital that every section has a strong leader and a solid team beneath them. We are really lucky to have such a great team here from top to bottom. We have to work really closely with Sales Team in the Commercial Department because they are the ones who take all the bookings throughout the year. We have to make sure that we deliver on the promises that have been made and that we meet people’s expectations.

What can people expect from a Christmas Party Night at the Cooper Associates County Ground?

Sam: “Doors open at 7pm each night but people will begin arriving from 6:30. Everyone receives a pre-dinner drink on arrival and then it’s straight in to a three-course dinner which is turned around in an hour and a half. People are keen to dance and party the night away so the meal is finished quite quickly. There is also a cheese table and coffee for those who want it once the meal is finished. Then it’s time for the all-important disco!

“There will be traditional food such as turkey and Christmas pudding along with a cocktail bar and this year there will be a winter wonderland theme.

“It’s slightly different in the 1875 Club because we are hosting black tie events in there with casino tables, canapes on arrival and a four course dinner.”

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Do you prepare the same way for each party night?

Sophie: “Every night is different. There are different numbers each evening so it’s not a case of simply leaving the tables in and working around them. Every night we have to change the layout of the room and the number of tables. No two nights are the same. We might have 28 tables of 10 one night and 23 tables of 12 the next. You need to make sure that each customer has enough room and that the waiting staff can get to each table easily. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle every night but we know exactly what we need to do because a huge amount of planning goes in to it.”

How long does it take to decorate the rooms?

Sam: “During the last week of November we will take two whole days to turn the venues in to a winter wonderland! We will get some of our staff in to help transform the rooms alongside Karen and her team from Essential Events. From a team building perspective it’s nice to get the staff in to help with the trees and things like that. We usually order a pizza too and make a night of it.”

I understand that an old favourite will be returning this year.

Sam: “In previous years we have raced mechanical pigs during the evening in order to raise money for a nominated charity but last year we tried something new. However, so many people asked us where the pigs were we might have to bring it back for 2017!”

How do you feel when it’s all over?

Sophie: “Although it’s our busiest time of year and it can be really hard work, there is a real sense of accomplishment at the end of each night because you have been responsible for 500 people having a great time. We want everyone to be able to leave here at the end of the night saying what a good time they’ve had.”

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