Reputation is one of the most important attributes of a successful caterer because it is one of the factors that build customer confidence and good brand awareness. Similar to the service staff, customers always want to check for reviews before they commit to a decision. They want to see what the caterer’s previous customers have said about their experience with the caterer.
In terms of researching caterers, reviews are an extremely valuable resource – even more so than an average product purchased through Amazon or some other online channel.
Reputation matters especially in the catering industry for the simple reason that catered events involve a significant process of planning, discussion, communicating, and finally delivering the service on the day of the event. When all is said and done, there will have been a lot of communication between the catering company and the client.
There is also the reality that professionally catered events are important to people. Consider something like a wedding reception or a corporate function. Once there are problems or glaring imperfections with the catering service, everything becomes makeshift.
A lot of full service caterers now offer event planning, taking the spotlight off just the food and creating an entire set that will stage their talents and enhance their reputation. Caterers have an audience, one that wants to be stimulated via sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Creating an atmosphere that addresses all of those senses takes some serious skills.
If as a caterer you are looking to boost your reputation, here are few factors to leverage.
Factors to Leverage to Become a Successful Caterer
Be A Good Cook
Everything about catering, no matter how much the industry is changing, is about the food. Beautiful decorations, carefully placed settings and good music won’t make up for poor quality, ill prepared food. To build and enhance reputation, a caterer needs to be able to plan menus, safely prepare, reheat and transport large amount of food and to make recipe substitutions on the fly if things go wrong. As a cook/caterer you should be aware of and comply with all safety laws in your area.
Know your Customer
To work effectively with your clients, you need to know what they want. Agreeably, their choices may not always be the best but be open to working with them to come up with a solution that will help make the event a success. Also be tactful, diplomatic and courteous. Remember that people skills and your ability to communicate why a choice can be adjusted to make the event better will result in a satisfied customer that will be more likely to recommend and reuse your services.
Be Your Own Marketer
Always remember that your phone won’t ring without marketing. A network of contacts, satisfied clients, paid on time vendors and relationships with florists, venue organizers and other event planners, can go a long way to get your name out there.
Word of mouth advertising is still renowned as one of the best ways to get your name out there and making sure when anyone uses your name it is in a positive light. Appreciate your suppliers and your clients. Go the extra mile and do the extra things that make you stand out.
Catering doesn’t always mean financial rewards. Have it in mind that you can reward staff with time off, perks from the industry such as reductions in food, parties for them where they get catered to. Motivating staff does not have to be financial. Acknowledging a job well done goes a long way. If they feel like part of the business’s success they will contribute to it.
Be Flexible And Creative
Always inquire and advise about food allergies or cooking methods that might interfere with dietary requirements of religions and personal preferences. Your client may have not considered this and it could turn into an embarrassing situation for them. Note that they will be grateful that you thought of it and that you made recommendations to avoid the situation. This builds trust and reputation.
Watch Your Business
The aim is to be profitable but accounting, taxes, employee management, food purchase, storage and organization can often seem like you need a business, accounting and human resources degrees all rolled into one. Howbeit, dealing with these administrative tasks keeps you on top of your business needs.
Always Be Detailed
If you’re full in, that means you might be looking after more than the food. In this era, caterers also take care of the décor and presentation of the food. Also remember that every guest is a potential client so make sure they treated that way from the moment they enter the door to the time they leave.
Have it in mind that interacting with guests to ensure their satisfaction is a good choice but you are there to make their experience a better one so don’t take up their time talking about you, talk about them. And don’t waste their time; they are there to enjoy the event.
Be A Financial Planner
There are always busy seasons and down seasons. It would be ideal to fill the calendar but you have to be able to balance the funds and offer work on a fair basis in order to keep good staff. Also note that covering the slow months can be tricky and looking into other means of generating income, takes financial planning and investment and creative marketing.
Be A Leader
Successful caterers always manage an entire roster of employees including cooks, servers, dishwashers, cleaners, and food prep staff. This simply means the ability to schedule, advise on safety regulations, provide direction, put out fires, address concerns and juggle it all with a cool head. A good caterer needs to have good staff that can follow directions.
Always Be Sure
If you’re not certain catering is the career path of you, why not work with a catering company before jumping in and starting your own business. Note that this will help you determine if catering is the business you really want to be in. If you are working for someone else and constantly thinking of what you could do to improve things, it might be time to put down the food prep tools and step up to the management table.
Catering, like any career, is a balance of hard work, proper training, failures and successes that help to hone the skills necessary to succeed. Your reputation as a caterer will be your ability to balance business and things like bookkeeping, accounting, customer relations, employees and marketing.