WALLINGFORD — For many, the countdown to 2019 began in the waning hours of 2018, as they prepared for their holiday parties to welcome in the new year. For the staff at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, the preparation began three days before the clock struck midnight on 2018.
The employees of Zandri’s at 1074 South Colony Road began to prepare for the Inn’s annual New Year’s gala on Saturday morning, worked all day Sunday, and were back to work early on Monday to have the place looking pristine for its 40th annual gala on Monday night, to help roughly 300 guests celebrate the new year.
“It’s a lot of work for one event,” said Zandri’s owner Jim Zandri. “There’s a lot of sacrifice by the staff.”
The kitchen staff began preparing food on Saturday, while the entire staff of roughly 25 employees had been hard at work since Sunday. Preparations included putting together appetizer plates, setting up buffet tables and decorating over 25 tables with silverware and complimentary mugs that commemorate the event’s 40th anniversary.
“It’s very busy,” said Sophie Marshall, who has been a part of the Zandri’s staff for all 40 years of the gala’s existence. “But it’s a family atmosphere. Everyone that comes asks each other if they’re going to come again the next year, and you get to know people from all over. It makes it like a family.”
Of course, there are sacrifices by the staff, who forego time with family on the holidays to work the gala. Instead of gathering around a family table for dinner, the serving staff gathers around a prep table in the kitchen at Zandri’s, putting together appetitzer plates while the kitchen staff prepare lobster tails, steaks and hors d'oeuvres. It’s a long to-do list at a time where many would like to be at parties of their own, but for the staff, it comes with the territory of their business.
“Some people don’t want to work it, but it’s mandatory,” Marshall said of the holiday schedule. “But Jim is a great boss to work for. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have stayed for 40 years.”
Zandri does his best to lighten the load on his staff. After the food is served and the clock draws closer to midnight, the number of staff on the clock dwindles down to a handful. Usually, a small group of volunteers will offer to stay through to the end. The party used to last until 3 a.m., but it has since been shortened to 1 a.m. Cleanup is saved for the following morning, when a separate crew comes in at 8 a.m.
Still, there’s little time to rest and recover, as Wednesday morning begins preparation for a 400 person private party scheduled for Saturday morning.
“The staff that works here gives up a lot,” Zandri said. “It’s a big sacrifice, but we appreciate what they do to help out. We couldn’t do it without them.”
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