Friday, November 30, 2012

Employee Incentive Division

Because of on-going corporate layoffs, companies are searching for ways to increase employee morale. Such events as award luncheons, safety dinners, employee-of-the-month breakfasts and nutrition breaks are being instituted.

While companies are not looking for high cost events, they will consider simpler approaches to building employee morale.

On the other hand, some companies are approaching this new division with total dedication to the task. They offer corporations the excuse to buy concepts that will include the food, motivational speakers, awards and plaques, posters, pamphlets, contests, etc., all geared to creating better morale between the employees and management.

If you are looking for a new product line, consider this incentive division.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Catering From A Chef's Point Of View

NOTE: This is an article I wrote for the ACF magazine. I suggest you let all chef candidates read it before you interview them:

I believe that catering is the selling, producing and performing of outstanding foodservice usually in situations that are not ideal for anyone, under pressure circumstances, with a lot of people watching chefs as they work, and a host wishing to pay the least amount of money possible. From a culinary point of view, a simpler definition of catering might be that catering is the art of quality volume foodservice balanced by the science of making profit.
  One just can’t escape the truth. Catering is the fastest growing segment of the foodservice industry growing 7% to 10% per year. Since your clients want it and are buying catering somewhere, they should be buying it from you. Additionally, catering gives a foodservice business a competitive advantage and enhanced image in today’s marketplace. Plus, catering is usually a “life-saver” during recessions.
  Some chefs love to do catering and some hate it outright! Let’s face it, catering is very hard work and it often viewed as taking kitchen time away from one’s “primary” business. Add to that the potential for last minute changes and adjustments due to host’s that change their minds, and you get a product line that the culinary department is unable to totally control. Then again, a lot of dollars are made when catering!
Restaurant foodservice usually has a twenty-minute window from when the client places the order to when it needs to begin arriving at their table. All catering is presold days, weeks or months ahead permitting better buying and the advantages of volume preparation. At a catered event, only the host knows what the menu is. Guests are looking for a great meal.
In restaurants, diners don’t haggle with the servers for lower prices than are printed on the menus. In catering, everyone haggles. Since hosts often don’t now all the guests eating preference and allergies they request more traditional menus with less experimental or cutting edge cuisine. Lastly, event food is usually prepped many hours before the event is served and the food is often held and/or transported raising the level of concern over the safe temperature zone. Then again, a lot of dollars are made when catering!
 Successful and profitable catering needs the total commitment of the culinary team. Here are some proven guidelines to insure outstanding catering:
1. The culinary leader needs to have veto power over any menu or presentation requests from the sales department that don’t offer proper profitability, safety, or company image.
2. During busy times of the year, a limit needs to be established on the total variety of different entrees and hors d’oeuvres offered to customers. There is no logic for having a culinary team prepping 67 different types of items for ten different events on a busy day!
3. Require salespeople to work a bit in the kitchen to learn the joys of woes of the culinary team.
4. Resist lowering the prices of your “regular” menus. Instead, create new menus that offer more value to shoppers. In other words, never sell your “A” menus at “B” prices. Create “B” menus and sell them at “B” prices. Also, keep offering your “A” menus along with the “B” menus.
5. Last minute popup orders should be limited to only a few easier to produce menus choices.
6. A culinary leader must have a sit-down meeting with the salespeople to go over each menu sold… item by item. This is the only way to discover errors and omissions.
7. The culinary team must be involved in all sales of high volume events before they are presented or sold.
Catering is a good thing because is challenges the culinary teams creativity and makes money for the company at the same time. Catering broadens a company’s footprint and image in their marketplace. As long as the culinary team gets accurate information from the sales department in a timely manner success is easy. The total amount of planning and work that goes into a $40,000 catered event is not as much as one might think. Catering gets easier the more you do it! Did we mention that a lot of money can be made with catering?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Qualities Of A Successful Salesperson

A good salesperson is a combination of a lawyer, a psychologist, a coach, an accountant, an entertainer and a good friend. Charm is important, but it’s not even close to being enough. A good salesperson has to have the goods, as well as the personality. A salesperson:

