Friday, October 5, 2012

It Helps When The Person Has The Power To Buy

Just because the customer is sitting in front of you, doesn’t mean he or she will be in charge of making decisions about this event. It’s important to understand what the customer’s expectations are, and how different parties involved with the event (family of the bride, the customer’s manager, etc.) will interact.

Questions like these can help:
“Who, besides you, is going to be involved in the decision of which caterer you use?”
“Who should I send a copy of the menus and other information to?” (This tips you
off to who else is important in the decision)
“What is your expectation on the time for me to get my information back to you?”
(If you hear the words, “There’s no rush,” pack up and leave).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Marketing

An effective marketing campaign needs information before, during and after its development and launch. Questions to ask and answer include:

a) What types of people purchase from my company already?
b) How do these buyers feel about our catering?
c) What are the steps buyers take to purchase from us?
d) How many different groups buy from us?
e) Am I aware of my competitor’s marketing?
f) Do we maintain a database of our buyers and update it continually?
g) What foods, styles of service and trends are really in?
h) What parts of the catering are expensive in the mind of the buyer?
i) What parts of my business are looked upon as “added value”?
j) Do I know what other caterers say about our catering?
k) Do I know the strengths and weaknesses of our kitchen?
l) Am I aware of past and present advertising and marketing statements?
m) Do I know the story behind the start of my company?
n) Do I really know how our food tastes?
o) Have I spent time talking to others about our products & services?
p) Do I really understand and know about my company’s product lines?
q) Do I understand what my company’s guarantee policy is?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Answer Phones... Please!

Last week I made calls to dozens of catering companies. In too many cases a human being didn't answer the phones when I called. I was given opportunities to leave a message because "Your call is very important to us". I really can't be sure, but I do believe that by not having a human answering the phones during business hours a company misses enough new business opportunities that missses 10% of possible new business.

It may cost more money to have someone there to answer the phones, but it will more than pay for itself. At least you should call your main competitors during business hours to see if they use technology or humans on their phones. If they all use technology then forget about the human response. Otherwise ...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Buy Catering From A Competitor

This is a very fun, educational, and eye-opening activity. The next time you need to provide catering for your staff, order the catering from one of your competitors. If you need food for a larger staff meeting, retreat, picnic, or holiday party, just figure out how to order your competitor’s catering without letting them know it is really you. This means you probably need to have the catering delivered to a different address than your own using a non-recognizable name.

Obviously, drop-off catering is simpler than full-serve catering. In either case, your team will think it very cool and informative to be able to taste and view their competitors catering in a real-world private situation. Bring your scales and cameras and have a fun time in your analysis.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dreams Are Part Of the Success Equation

The dream of being a caterer and creating a successful business is alive and important for many people. But are all dreams worth pursuing? Recently I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with two people who have the catering dream uppermost in their minds. Their dreams are slightly different, but there are important common elements as well.

One, who just finished a two-year program at a prestigious culinary school, called to get some questions answered. Let’s call this dreamer “the rookie.” The other has owned an off-premise catering company for nine years. We’ll call this dreamer “the veteran.”

They are at different stages in the business lifecycle of catering: The rookie is facing the launch of a new business. The veteran is concerned about continued growth in an ongoing operation. Both are driven, motivated and energized by their dreams. They are filled with the promise of what will be.
What is interesting to me is that they are both completely confident of success; doubt doesn’t seem to be anywhere in their thinking. The rookie believes the dream of helping people do special events and celebrate their lives is reachable with passion and a little luck. The veteran is dreaming of building a banquet space and is convinced that not doing it would be the biggest mistake in the life of the business.

In neither case are these dreams backed up with the research that would provide information needed to make a correct decision on whether the dreams are valid business decisions or not. In fact, during my phone discussions with the rookie and the veteran, each time I suggested a possible hole in their thinking, they filled it in with the energy of their dreams. Visualizing a dream in your mind is not the same as creating and living it. The dream needs to be supported with solid thinking and discussion with your mentors and trusted friends.

The very nature of a caterer’s personality is to rush in and take charge or save the day. Most caterers never think of saying “no” to a potential booking. Perhaps this is why some caterers make decisions based solely on their dreams, without the mental footwork that needs to be done first.

Caterers should consider the word “maybe” before acting on their latest dream or idea. “Maybe” means you haven’t made a decision yet. This slows the process so you can take a little more time to do your research and make the best decision.

I’m not challenging anyone’s dreams; most successful companies are built on dreams. But just because something feels like a sure thing, doesn’t mean it is a sure thing. The definition for the word “business” in any dictionary doesn’t include “dreams.” Instead, you find words like “work,” “money,” “time,” “knowledge,” “expertise” and “marketplace.” These words aren’t dream crushers, they’re dream enablers: You need them to make a dream become reality.

Note: I’ve taken this directly from my newest book Secrets Of Catering Management. It’s a very cool book.