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Hospitality: Tips on Tents

Hospitality: Tips on Tents

In his latest Hospitality column, Professor of Service Ian Maksik shares advice on planning events under canvas.


As an event planner who’s been responsible for nearly 20,000 weddings and thousands of social and corporate events, I’ve always been “at-tent-ive,” spending at least half my life under canvas.

With an average of 278 sunny days per year, outdoor ceremonies and receptions are an entertainment mainstay in Albuquerque and New Mexico. Any event becomes weatherproof with the comfort and security of a tent. Guests’ time under canvas can be a memorable experience with the feel of occupying a high-society canvas mansion.

Here are some tips on tenting a glorious, glamorous occasion. Freestanding, rigid-framed and “fiesta tents” offer raised or clear sides and boast windows or French doors.

Tent flooring may simply be grass, sand, asphalt or concrete; at the other end of the spectrum, roll-up or wood square tiled flooring can be entirely inlaid. Floors may be covered in indoor-outdoor faux-grass or lush carpet in an array of colors. It all depends on your budget.

In choosing tent size, allow for 15 square feet per person, plus another 10 to 20 percent of the space for dance floor and aisle space. Kitchen and entertainment tents can be added as required. If the main tent isn’t located near proper facilities, you’ll need port-o-johns.

The larger a table’s diameter, the less space that’s available for seating. A 72-inch diameter round table (requiring an 11 by 11-foot square of space) seats 12 but it can judiciously accommodate 13. A 60-inch round table (requiring a 10-foot by 10-foot square of space) seats 10 but 11 can squeeze in. Think of all the space lost at the center of these tables.

When guests’ knees almost touch under a small table with a single pedestal base, almost no space is lost. The smaller the table’s diameter, the greater the seating capacity. Castles of old featured long, rectangular tables known as banquettes. Maximize a “Hollywood” event look by placing 8-foot by 30-inch banquet tables in a long line with runners down the middle. Double the width, and seat bride and groom at the end.

On being impressed by a local tent company: I’m an Albuquerque newbie. As a transplanted New Yorker who’s used to over a hundred local rental companies, I figured I’d seen it all. Here in the Duke City, I had occasion to witness a corporate fiesta catered by Garcia’s Kitchen and supplied by Steven Garcia’s AA Events and Tents. I was impressed.

Working on a column on OP (off-premises) catering, I asked Garcia for a chance to follow this event from the initial call to clean-up. AA staff were efficient and hospitable from the site evaluation to final billing. Garcia’s service with a smile was “serve-sationally” perfect. At the AA Event & Tent headquarters, it’s like a very tidy city within a city.

The procedures and space reserved for cleaning and folding tents are both spotless and high-tech. AA warehouse items are instantly locatable on labeled shelves. The business has one of the largest collections of high-end linen I’ve ever seen. This is no small-town operation. Garcia reports that they do over 1000 tent and equipment rentals per year, and now I know why.

Ian Maksik is a Cornell Hotel School graduate and a former Hilton general manager and catering editor for New York magazine CUE. Known as “America’s Service Guru,” Maksik has keynoted, lectured and trained owners, management and staff of hospitality facilities in 21 countries and at notable industry conferences. Contact him at ian@usawaiter.com or (954) 804-5413.


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