Client Criteria -  Great Food, Service, and….Credit Rating???

Hard to believe but, prospective clients sometimes evaluate more than just a caterer’s creativity and service before contracting. Corporate clients, especially, are trending towards a due diligence review to ensure the caterer is financially stable with a solid internal structure. Factors considered by prospect may include:

·         Credit rating

·         Risks, such as bankruptcy, vendor layoffs, lawsuits, etc

·         Changes in the management team

·         Compliance with all legal, regulatory or industry requirements, etc

Ultimately, the client wants vendors that are in good financial health with plenty of cash at hand to weather ups and downs of the economy. They don’t want to be left high and dry should the caterer not be able to perform. Our advice, then, is to keep control of these factors and stay close to your CPA, banker, and financial advisor. Please write or call now to weigh in.

Thu

02

Apr

2015

Dear Jon Letters...

JHW Hospitality Dear Jon Letters





 

A series for clients and colleagues who are seeking support, asking for advice, and hoping to reignite their passion for hospitality.

Dear Jon,

I’ve seen you recommend that sales people need to track their activities and I want to start doing this with my employees. I know they are going to resist the change. Can you please give me some reasons to help convince them this is a good idea?    –J.G., Des Moines, IA

 

Dear J.G.

Good for you! Implementing an activity tracking system is a great way to start improving your sales. I’m a firm believer in the old adage “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

 

Unfortunately, I also know that sales teams who have “self-managed” for a long time can be quite resistant to a new tracking system. It will be important for you to present this change in a way that reassures them that you aren’t attacking or critiquing their work. As their manager, it is your goal to supervise them, but you should avoid micro-management. This is about accountability and setting up reliable systems, not uncovering your weakest employee through some kind of Hunger Games competition. That’s why you need to stress your role as a support for your team.

 

I suggest you emphasize the way activity tracking will help your company standardize how you do things. Developing client relationships and moving them through your sales pipeline is key to sustained success. Once you have a protocol for tracking how your company does this, you’ll see more reliable sales growth. As your company grows, it will be easier to train new sales people in your system. And in the unfortunate event that one of your existing sales people is called away unexpectedly (e.g., because of an illness or family emergency), you or someone else on your sales team will be able to step in and cover for them. Even the most contrary of sales people should recognize that these are all positive benefits for the team!

 

Having a sales activity tracking system will also help you help your employees. If someone on your team isn’t delivering the results your company wants, you need to be able to review where he needs support. Is he losing business to competitors because of his slow response-time? Does he not follow-up after sending proposals? Does he reach out to enough new contacts? Identifying his areas of weakness gives you both the opportunity to target specific skills that need strengthening. If you make this an opportunity for learning and development, your team won’t feel threatened. In fact, they may come to recognize the tracking system as the career-enhancing tool it can be!

 

Good luck, J.G.! Let us know how your team responds.


Do you have a question for Jon? Ask in the comments or send us an email.

We may answer your letter next!

 

14 Comments

Fri

13

Mar

2015

How to Maintain a Successful Venue/Caterer Relationship

Catalyst Ranch logo

The relationship between a caterer and a venue is one of the most important for guaranteeing continuing success for each organization. JHW Hospitality has teamed up with our venue partner, Catalyst Ranch, to offer these suggestions for building a strong and winning relationship.

 

