Friday, December 7, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect. Baseball spring training gives players an opportunity to practice their skills and hone new techniques before the real season starts. Expectant parents practice all sorts of prenatal skills before the blessed event happens. Actors practice by rehearsing their lines and blocking their moves before the director says “action.”
Unlike other professionals, most caterers don’t practice. They believe in on-the-job training and practicing while they are working with real clients. It just doesn’t seem logical to these caterers to practice and rehearse without being paid for the opportunity to practice for a client.
Imagine if airline pilots and surgeons followed the same logic and practiced and rehearsed only on paying clients for their on-the-job training. Would you wish to fly with pilots that hadn’t practiced landings and take-offs in flight simulators or be treated by surgeons who hadn’t practiced their scalpel skills on cadavers in pre-med?
Caterers need to institute some non-on-the-job practice sessions for their culinary, sales and operations professionals. Company “classroom” time needs to be dedicated for teaching proper skills to new staff, while providing new techniques to regular staff in the pursuit of enhanced company image and customer service. It is wiser to teach the “tactics” of catering before entering the battle itself.
In addition, hands-on rehearsals need to be offered by proficient trainers that permit staff to get that “flight simulator” experience needed to overcome any shortcomings and to build confidence. It is wiser to demonstrate the building of a buffet station to staff watching firsthand than to explain it on paper, even if you have photos of what it should look like.
It is scary to watch a plate-served dish-up for 350 guests when some of the staff doing the dish-up have never done it before. Packing a van for the first time without any how-to training leads to unhappy results. Asking a prospect for a deposit check without using a proven selling script loses sales. Prior training and practice is required in these and other situations.
Management owes staff the improved and outstanding performance that practice, training and rehearsal create. The opportunity for personal growth is the foundation of creating better staff. With practice will come better customer service and the additional sales that result from better catering performances.
By embracing practice as a company mission, a caterer gains the ability to separate themselves from those caterers who still only do on-the-job training. Your marketing and salespeople can proudly explain how your team is put through rigorous training in your “catering simulator” before they are ever allowed to work in real-life catering situations.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Questions To Ask About Your Marketing

An effective marketing campaign needs information before, during and after its development and launch. Questions to ask and answer include:
·         What types of people purchase from my company already?
·         How do these buyers feel about our catering?
·         What are the steps buyers take to purchase from us?
·         How many different groups buy from us?
·         Am I aware of my competitor’s marketing?
·         Do we maintain a database of our buyers and update it continually?
·         What foods, styles of service and trends are really in?
·         What parts of the catering are expensive in the mind of the buyer?
·         What parts of my business are looked upon as “added value”?
·         Do I know what other caterers say about our catering?
·         Do I know the strengths and weaknesses of our kitchen?
·         Am I aware of past and present advertising and marketing statements?
·         Do I know the story behind the start of my company?
·         Do I really know how our food tastes?
·         Have I spent time talking to others about our products & services?
·         Do I really understand and know about my company’s product lines?
·         Do I understand what my company’s guarantee policy is?

Did you know that I am now working with nuphorIQ Media/Marketing as a consultant? I am ready to help anyone for free who has any marketing questions or actually with developing a complete marketing program for you.... (773) 549-7210

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Landing The Big Ones!

One interesting bit of collective memory among off-premise caterers: remembering the first truly big party that you ever catered.

Often if this topic comes up over drinks at the end of a long day, some twinges of embarrassment might be in evidence.  The first time I ever did a party for more than 1200 people, I was just as glad to be working rather than there as a guest. As I recall the sirloins were a little overcooked, and some of the staff was out of uniform – but despite all of this the event was a big success.

The big event is an important milestone in the life of any catering company. Often, it can be a turning point in establishing the reputation of the caterer as the predominant player in their market.

There are two kinds of big events – the big in numbers event, and the big in importance event.  Sometimes, but not always, these are the same. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work on a good number of both types of events. As a consultant, I’ve been able to observe the process of selling the large event from both sides of the table.

A question that we are often asked is how to break into this market, and how to close the sale on the large event. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to either question.

As far as how too break into the market, the best approach we can suggest is to climb the charitable event ladder. This means taking on the smaller events for your local charities, with the expectation that you will sooner or later be given the opportunity to bid on the local fundraising galas. This is an effective approach even if you really hope to break into the large scale corporate event market – the first company I ever managed provided small scale catering services for a local plutocrat businessman, but it was only after he watched us successfully execute a charity fundraiser that he finally let us cater his own large events.

Another method is to do your best to get close to the other vendors involved, principally party planners and florists. Often their endorsement will carry a great deal of weight with the decision makers – since they wouldn’t put their relationships with the large event at risk unless they are sure that you can get the job done well.

Of course, if you are unquestionably the best caterer in your market, the business will beat a path to your door.

The second question on closing the sale is even trickier. One rule to keep in mind is that the importance of discount pricing is more important when pursuing the large in numbers event, as opposed to the large in importance event. This is providential, since for the large in numbers event the economies of scale will often compensate for the discount.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Proven Marketing Targets & Ideas - Part 2

·         Donate a Win Our Chef for One Night promotion to charities.
·         Give part-timers business cards with their name and yours on them.
·         Invite people into your kitchen and sales office for an open house.
·         Give an educational seminar for corporate clients on “What’s Hot and What’s Not in Corporate Catering.”
·         Offer gift certificates in denominations of $500, $1,000 and $5,000.
·         Handle RSVPs for your buyers.
·         Hold a cooking contest for corporate presidents only.
·         Create a newsletter carrying your name but containing articles, notices and information provided by the community.
·         Develop a scratch-and-sniff ad.
·         Market a deal where customers can buy three events and get the fourth one at half-price.
·         Get specially printed messages placed in fortune cookies.
·         Hold a fall or spring “fashion show” of your foods and entertaining styles.
·         Send Thanksgiving cards instead of normal holiday cards.
·         Create hot lines for special types of orders or information.
·         Offer 100 percent money-back guarantee.
·         Sell a limited number of party permits on certain days to establish supply-and-demand pricing.
·         Give commissions or other rewards to clients who recommend people who buy.
·         Offer evening business hours for clients to call.
·         Create a division to handle catering for second marriages.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Proven Marketing Targets and Ideas - Part 1

·         Make speeches to clubs, nonprofits, other organizations.
·         Place news releases with local publications and broadcast media.
·         Get on a radio talk show speaking about parties, events or food.
·         Tie your marketing in with various charities.
·         Find an important person or celebrity to feature in your advertisements.
·         Create and mail or email a newsletter.
·         Write a column for the local newspaper or a local magazine on entertaining.
·         Tell clients that they can borrow some of your event equipment when they need it for something they are doing themselves without your catering.
·         Send congratulatory letters to key business figures who win awards or are written about in the business section of newspapers.
·         Create a traveling information booth to take to shopping malls and community trade shows.
·         Rally around a common problem of the community.
·         Provide your prospective callers with hard-hitting testimonials from happy clients.
·         Provide food for the Chamber of Commerce meetings.
·         Create marketing value with all sorts of event checklists and how to for buyers.
·         Make a contribution to a charity based on a percentage of each sale you make.
·         Send birthday cards or cakes to important people.
·         Provide souvenir menus for the guests at events to take with them.
·         Put catering displays in other business’s windows.
·         Invite your best buyers to a party.
·         Send a picture postcard of your staff.
·         Put best buyers’ names up on a billboard to thank them for their support.
·         Use at least one of the client’s recipes at the event.
·         Put a food scent into your letters or marketing postcards.
·         Offer to buy back one of the host’s pictures to add to your collection to show others.