Opening a Catering Business – Part II
Earlier, we discussed the first steps you should undertake before launching a new catering business. These steps included researching the local competition, finding a niche for your business, identifying potential customers, and writing a business plan. In addition, we discussed contacting your state’s occupation licensing authorities and health department to find out exactly what you need (the National Federation of Independent Businesses website can help you in that regard). With those preliminary actions under your belt, you’re ready to move on to the next and more enjoyable stages: planning your enterprise.
Creating a Catering Menu with Pricing
Creating a catering menu will help you figure out how much kitchen space you’ll need, what appliances you should buy and install, and how much you can expect to bring in financially. Base the menu on your specialties and what your targeted market niche wants on its plate. Price the items so that you stay competitive but still make a profit.
Pricing, always a challenge, is especially difficult for those just starting out. In general, prices are determined by the time it takes to prepare the dish, plus the cost of the ingredients, plus the profit margin you’re aiming for. Keeping your menu a manageable size, with foods you’re comfortable cooking and items that are made with ingredients you know you can source, are your best options for creating a realistic menu with fair pricing.
Continue reading More Advice for Launching a Successful Catering Business
How to Work with Health Inspectors
How you interact with health inspectors can go a long way to securing the health of your customers and the reliability of your license to do business. If, as a restaurant owner or caterer, you view your local health inspector as a nemesis, the time has come for you to rethink this position. Health inspectors are not your enemy; if anything, they are your partners, and the goal is to work together to prevent foodborne illness and ensure your customers’ wellbeing.
Why Restaurant Inspections Are Important
Health inspections are not designed to cause stress to restaurant owners and caterers; rather, their goal is to ensure safety for your customers. According to Food Services of America, more than half of all foodborne illnesses are acquired from eating at restaurants. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that half of all produce has chemical contamination. Faced with these challenges, it makes sense that the food in restaurants and catering facilities should be stored, thawed, and cooked according to strict regulations, and that the kitchen, freezers, and storage areas kept sanitary and sterile.
Continue reading Train Staff to Always be Ready for a Health Inspection
So… You Want to Open a Catering Business
Even if your muffins are divine and your tempura chicken is to die for, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got what it takes to run a successful catering company. By following a step-by-step, pre-launch plan, however, you can determine in advance how likely it is that you’ll be able to pursue your dream of starting your catering business and making it work.
Research is Your First Step
The first step in launching a catering company is to assess who else is offering catering in your area. Check out your competitors’ menus, their list of services, prices, and – if possible – their customer base. Visit their website and see if you can quickly find their unique selling points. Successful caterers sell more than just food; they also sell the reasons that customers buy food from them instead of somewhere else. To be a successful caterer, you’ll need to promote convenience, affordability, unique menus, and a specific style; food is just part of what you’ll be offering.
Find a Niche for Your Catering Business
Chances are you’re going to start your business by offering “off-premises catering”: serving food at a location away from your food production facility. There are three major markets for off-premises caterers:
Continue reading Tips for Opening a Catering Business and Making it a Reality
Training your Restaurant Service Staff for Success
In the restaurant and catering business, you are only as good as your personnel; therefore, priority must be given to the professional training and development of your wait staff. Service is such an integral part of the dining experience, that even excellent food preparation and presentation will not support a restaurant without a well-trained and attentive wait staff to showcase it. At the end of the day, the success of your restaurant may depend on your ability to ensure that professional, courteous service ranks right up there with skillfully prepared dishes and delicious cuisine.
Start Early to Train Wait Staff
Training restaurant servers should start before your business opens, or ahead of a new employee’s first day of work. You want all employees thoroughly trained before you make them the public face of your restaurant. Training includes being ready to interact with customers, knowledge of the menu, and familiarity with any tech equipment your wait staff has to use.
Every person learns in a different way. There are no 100% correct methods to train all your wait staff, nor do you have the time or resources to custom-make a training system for each employee. But by starting early, and paying attention to the way an employee learns best, you can more efficiently convey information.
Continue reading Follow These Guidelines to Train Your Restaurant Wait Staff
Help Your Client Choose Between DIY and Professional Event Planning
As a caterer/event planner you have to balance your skills as a chef with your business acumen. Booking new business is obviously an important aspect of developing your company, but it’s particularly complicated in today’s event industry where costs are rising and clients are often looking for ways to cut back on expenses. Do-it-yourself (DIY) events are becoming a popular route for budget-conscious people, but it’s up to the business-savvy party planner to convince potential clients that some things are better left to the professionals.