  1. Know each other’s differentials. Whether they book their venue or their caterer first, clients often turn to one for advice on selecting the other. “Each of our caterers are unique in their own way” says Krissy Dabrowski, Special Events Assistant at Catalyst Ranch. “We have implemented a strategy that we meet with them every 8 -12 months for a deep dive of their offerings, see what’s new and exciting, etc. so that we are able to continuously give our clients the best suggestions.” By communicating their own distinctive qualities to their event partners, venues and vendors ensure that they are well-represented to clients.
  2. Be selective. For a long time, the goal of most caterers has been to earn a spot on the vendor list of every venue in town, but this is not necessarily the right strategy for every company.  Not every caterer is a good match for every venue. Consider paring back on the list of places you work. Focusing on a smaller number of venues will allow you to dedicate the time and resources necessary for delivering the most successful events. Also, caterers shouldn’t join venues just for the free marketing and exposure. Venues will know that you are using them and may resent being taken advantage of. Rather than trumpeting that you’ll work at any location in town, pair yourself with venues that best complement your food and style of service.
  3. Get to know as many people as possible. A strong partnership goes beyond the venue’s sales representative meeting the caterer’s event coordinator for lunch twice a year. Instead, make sure that event staff, sales reps, cooks, security guards, and executives all meet and understand each other’s responsibilities. As Krissy explains “I honestly feel that when everyone feels respected and appreciated, it makes for a calm and nearly flawless event every time!”
  4. Promote each other. Go beyond the guaranteed marketing you are contracted to provide each other. Look for ways to highlight your partner such as interacting on social media and attending each other’s open houses and networking events. These small exchanges help strengthen the foundation of the venue/vendor relationship.

The partnership between venue and caterer is valuable and important to the success of both organizations. Our thanks to Krissy Dabrowski of Catalyst Ranch for sharing some tips for maintaining that relationship. Contact Catalyst Ranch for Chicago’s most creative meeting and event space!

18 Comments

Thu

15

Jan

2015

Party Time or Prime Time? 10 Tips for Making the Most of an Industry Convention

Jon Wool Speaking at Catersource

Conference and convention season is in full swing. Caterers, restaurateurs, event planners, and party rental companies are among the many industries with their own conventions. There's even one exclusively for pizza makers! (Don’t tell my nutritionist, but I dream of one day attending the pizza convention.)


Each of these many conferences and conventions gives attendees the chance to eat and drink too much, shop, see Wayne Newton, and have loads of fun. But as exciting as it is to get out of our kitchens and offices, fun should not be our primary goal. The primary goal is to further our education, develop new resources, build our personal business networks, and promote the success of our companies.


In order to make the most of your time and investment, you need a solid game plan. Here are some helpful hints:

  1. Determine in advance what you wish to learn and which sessions will provide the most benefit. Plan ahead so you don’t accidentally miss a session that was made for you.
  2. Attend sessions that challenge you. Look for topics that fall outside the range of what you already know.
  3. Identify speakers and attendees you would like to meet. Send them an email of introduction a week before the conference requesting to connect.
  4. Set a quota of how many new people you wish to meet and to exchange business cards with. A daily goal will keep you on track during the length of the convention.
  5. Write on the back of their card something about that person that you can later reference. This is always a good practice and will help you personalize your follow-up (see #10).
  6. Wake up early, dress smartly, and don't skip sessions. I know that the hotel pool or the never-ending buffet may be calling your name, but remember your business objectives!
  7. Separate from others with your company so you can collectively cover more ground. Schedule a nightly “debriefing” to share notes while they’re fresh in your mind.
  8. Certainly have some fun but remember to be on your best professional behavior throughout. It’s good to develop a reputation in your industry but not as the guy who got in an argument with the pit boss.
  9. After the conference, prepare a brief written overview of what you learned. Present it to your teammates who didn’t attend. Consider which ideas to implement in your company.
  10. Connect with every single person from the conference you spent time with. (This will be easy because you already did #4 and #5, right?)


Attending conferences and conventions can be expensive and time-consuming. Make sure your attendance is a good investment by focusing on your primary business goals. You’ll still find some time to party but remember...it’s always Prime Time!

 

Are there any strategies you use to maximize your convention attendance? Share them in the comments!


2 Comments

Fri

19

Dec

2014

Thank You For a Great Year!

From New York to Denver, Chicago to Cincinnati and points beyond, it has been a pleasure working with you this year.

 

In 2015, Jon will be speaking in locations around the country (first up: Anaheim, CA) and, of course, he’s available for private workshops customized for your company’s specific needs.

