The food needs to be above average, the staff needs to be friendly and the ambiance needs to be almost perfect, yet there is more to catering than meets the eye.
The time to think about how important a catering event is shouldn't be moments before the guests arrive. Thought, planning, creativity and communication between staff, management and client are all important and should begin as soon as someone says, "Sounds great. Do you need a deposit?'"
That of course is the humorous fact about catering. Every company usually takes a deposit, which one would think is the beginning of a contract. Yet, many catering directors and managers pay little attention to a client until just days or moments before the event begins. That's not the way to build a serious clientele and develop a business that will be profitable. Catering is often looked upon as the secondary business, when in reality it is the profit center that promotes business and financial survival.
Here are ten tips to use as a survival guide:
1) Style: Make sure your events have some. If you don't feel as though you can project the right style, ask the guest what they are looking for. If they don't have any taste, buy a book on catering and duplicate the pictures until you get the feel of it.
2) Customer Service: get back to the customer more than you need to. Most catering customers are self conscious about events – otherwise they would do them themselves- so they need their hands held. Plus, that is the way to building repeat business.
3) Creativity: Do something un and borderline spectacular at each event. Keep the crowd talking. It could be something as simple as whole stalks of celery and colorful kale in vases around the restaurant.
4) Value: Don't skimp on food. Make sure that the buffet table is always presentable and the food never looks tired.
5) Pricing: Don't gouge the customer. Be fair. Remember, if planned well there is no waste so you do not have to build that into the price. Also, many items are seasonally on sale. Sell these items. Your profit will be larger while your cost is the same.
6) Ambiance: Don't ever let your restaurant get so worn you don't want to turn the lights on during the day. If something needs fixing, painting, freshening up or painting, do it.
7) Consultation: Make sure to spend time with your customer to find out their needs. Invite them in for a complimentary lunch or dinner to sample some menu items before they make the decision to have you cater their event.
8) Menu: Give choices on the menu. Don’t get too fancy, unless they want fancy. Most catering customers look for well prepared simple that everyone enjoys.
9) Flowers: Don't ever do a catering event without flowers. Add them into the price of service, ambiance, style or whatever, but a room looks naked without them.
10) Staff appeal: Make sure your staff is happy, friendly and customer service oriented. Nothing ruins an event more than a frown from Frederico, the head server.