The kinda-semi-formal do last weekend was a set menu served at the table, rather than a buffet. When I bought my ticket I had ordered a vegetarian meal. The women's soccer club has more than the average number of vegetarians, so this is nothing unusual.
I was on the last table served. I had already mentioned that I was a vegetarian when the entree came around. Every second entree was vege spring rolls, anyway, so that wasn't a problem. Of course, there were several waitstaff, so telling one person didn't mean I would automatically be presented with my vegetarian main course. When they started bringing those around I asked again. A minute later, a plate was placed in front of me. Within one second, another waiter whisked that plate away, saying, no, that's not for her, and placed another down. It looked the same as the chicken filos that others were eating. In the brief time we had to inspect the one that was whisked away, the consensus was that it had looked similar, but with huge serves of vegetables, and a different sauce - which thanks to another vegetarian at our table, we concluded was a sign of the non-meat version.
Knowing what I would find, I cut into the filo. Chicken, of course.
By the time I got the waitress' attention and it was taken away, they had obviously run out of vegetarian meals. After about twenty minutes, this hugely heaped up plate appeared. It was obvious they had gotten all the leftover side vegies, mixed them with some rice, and added some kind of sweetish tomato sauce. It was like something I might throw together in desperation after finishing soccer training late. You could possibly pull this kind of thing off with a decent sauce. This one actually tasted much like Heinz tomato sauce. Even the promise of tequila shots if I cleaned the plate could not induce me to make much of a dent in it.
This isn't a great photo but you can get a sense of the overall size of the serving. And see how large those vegetable pieces are?
I should add that later, the waitress I had originally spoken to about a vege meal apologised for the mixup. That was nice of her, but she wasn't the one who overruled the decision to give me a vege meal.
This has happened to me before. It was a lunch as part of a conference at a winery. The restaurant was supposed to be pretty exclusive. This time, too, mine was the last table to be served. Predictably, they had run out of vegetarian meals, even though I had pre-ordered. There was a really long wait. I observed the lovely roast potatoes and stir-fried mushrooms that the others were enjoying with their steaks. I thought even if I just got the vegies that would be ok. I waited some more. Finally, long after everyone at table had finished eating, I was presented with a plate containing a bunch of steamed asparagus, with a slightly congealed hollandaise sauce poured over the top! I had to scrape most of the sauce off. That might have been something from their entree menu, certainly it wasn't a main. I guess fancy restaurants wouldn't dream of keeping a frozen quiche just in case. But couldn't I at least have filled up on some potatoes? I don't expect caterers to have much extra or be able to invent something new on the spot. But I do think a restaurant should be able to come up with something.
I've given some thought to a solution. I don't know if its ideal but it would have to be better. For this kind of do you are always asked to request special meals when you buy your ticket. So when you arrive and present your ticket, you could be given a small place-card for your table, so even if you're out of place when the food starts arriving, the staff know where the (pre-ordered) special requests should go. Those who forgot to order ahead or who just don't like the look of the meat options would have to make do with what's left over.