 

Look for big changes here on the website, when we roll out a fresh new design. You can expect continued advice in our Dear Jon Letters and the JHW Hospitality Helping Hand. And here’s a sneak peek at some blog topics we’re working on for you:

  • ·         How to Build and Maintain a Successful Venue/Caterer Relationship – We’re teaming up with Catalyst Ranch to share ideas from both sides of this important and valuable partnership.

  • ·         March Madness: Game Plan For a Winning Team – How do you sustain years of success despite staff turnover? Take a page from the playbook of winning teams.

  • ·         Hiring Employees with Service-Based Soft Skills – Clues to look for during recruiting and questions to ask when interviewing.

  • And much more...!

 If you have questions or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you.


Happy Holidays and, as always, thank you for letting JHW Hospitality be a part of your company's quest for success!

0 Comments

Fri

05

Dec

2014

Flip The Switch: Turning On the Passion For Service

Join Jon Wool at TSE2015 on Tuesday, January 6. He'll be speaking in the Grand Ballroom Salon A/B at 2:30pm. Here's a SNEAK PEEK at his topic!

Having a positive attitude rooted in customer service and problem-solving is key to excellence in hospitality. In a crowded marketplace where clients have countless options, it is not enough for a catering company or dining spot simply to do a good job. A successful company must distinguish itself by offering a level of care that all those other options do not reach.

 

Every member of your team must share a desire to provide excellent service to each guest. Chefs should thrive on the challenge of developing new menus. Every time a sales person or reservationist answers the phone, it must be with the enthusiasm of someone eager to hurdle any obstacle before them. This positive attitude is the characteristic which will help elevate your company above your competitors.

 

Let’s be honest though. After a busy series of events or toward the end of a difficult party, you may forget to keep that positive attitude. We've all reached a point where our feet are aching and our beds are calling.  More often than not, it is in those moments that disaster strikes.  When we're tired or disengaged, it's easy to accidentally send out a plate that's missing its protein. Or to forget to order napkins for a BBQ. Or to snap impatiently at the tenth guest to ask where the bathroom is located. These are mistakes that can ruin an otherwise great event and tarnish the reputation of an otherwise good company. Luckily, these mistakes can be averted by remembering to Flip the Switch.

 

Flip the Switch is a concept I learned when I was a young actor. I was cast in a silly, fast-paced comedy. The theatre was located in a Midwestern farm town which boasted a Dairy Queen, a karate academy, and a few tennis courts by the high school. We performed the show 6 nights a week plus matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays. One Wednesday, I woke up early, took a long run through the corn fields, played 3 or 4 sets of tennis, showered, hit the Dairy Queen for a healthy lunch of fried food and a root beer float, arrived at the theatre for makeup and warm ups, and bolted on stage for 2 hours of melee without missing a beat. The audience loved it, showering us with laughter and applause.

 

After the show, I hastily changed out of costume, drove to class at the karate academy where I paid for the privilege of having a hefty farm kid pummel me senseless. Once my poor Bruce Lee imitation was over, I drove back to the DQ to wolf down another fried meal and another root beer float. I returned to the theatre just in time to slap on some makeup and stumble onstage for the evening performance. The show seemed to stretch out and drag on endlessly. I was exhausted. I longed to lie down and go to sleep. The audience, I am sure, also longed to lie down and go to sleep.

 

In the dressing room following the show, I moaned “I was so tired out there.”

 

The older male lead looked me dead in the eye and replied coldly “You looked it.”

 

He explained to me, not unkindly, that I had pulled the entire show down for both my fellow cast members and the paying audience. Everyone deserved better! My job as a professional, he explained, is to be ready to perform. Regardless of the events of the day, at that moment under the spotlight, I need to be “on.” I must Flip the Switch.

 

He explained Flip the Switch to mean: high energy, full volume, an electric charge flowing through the limbs, and desire to create a one-of-a-kind experience for all. He ended with: “That’s the job!” It’s a lesson I hadn’t learned in theatre school but one I remember to this day.

