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.