Goals are Accurate Meal Count, Reduced Overcrowding
While there will be no cost to do so, beginning in March it will be necessary to register in advance to attend the Franco Center’s monthly La Rencontre luncheons.
The move comes after patrons attending February’s La Rencontre voted overwhelmingly for this change when presented with three choices between (A) mandatory pre-registration, (B) buying printed tickets in advance at the box office each month, or (C) raising the ticket price from $7 to $8 to decrease demand.
Those who arrive without having first secured a place won’t necessarily be turned away — at least not immediately — but they will have to wait outside the dining hall until those who have registered have been seated.
This necessary change will serve the dual purpose of allowing the Franco Center staff to better estimate the amount of meals that need to be prepared and preventing the occasional overcrowding that can result from a particularly popular entertainer and/or an especially bountiful meal.
“In the past, we’ve tried to get an approximate head count by having a volunteer call our list of regular patrons and getting a rough estimate, but sometimes people wait to see how the weather is going to be and then decide at the last minute to attend,” says Louis Morin, the Franco Center’s executive director.
“That simply cannot happen anymore, both for the safety and enjoyment of those who took the time to let us know they are coming, and in fairness to our staff who need to know three days in advance how many people they need to feed,” he said.
“What we’re trying to avoid,” Morin added, “is a situation where we think 260 people are coming but 300 or more show up.”
Morin says that in the past, Franco Center staff would simply find room for everyone by adding more tables and maybe add an extra setting at each table. But he says that’s unfair to people who took the time to secure a space as well as the 20 or so volunteers who work the event, who must wait until everyone else has eaten before they get their meals.
“We’re not trying to be draconian about this, but when we’re full, we’re full,” Morin says, “and I am confident that our regular patrons will understand that.”
This new requirement will be put to the test on Friday, March 8 (which is the second Friday of the month instead of the usual first Friday). On the menu will be lasagna donated by DaVinci’s — cheese and spinach only, out of respect for observers of Lent — and the entertainment will be provided by about 80 young students from L’École Française du Maine in Freeport, who will be performing their adaptation of the French musical “Émilie Jolie.”