 

In the hospitality industry, Flip the Switch is a reminder to adjust our attitude and remember that our professional work requires us to be “onstage.” Each catered event is similar to a theatrical opening night. Each blends art, design, color, and texture. We have an audience, and in order to deliver an excellent performance, we must keep our energy level high. Flip the Switch means to stand up straighter, smile more sincerely, and pay closer attention.

 

Each of us has important concerns outside of work. For example, hourly servers frequently come to an event site after already working their day job or attending school. They are often tired, sometimes hungry, and almost always preoccupied by thoughts of other things in their lives. However, when in front of the client and guests (our audience) those challenges must be left “offstage.” Staff must Flip the Switch to turn “off” their distractions and turn “on” their good service attitude. 

 

The phrase is also a good reminder for those moments of laziness that arrive 3/4 of the way through an event: the party is winding down, the initial hustle and bustle has passed, and guests might be starting to leave. Every moment of a special event must capture our full attention. This means total focus on the tasks at hand, high energy, and the willingness to engage until the last guest has left and clean-up is complete. When you notice posture starting to droop and smiles starting to fade, remind each other to Flip the Switch and turn your positive attitude back on.

 

The importance of a positive attitude does not only apply to servers at events; it is just as important for the person delivering a box lunch order or the office receptionist fielding a client’s call.  Everyone in the company needs to adopt an attentive, caring, service attitude:

  • Instead of dragging your feet as you go to your weekly production meeting, Flip the Switch! You may be surprised by how much more receptive your colleagues are when you approach them with a good attitude.
  • Tired of answering the phone for the umpteenth time today? Flip the Switch! Although you may be bored with talking to clients, the person on the other end of that line may be contacting your company for the very first time. Greeting them with friendly excitement immediately signals that you and your company care about them and are ready to help them create an unforgettable event.

 

Flipping the Switch is the first step toward great hospitality and service. This emphasis on a positive, customer-friendly, problem-solving attitude is the foundation of success. It is as important to achieving excellence in hospitality as it was to performing a crowd-pleasing farce in the middle of a corn field.

For more details on teaching your team to Flip the Switch, join Jon in Anaheim at TSE 2015!

2 Comments

Fri

31

Oct

2014

Dear Jon Letters...

 

 

 

 

 

A series for clients and colleagues who are seeking support, asking for advice, and hoping to reignite their passion for hospitality.

 

 

Dear Jon:

When my company sends proposals, we include a total price for all our equipment rentals. Recently a potential client demanded to see the itemized list of all the equipment. I decided not to send this and she ended up not hiring us. Should I have given her the list as she asked?  –S.M., Chicago

It’s understandable that a host would want to feel confident that every detail is being properly managed. That said... (Click here to read Jon's complete answer.)


Do you have a question for Jon? Ask in the comments or send us an email.

We may answer your letter next!

5 Comments

Fri

10

Oct

2014

In the Media: Foodservice Radio

Are You Ready For the Holidays?

In an interview with Bob Ryals of Foodservice Radio, Jon discusses the importance of having a strong Fourth Quarter and he shares tips for streamlining operations and maximizing holiday profits.


From selling a smart menu to retaining the best clients, this podcast shares ideas for making it the most wonderful time of the year!


0 Comments

Thu

09

Oct

2014

TBT: What's Next?

This post appeared on our original blog back in July 2012. Grant Achatz's Next is in the middle of a Throwback of their own: through December 21st they are revisiting the menu from the long-closed Evanston restaurant Trio.

 

Grant Achatz is one of the most progressive and inspiring chefs in the world. Every few months, his restaurant, Next, changes its menu to reflect a new culinary theme. The same menu is served nightly throughout each period.  Thus far, Next has celebrated the cuisines of Escoffier and Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, as well as Achatz’s own childhood reminiscences. Reviews of the restaurant are always incredible as is the long list of diners eager to spend hundreds of dollars to experience the creative menus and culinary wonders.