Let the Client Arrive at the Right Decision
In the Harvard Business Review, author Michael Schrage explains how you can guide clients in the direction of a smart decision by allowing them to persuade themselves. Professional service firms, he says, should look for ways not just to better communicate the value of their work, but to give people the tools that let them sell themselves on the firm’s value. When a potential client is on the fence regarding professional services vs DIY, the hard sell is not the way to go. Don’t shower the customer with ominous warnings and bleak scenarios. Present all the angles of the upcoming event, along with something as simple as a colorful, well-organized, self-explanatory cost-comparison chart, and watch your clients draw the right conclusions by themselves.
Continue reading Help Your Client Choose Between DIY and Professional Event Planning
What to Do if You Recognize a Food Critic
Even in this era of online reviews written by faceless patrons and amateur foodies, a real, live food critic can cause a restaurant owner’s knees to shake. The most confident restaurateurs will still get nervous when they see a well-known food journalist cross the threshold. This seemingly anonymous character is actually loaded with the ability to make or break a restaurant. Plenty of articles have been written about how to recognize a food critic; his signature behavior, which usually includes questions galore and a highly focused attention to detail, will alert staff to his presence. However, in this post, we’re going to focus on what to do when you recognize a food critic. (Also in this post, we’re going to refer to a food critic as “he.”)
Continue reading Be Prepared When a Food Critic Walks Through Your Restaurant Door
How to Update an Out-of-Date Restaurant
In this era of online restaurant reviews, you may be amazed at some of the criteria by which your restaurant is judged. You would expect comments about food and service; even criticism regarding noise levels probably wouldn’t surprise you. But did you know that a restaurant’s outdated décor can negatively affect a diner’s experience? In this day and age, all the senses must be satisfied at a restaurant. A Cornell University study found that ratings for food, décor, and service are all associated with a restaurant’s top-40 rating on Zagat’s listings, and it takes a combination of all three to land a restaurant in the top 40. Therefore, for the price of a good meal, today’s discerning restaurant-goer wants top-notch service, fantastic food, and an environment that has not been left back in the last century.
Continue reading Modernizing Your Restaurant’s Look with a Fresher Décor
Last updated on September 13th, 2017
Controlling Noise Levels in Your Restaurant
When you are deep in the process of creating the perfect restaurant – one that will draw a multitude of repeat customers – you will no doubt place an emphasis on ambience. A restaurant’s ambience can be created through lighting, music, décor, and spacing; but no less important is the noise level. Controlling the noise level in your restaurant is a critical ingredient in your restaurant’s success, no less than the freshness of the fish in your Bouillabaisse or the quality of the cheese in your Eggplant Parmesan. Noise can affect everyone in the restaurant – customers and staff alike – so keeping it under control is a top priority, especially when your restaurant is in the planning stages.
Noise as a Health Hazard
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines noise as a serious health hazard; it can lead to “cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance, and provoke … changes in social behavior.” What you’ll be trying to avoid when you are planning your restaurant’s décor are surfaces and spaces that make sounds bounce and echo, and that cause you and your restaurants guests to have to shout to be heard. Noise pollution in general, and noise levels in restaurants in particular, has become such a major issue that Continue reading How to Regulate and Control Noise Levels in Your Restaurant
Last updated on September 13th, 2017
Do Proper Wine Glasses Really Matter
Most wine aficionados will tell you that the glassware we drink our wine from is almost as important as the wine we put into it. The wine glass you use – its shape, material and size, – will have a considerable impact on your wine-drinking experience. So if you are the average wine drinker looking to stock your liquor cabinet with wine glasses for the reds, whites, and bubblies that you drink regularly, you will want a supply of glasses to fit those types of wines. . So, let’s explore how choosing the right wine glass can enhance your wine-drinking experience.
Continue reading How the Right Wine Glass Can Enhance Your Wine Tasting Experience
Last updated on September 13th, 2017
Handling Customer Complaints
Just about everyone working in the food service industry – restaurant owners, caterers, chefs – will at some point have to deal with unhappy customers. Customer complaints are an inevitable part of running a food-related business and the quicker you learn how to handle them, the better off you will be. Complaints are a double-edged sword: They are hard to hear (often downright painful, depending on the tone and attitude), but they can be instructive and helpful if addressed the right way. The way you relate to both the complainer and the complaint can make a big difference moving forward – for you and your business.
Customer complaints are a common thorn in the side of many business people (not just restaurateurs), as Forbes discusses in its article, “7 Steps For Dealing With Angry Customers.” But, although this type of guide can be helpful, we want to deal specifically with the food industry because the issues are unique. The National Restaurant Association addresses the sensitive subject at length, and all restaurant owners and professional caterers will benefit from checking out their advice.
Continue reading Follow these Steps to Handle Customer Complaints Productively and Effectively