A behind-the-scenes look at Temple Square Hospitality's preparation for general conference

Published: Wednesday, April 3 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

A lot of time and effort goes into preparation for general conference, both from the standpoint of church leaders and that of Temple Square Hospitality, which manages the ins and outs of visitor experience on Temple Square, most notably in the operation of three restaurants and a cafe.

Those dining venues, including the Nauvoo Cafe, the Lion House Pantry Restaurant, the Garden Restaurant and the Roof Restaurant, are busy with their own special set of preparations for the influx of visitors guaranteed with general conference.

While visitors take part in the happy, efficient atmosphere of the dining experience, what they may not see is the behind-the-scenes efforts of the restaurants, where potatoes are peeled, thousands of rolls baked, and hours and days of effort and manpower make a smooth operation possible, particularly at conference time.

But what exactly goes into Temple Square Hospitality’s preparation for general conference? According to Spence Herzog, vice president of operations for Temple Square Hospitality, quite a lot.

“We have specialty orders, we make 500 box lunches, we set up point-of-sale locations and we bring in some stanchions,” Herzog said.

Temple Square Hospitality also increases its restaurant inventories, extends its dining hours, has elevator repair folks on standby and brings in extra staff to assist visitors in a shorter period of time.

“For conference, we want to look good,” Herzog said. “The world looks at us. We have people from everywhere that come to us.”

The Nauvoo Cafe

The Nauvoo Cafe serves everything from pot pies to club sandwiches and French toast and offers a view of Main Street Plaza and Temple Square.

On an average day, the cafe serves upward of 500 people, but on general conference Saturday the number of customers can top 1,300. “The most I’ve ever done is 1,425 guests, and we’re always trying to break that record,” said Katelyn Fullmer, front end manager of the Nauvoo Cafe.

With extended hours, the cafe serves a hot breakfast on conference Saturday from 7-10:45 a.m. It also sets up extra rooms full of tables, orders larger food and beverage inventories, and brings in extra staff. On an average day, the staff consists of approximately 12 employees, whereas on conference Saturday that number nearly triples to 30.

Its normal hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday but are extended to 7 a.m.-10 p.m. on conference Saturday, making it a 15-hour day for customers and a 19-hour day for employees, who arrive as early as 5 a.m.

Preparation starts two weeks in advance when the café coordinates with two different bakeries within the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for orders of desserts, rolls and other commodities, Fullmer said.

“The amount of desserts we make is probably three times more than normal,” Fullmer said.

The staff also coordinates less obvious aspects, such as obtaining additional garbage cans and trash bags and making upward of 300 pot pies the day before. But these are only a few of the items on Fullmer’s checklist.

One major addition to the cafe’s operations is the setup of a separate room for purchasing box lunches. They are prepared especially for conference Saturday and offer visitors a quicker dining option.

“It’s an exciting time and definitely takes a lot of preparation,” Fullmer said.

The Lion House Pantry Restaurant

Tucked into one side of Brigham Young’s historic residence, the Pantry offers home-style fare, including the popular Lion House rolls.

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