• Speaks clearly and precisely at all times, particularly during a selling interview.
• Answers typical buyer objections before they come up.
• Plans sales calls in advance and makes a sales plan for each day.
• Decides ahead of time what to sell to the buyer.
• Asks good, probing questions.
• Is always honest in the approach to selling.
• Uses sales aids while selling. Involves all of the buyers’ senses: hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste.
• Sells the concept that the catering will never embarrass the buyer in front of friends, family or coworkers.
• Takes the risk out of buying when possible.
• Uses time properly. Isn’t afraid to stop a “going nowhere” selling presentation to move on to a better prospect.
• Listens to the meaning of what the buyer is saying, not just the words.
• Acts professional at all times.
• Never apologizes for the price; explains what the price guarantees for the buyer.
• If the sale is missed, understands why and doesn’t take it personally.
• Is in constant search of competitor data.
• Is ready to sell 24 hours a day.
• Isn’t afraid of making mistakes or trying new selling techniques.

Consider discussing these qualities openly with your staff at meetings.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Foundations Of Marketing

When planning a marketing campaign:
·         Separate your company’s actions and policies from what are perceived to be industry standards.
·         Take the risk out of buying for the client.
·         Market differently to different groups and individuals.
·         For social catering, stress entertaining and status.
·         For corporate catering, stress sales results and employee happiness.
·         Teach the business of catering to your marketplace.
·         Always answer the question of WIIFM (what’s in it for me) in your marketing.
·         Use testimonials; they are especially powerful in marketing catering.
·         Try to deliver more then you promised.
·         Be aware that in most cases, caterers are not taken seriously by those who want to buy catering.
·         Ask your current buyers what they like best about your service and what they like least.
·         Ask your current buyers what they would do if they owned your company for a day and could change anything they wanted.
·         Talk with your staff. Ask them what they would do to make the company better—then listen to their answers.
·         Figure out how you can get a detailed demonstration of what and how your closest competitors do with their catering. Why not purchase some catering from them, without letting them know it’s for another caterer?
·         Take an honest inventory of where your company stands in the “mind of the buyer” in:
Overall image.
Knowledge of your product/service.
Sensitivity to buyer wishes.
Enthusiasm for catering.
·         Decide which product lines of your business you need to market first.
·         Develop small marketing programs first; wait until later for the mega-dollar promotions. Remember what General George Patton said, “A good plan today is better than a great plan tomorrow.”
·         Think of your business from the buyer’s point of view.
·         Decide which part of your business is ripe for a change.
·         Live by the motto that every product or service can be improved.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cash Reserves?

“What is the status of your cash reserves?” This is one of the first questions I ask when starting a consulting project with a new client. Having proper working capital determines to a great extent how one operates their business. A combination of an owner’s cash position, lines of credit, and overall personal wealth provide the answer to what they can and/or should do and not do.

Those caterers who started their businesses undercapitalized from the get-go often never catch up. They immediately adopt a regime of paying for the costs of the materials and staff for an event from the customer’s payment for the event or the deposits from future events. This pay as you go mentality is adopted with the belief that “things will get easier” later. Sometimes things do get better, but very often the caterer simply digs a deeper hold of debt.
Many new caterers get themselves in an even more tenuous position because they begin to skip their various sales and payroll tax payments which then creates not just a deeper hole, but a valley of debt which is almost impossible to escape from. Conclusion: a caterer needs to dramatically resist overextending themselves financially, especially if they are counting on some type of dramatic increase in business to catch up and payoff past debt.
One of the main causes for a poor financial condition is slow payment from customers. Sometimes caterers permit customers to take sixty, or more, days to pay their invoices. Very few professional services permit customers to take that much time to pay. However, once again, we find that the “keep the client happy” thinking of some caterers is to “not rock the boat” by insisting on quicker payment. This is an example of putting the customer ahead of the company which is not wise.

Catering companies who are able to have even limited cash reserves gain advantages and free themselves from the worry and pressure of “catching up” on payables. The hardest thing to teach caterers is that you don’t catch up by just booking more events. This often just leads to more debt. In fact, slowing down bookings, cutting back on staff hours, and making quick or prepayment of events a requirement will be the smartest way to get back on track.