 

For all the acclaim the restaurant has garnered, however, the idea of regularly recreating the menu isn’t revolutionary to catering companies and our chefs.  We too serve different themed menus, except, rather than changing them seasonally, we do it constantly.  It is not unusual for a caterer to prepare anything from Mediterranean to Asian, Classic French to Texas BBQ…all in a single week!

 

There are other challenges unique to the catering world.  For example, while a fine dining restaurant serves dozens of guests at various intervals, caterers may be required to serve hundreds simultaneously on a strict timeline. Caterers are often responsible for designing different visual themes that may extend to equipment, decor, and even server uniforms. Add to that the challenges of producing events in historic venues, tiny galleries, private homes, or a tent under the stars, and you begin to understand how complicated the job of “Caterer” can be.

 

How many times have I heard catering chefs say they yearn for the familiar routine of working a restaurant line? How many times have I seen fine restaurant chefs, stripped of their normal surroundings and equipment, wrestling with their first off-premise event? Caterers should take heart! I believe that if you can master the off-premise event with its ever-changing demands, curve balls, and peculiarities of cooking and serving spaces, you are prepared to succeed in any hospitality setting.  Consider that you are positioned to be the industry’s “Next” big thing.

0 Comments

Wed

10

Sep

2014

Dear Jon Letters...

Dear Jon Letters

 

 

 

 

 

A series for clients and colleagues who are seeking support, asking for advice, and hoping to reignite their passion for hospitality.

Dear Jon:

We get so many requests for donations. How can I balance my charitable instincts with the realities of running my business?  - L.S., Chicago


Dear L.S.:

I commend your instinct for generosity. Sharing the wealth produced by your company is one of the proudest moments a business owner can experience, and helping support vital charities is a noble and necessary activity. Sadly, the needs are so great that many in the hospitality industry receive dozens if not hundreds of donation requests per year. Even the wealthiest and most generous caterers could not afford to accommodate every request.  Click here to read my full response including specific suggestions for handling donation requests.

 

Do you have a question for Jon? Ask in the comments or send us an email.

We may answer your letter next!

0 Comments

Thu

07

Aug

2014

Dear Jon Letters...

 

 

 

 

 

A series for clients and colleagues who are seeking support, asking for advice, and hoping to reignite their passion for hospitality.

Dear Jon:

My Sales Manager tells us to "up-sell" but I feel pushy when I do. Do you have any suggestions?  –L.P., Atlanta

 

Dear L.P.:

I understand the reluctance you’re feeling. “Up-selling” is, indeed, an unsettling term and nobody appreciates being pushed to buy extra things. Let me try to reframe how you think about the sales process.

 

As a catering salesperson, it is your business responsibility to create revenue for your company. In order to meet your sales goals, you need to maximize revenue per guest whenever appropriate. The good news is that there are creative ways to do this that won’t feel like your focus is only on increasing check averages. I suggest you think about ways to give clients the best possible event. What will “WOW!” their guests? Is it a specialty cocktail the color of their corporate logo? Is it a late-night snack as guests are leaving? Is it a customized dessert inspired by the bride and groom’s favorite vacation destination? Whatever you suggest, you should collaborate with clients on ways to enhance their guests’ experience.

 

Try to start suggesting special items or additional services as early as possible in the planning stage. Long before the contract is on the table or the proposal has been sent, you’re setting a tone that says you and your company want to create the best possible event. By working with the client on incorporating these enhancements into their plans, you’ll avoid suddenly pitching add-ons. You’ll feel less like a sleazy, “up-selling,” shark but you’ll still be maximizing revenue and creating unforgettable experiences for your clients. 

 

Good luck and please let us know how this perspective works for you!

 

Do you have a question for Jon? Ask in the comments or send us an email. We may answer your letter next!

 

2 Comments