Hurricane doesn’t deter Polo Grill and Bar from catering to City of Sarasota

Photo courtesy of the Sarasota Police Department

Photo courtesy of the Sarasota Police Department

After a number of close calls and near misses, Tommy and Jaymie Klauber knew it was only a matter of time before the call came in.

For the past 10 summers, the Klaubers, who own Polo Grill and Bar and Fête Catering, have prepared for the worst possible outcome while always hoping for the best case scenario. And this year’s hurricane season has proved no different.

Three months into one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, as Hurricane Irma barreled toward Florida, the husband-and-wife team received the one call they had been anticipating all week.

In the early evening hours of Saturday, Sept. 9, the City of Sarasota called the Klaubers and informed them they would need emergency catering services for 400 people beginning with lunch on Sept. 11.

“This was the biggest emergency we have come across,” says Jaymie.

The following morning, as tropical storm force winds were already impacting the Sunshine State, Tommy went to the Polo Grill and Bar and began preparing food until 4 p.m. that evening.

“It was just a little breezy,” says Tommy.

At 5 a.m. on Monday, after Hurricane Irma skirted through Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, Tommy returned to the Polo Grill and Bar to make the final preparations for that day’s meals before heading down to the Sarasota Police Department.

For the next four days, the Polo Grill and Bar and Fête Catering would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to first responders, emergency relief workers and officials for the City of Sarasota.

Originally, the City of Sarasota wanted the Klaubers to cook the food at the restaurant, which thankfully didn’t lose power. However, since the chefs are so used to cooking on site, Fête Catering set up a kitchen right outside the police department.

“We made it happen under difficult and challenging circumstances,” says Tommy.

After having spent the past two days prior to Fête Catering’s arrival only eating MRE meals, the first responders and emergency relief workers couldn’t thank the Klaubers and their team enough.

“THANK YOU,” the Sarasota Police Department wrote on Facebook. “We’re so grateful for the teams at Polo Grill and Bar and Fête Catering & Ballroom who are feeding our officers, civilians and City of Sarasota employees who continue to work post Hurricane Irma!”

Photo courtesy of the Sarasota Police Department

Photo courtesy of the Sarasota Police Department

City of Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw also made it a point to publicly thank Polo Grill and Bar and Fête Catering while stopping by the police department.

With plenty of advance notice that Hurricane Irma was headed toward Florida, the Klaubers had their catering truck gassed up and ready to go well before the call came in.

“For this one, everyone was prepared early,” says Jaymie. “Sometimes we kind of take it for granted.”

While every member of the team was given the option, about 10 members of the Klaubers’ staff, including four chefs, pitched in to make sure the Polo Grill and Bar and Fête Catering’s emergency catering services were a success.

“I thought those guys were die hard,” says Jaymie. “I have to give a lot of credit to our staff. They wanted to step up and help. It was a nerve-wracking time because you have to forget your own house, your children and your own worries and come to work for someone else.”

“Like Tommy said, it was sometimes challenging because you have one foot out the door to get home, but at the same time it was kind of exciting and gratifying,” says Jaymie.

While emergency-catering services is one of the more under the radar sides of Tommy and Jaymie’s business, Polo Grill and Bar has had a disaster catering contract with the City of Sarasota since 2007.

So how does a restaurant prepare for something of this magnitude?

That’s where detailed planning and expertise come into play. The Klaubers have everything in place well before the start of hurricane season, which began June 1.

“It’s serious stuff,” says Tommy. “We have very detailed descriptions of everything that we do from a safety standpoint – from the menus to everything that it takes to execute something like that.”

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