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!

2 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!

3 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!


1 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.

1 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!

1 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

Fri

01

Aug

2014

Summer School Workshop: Selling the Next Season

Jon Wool leading a Workshop at Catalyst Ranch

 

Thank you to all who joined us at Catalyst Ranch and participated in our Summer School Workshop: Selling the Next Season. Although many caterers are currently distracted by summer weddings and smoky BBQs, now is the time to turn our attention to filling our holiday calendars.

 

Those who attended the Workshop left with valuable ideas including:

  • Who to target and when to contact them.
  • Secret phrases that excite clients and get them ready to buy.
  • Pricing strategies designed to maximize year-end profitability.

We're looking forward to hearing success stories from our attendees!

 

If you weren't able to join us for this Workshop, don't worry. We'll have more programs in the coming months and hope to see you there!

 

2 Comments

Fri

25

Jul

2014

Featured Guest Blogger

Catalyst Ranch is featuring our effective "Post Event Sales Strategy" on their blog Creative Juice. Read it and make the most of your next event!

0 Comments

Fri

11

Jul

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:

What can I do about the constant fighting between my Chef and the front of the house staff? -K.C., Boston

 

Dear K.C.:

This can be a tricky problem because you may be tempted to “take sides” in the arguments between your staff. Remember to address interpersonal problems as business challenges. This distinction will help you focus on your professional objectives.

 

Infighting can be hugely detrimental to a restaurant or catering company. While your Chef and FOH staff are bickering and placing blame, who’s taking care of the customers?! As a hospitality company, everyone’s goal should be to satisfy your clients and guests. You can make sure your team is on the same page by clarifying your company expectations. Take time at every training session, production meeting, and pre-shift dinner to remind all staff that their attention needs to be focused on the guests.

 

Because we all come from different backgrounds and had different training, your Chef and FOH staff probably have different levels of experience and communication styles. Some hands-on training will give each member of your team a greater understanding of what their colleagues do. Assign your Chef to join a salesperson on a day of challenging sales calls, tight deadlines surrounding their load of admin work, and conversations with demanding and unyielding clients. In turn, instruct the salesperson to work alongside the Chef during a particularly long and grueling day to experience a hot kitchen, scalding pots and pans, loading and unloading trucks, and last minute changes to menus and guest counts. Your Chef and salesperson may not end up best buddies, but at the very least they’ll have a new appreciation for the challenges their colleagues face.

 

Good luck and let us know how things turn out!

 

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

 

0 Comments

Tue

01

Jul

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:

How should I handle clients who continually ignore our guest count deadline? The last-minute additions (and subtractions!) are driving me crazy!  -C.H., Chicago

 

Dear C.H.:

A caterer’s policy on receiving an accurate guest count is one of the most important sections of your Terms & Conditions. A correct guest count affects every aspect of your deliverables and finances. As you have probably discovered, last minute changes can result in a hectic kitchen, a scramble for additional staff and equipment, wasted product, and out-of-pocket expenses. It can also lead to client dissatisfaction. That’s never good for your business!

 

The solution to your problem starts long before the event. First, engage your attorney to review your contract template. Your guest count policy must be clear and should use language your clients can easily understand. Each contract should specify the exact day and date the event’s guest count is due. It should also indicate what price increases clients should expect as a result of any last minute changes. Then, when the client confirms the event, verbally remind them of the deadline. By directing the client’s attention to the deadline well in advance, you’re emphasizing how important this information is to you. This will almost always hedge against any problems and will allow all to focus on and enjoy a great experience on event day.

 

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!

 

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

 

2 Comments

Thu

19

Jun

2014

Workin' 9 to 5 (Or Thereabouts)

When restaurant and catering company owners and managers hire JHW Hospitality to consult with their companies, they often ask how to structure their day to maximize productivity. One of the techniques I encourage is taking a little time each evening to create a schedule for the next day. By 5pm, outline what tomorrow will include and remember to note your 3 most-important tasks for the day.

 

It is also very important for business leaders to designate a start time and an end time. Running a restaurant or catering company is not like baking a cake. When you bake, you have a clear set of instructions and an obvious finished product. Once the cake cools and the frosting and decorations are set, the cake is done. The baker leaves his kitchen knowing he checked a task off his To Do List and the workday is over. But an owner or manager’s projects are ongoing and there is always something more to do.  Without an obvious end product (beautiful and delicious cake), a leader may find herself working late into the night. Each task leads to another project, inboxes are never empty, and the workday can seem endless.

 

To stop yourself from checking emails all night, designate an end time and adopt the habit of shutting down for the night. Obviously the entrepreneurial mind never fully stops running and I encourage you to make note of the brilliant ideas that strike while you’re enjoying dinner with friends or tucking your kids into bed.  But resist the temptation to begin strategizing around those ideas until morning. You may even find that, by giving your mind a little breathing room, you have more and stronger ideas than if you had continued to work long after the staff went home.

 

“Closing shop” at the end of the day can be a challenge for restaurant and catering leaders, but, ultimately, a specific end time will feel liberating. Setting a clear end time will allow you to focus on your family, your friends, your hobbies, and yourself.

0 Comments

Tue

03

Jun

2014

Interview with Paul Virant

Paul Virant is the award winning chef and owner of Vie in Western Springs, IL and Perennial Virant in Chicago. It was just announced that, by the end of this summer, he plans to expand his culinary empire with the opening of Vistro, a family-friendly restaurant in Hinsdale, IL.

