Friday, June 15, 2012

Discussion Points

Think on these:

1. Catering is a tough business that is made up of a whole bunch of small decisions that have huge impact on your overall success

2. Managers need to spend as much time thinking about their staff as they do thinking about their clients.              

3. One can tell a lot about a catering company by viewing the number and types of books available for the staff to use.

4. Offer three menu choices to your shoppers to create a high, middle, and low priced solutions for their event.  Think of them as the Gold, Silver and Copper packages.

5. You should add in a Degree of Difficulty amount to your price for certain types of events where the location is not user-friendly to your food or staff.

6. It’s wise to have a letter of reference from your bank to include with your bid.

7.  The best salespeople never think they “lost” a sale.  Instead, they believe that they “missed” the sale either by their own inaction or improper action taken during the sales relationship.

My newest clinics – Sales, Marketing & Management!
Take any one day, two days or all three!

Ft. Lauderdale – July 16, 17 & 18
New York City – July 23, 24 & 25
Irvine – August 6, 7 & 8
DC area – August 13, 14 & 15
Boston – August 27, 28 & 29
Seattle – September 10, 11, & 12
Chicago – September 17, 18 & 19

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Article: Winning The "Cater-Stress" Battle - by Carl Jones

Cater-stress is the anxiety felt by a caterer who is overwhelmed by the demands of owning and operating a catering business.  Not all stress is bad.  To some people it is like a drug or a rush they need to have a fulfilling life. Stress can have cumulative effect, especially when adding on the stresses of life, traumatic events, loss of loved ones and financial crisis.

Most cater-stress can be avoided once we understand the causes and take the necessary steps to eliminate it. While some caterers believe they are a part of a stressful business, it does not have to be as stressful as we allow it to be.  Many people learn how to channel the body's reaction to mental and physical stress.

Mental stress is caused by fear.  Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown, but is usually the repetition of the same problems over and over.  A caterer has a tough day due to several key items forgotten; or late leaving the kitchen for an event, or running out of food.  Yet, they don't correct the real problem and continue to repeat the same mistakes.

The solution is being proactive by doing things to prevent unnecessary stress. Most stress in business comes from lack of organization.  Getting organized is a skill that must become a lifestyle.  Until the business owner learns the skills of being organized, they will continue in a lifestyle of stress and anxiety.

Here are the basics of being organized:
Maintain a daily to do list.
Use checklists for each event.
Write out a game plan for each event.
Delegate anything you have trained someone else to handle.
Train someone to do daily tasks and delegate.
Write down the procedures of "how we do things here" for every task from buffet set up to trimming a tenderloin."
Train, evaluate, test and reward employees to bring out their best.
Consider hiring someone to help get this done much faster; such as a consultant who specializes in systems and operations.

Remember, your health is vital to the continuance of your life. Mental stress is detrimental to your emotional and physical health.  Learn how to relax, eat well, take time to meditate or breath deeply. Exercise has been proven to lower stress and  improve health; we all know this.  The key is making this a priority and following through.

Catering is not easy work, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Your business does not have to be stressful to the point of damaging your health. Make it a priority to get organized. 

Carl Jones

Carl Jones is renowned food artist - ( a result of adding a stress relieving hobby); he is mentor and consultant to restaurants, caterers and corporate leaders.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guest Article: Swinging For the Fences – Part 2 - Jon Wool, Finesse Cuisine

At the start of the MLB season, we looked at the parallels (Swinging For The Fences Pt. 1) between the roles and responsibilities of baseball team owners and those of catering company owners. We are a third of the way into the season and, for some teams, careful preparation has paved the way for exceeded expectations.  On the other hand, some of the teams who had high hopes during the preseason are struggling just to play .500 ball. Is it because of the chilly weather of April? Injuries? Poor recruitment decisions? Bad coaching? The classic case of unexplained slumps by otherwise dependable stars?  There could be any number of factors contributing to a team’s poor performance, but now is the time for managers and coaches to assess their team’s status and, if necessary, make significant changes.

Department managers of catering companies are similar in many ways to baseball managers and coaches.  (Of course, sometimes the department manager is the owner.  Sometimes, as Mike Roman says (Roman's Opinion), the catering owner/manager is also: dishwasher, driver, chef, furniture mover, plumber, psychiatrist, and more!)

Both baseball managers and catering company managers must:
·      Evaluate and hire the best players.  The talent pool is wide and deep; it is up to managers to recruit those who will make the best team.
·      Manage an eclectic group with varying competencies and experience.  A locker room, like a sales office, kitchen or staffing office, holds a lot of different personalities and skill sets.  Good managers know how to set a tone that fosters teamwork and encourages big wins.
·      Drill players continuously on the sport’s fundamentals.  Just because we’ve reached the big leagues, it doesn’t mean we can skip batting practice.  Catering managers must make sure salespeople are strengthening their negotiating techniques, cooks are fine-tuning their knife skills, and servers are refining their hospitality skills.
·      Eliminate those who don’t produce or who cannot blend with the program. Sometimes, regardless of how well-liked or seemingly talented a player is, they just don’t blend with the team.  It falls to managers and coaches to cut these people so they can take their talents somewhere they can be more successful.

·   Be ruthless when examining systems. Be willing to throw out the old and bring in the new.  “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is one of the worst things a manager or coach can say.  Instead, do what needs to be done to win, even if it’s new or unfamiliar.

Two months into the baseball season, managers and coaches should re-evaluate what is working on their teams and what needs tweaking.  Thankfully for caterers, our season goes long past October and it’s never too late for our department managers to emulate the successful techniques of World Series-winning coaches.

Next at bat: The Players
You can reach Jon Wool at

Monday, June 11, 2012

Don’t Book Just For Cash Flow

The single hardest thing for a caterer to do is to say “no” to an order, especially during the first years as a caterer. I believe you aren’t really a professional caterer if you accept any and all orders. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals don’t take every client that comes their way.
Beginning caterers often feel it is great to take all orders no matter what their profit profile, just to keep the staff busy and gain experience. When food prices and fuel are increasing dramatically, only orders that return proper profitability should be booked—no matter what! The number of orders you take is not as important as the profitability of those orders.
Caterers need to keep their spending and purchases in line with what they are selling their products and services for. A caterer working with a 50 percent to 60 percent cost of sales needs to make sure that, after all the bills are paid for raw materials and after all the culinary staff and other event costs are paid, there is still a 40 percent to 50 percent gross margin left to work with. A few poor selling or buying decisions can dramatically change your ratios.

My newest clinics – Sales, Marketing & Management!
Take any one day, two days or all three!

Ft. Lauderdale – July 16, 17 & 18
New York City – July 23, 24 & 25
Irvine – August 6, 7 & 8
DC area – August 13, 14 & 15
Boston – August 27, 28 & 29
Seattle – September 10, 11, & 12
Chicago – September 17, 18 & 19