 

While we salivate in anticipation, enjoy this interview Jon did with Chef Paul. He talks about growing up around food in the Midwest, the challenges of educating customers about foods they may find unfamiliar, and the many demands on a chef/owner's time:

 

"As a chef and restaurateur, you get to a point where you have to decide 'What's next?' or 'How do I manage my time?' That has been a challenge but I have an incredible crew that allows me to work on a new project and develop [new initiatives]. But at the end of the day, I think the satisfaction of cooking and creating something that is well-received - that's still the ultimate for me so that's something that I just need to incorporate into my time management."

 

 Listen below (minute 2:03 through 27:20) for the whole interview!

 

More Food Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Finesse Cuisine on BlogTalkRadio
0 Comments

Wed

07

May

2014

The Power of Visionary Thinking

As hospitality professionals, we talk a lot about “vision.” Our clients are often sharing their vision for an event, and chefs have a vision of their new spring menu. We spend a lot of time making those visions reality for our guests and customers.

 

As business people, vision is just as important. Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great (a book JHW Hospitality heartily recommends), said “without vision, organizations have no chance of creating their future; they can only react to it.” Having a vision for your company is crucial to your success and it’s the thing that separates each of us from our competitors. What vision do you have for the services you provide? How to you envision yourself and your company next season? How about in 5 years? 10 years?

 

Taking the time to answer these questions and visualize those goals can set you on the road to success. Instead of reacting to the future, I encourage you to start creating it:

  • Surround yourself with an environment that will inspire you to reach your goals.
  • Assault your senses with color, food, music, and anything that gets your creativity flowing.
  • Challenge yourself with new ideas and develop new skills.


Have a vision of where you want to go and then get out there and make that vision a reality!

0 Comments

Fri

25

Apr

2014

Two Chances to See Jon Wool Speak

It's not too late to register for The Inquiry Process Workshop on Tuesday, April 29th. Jon will share the importance of knowing how to manage the initial customer inquiry. Are you doing everything you can to make that first call a success?

 

This workshop is designed for everyone responsible for catering sales, restaurant private dining, or hotel meetings and events. The valuable skills we share will streamline your sales process, leading to more successful events and increased revenue!

 

For more information, click here.

 

 

You can also see Jon present The Power of Visionary Thinking at the Catalyst Ranch Creative Meeting Carnival on Thursday, May 1st. It will be a celebration filled with unique meeting vendors who will dazzle your senses!

 

Admission is complimentary. RSVP today!

0 Comments

Thu

03

Apr

2014

Lasting Lesson From Las Vegas

Jon Wool presenting at Catersource 2014

My wife, Carole, Melanie Spratford, and I just returned from the 2014 Catersource Conference & Tradeshow in Las Vegas. After 5 days of attending programs, consulting, and speaking, a curious thing happened: I remembered what initially drew me to our industry; namely, great food, service, artistic satisfaction, and the excitement of bringing happiness to a lot of people.

 

Over the years, as I owned my own catering company and as I’ve consulted, coached, and led sales training programs for others, my focus has transitioned almost entirely from the aesthetic to the business side of our industry. Helping owners fashion plans for growth, accelerate sales, and improve operational and financial systems is the dull but necessary underside of our romantic industry.  But, spending 5 days among thousands of highly passionate caterers was cool. There were incredible exchanges of ideas, fantastic new menu items, clever thematic concepts, and more. I believe strongly that, without the academics of running a business, artistic satisfaction cannot be realized. But I also believe that it’s important for each of us, especially during stressful times, to tap into the pleasures and the passions of our work. The Catersource Conference is an annual reminder of that passion. So, the lessons learned and the curious things that happened in Vegas won’t stay there. I’m carrying them with me.

 

I spent time with too many wonderful folks this week to mention each one, but it was, as always, a pleasure to see, from Catersource, Pauline Hoogmoed, Linda West, and Carl Sacks; Bill Pannhoff of B&B Catering; Jack Milan of Edibles by Jack; Bill Hansen of Bill Hansen Catering; Kevin and Larry Walter, and Ellen Harte of Tasty Catering; and all the great caterers from Chicago who somehow I only see when we’re in Vegas.

 

Lastly, I must acknowledge the absence of our dear friend and mentor, the late Mike Roman. Echoes of the Catering Guru’s wisdom were everywhere at the conference and his legacy lives on in the passion our industry continues to have for good food, great service, and exciting events.

1 Comments

Wed

12

Mar

2014

In the Media - Catersource Magazine

As hospitality professionals, our instinct is to say "yes" to every client and request. Learning to say "no," however, can lead to better opportunities with Good Fit clients.

 

Learn more about "Just Say 'NO!'" in Jon's article in the latest issue of Catersource Magazine. And don't miss the follow-up: "Now Say 'YES!'"

0 Comments

Thu

20

Feb

2014

The Ultimate Catering Sales & Marketing Plan Seminar

Our recent seminar in St. Louis was a rousing success! Caterers and restaurateurs from Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming joined us for a day packed with marketing techniques and sales strategies.

 

Thanks to our partners, Michael Attias and Jillian Davis from Restaurant Catering Systems, and Lisa Teiger from caterBuzz for their invaluable support.

 

If you weren't able to join us this time, don't worry. More seminars are coming to your area soon!

3 Comments

Fri

24

Jan

2014

Just Say "No!" Seminar: How To Kick the Bad Client Habit

Thanks to all who attended our seminar at Catalyst Ranch!

 

Remember, the customer may always be right, but not every customer is right for you!

1 Comments

Tue

14

Jan

2014

JHW Goes to TSE 2014

On January 10th, Melanie and Jon presented at TSE 2014 at the Opryland Resort in Nashville. Their conference session titled "RFP: Request For Proposal or Reason For Panic?" attracted a crowd of business owners and salespeople eager to learn the secrets of navigating the RFP process.

 

Do you want to know more or need help responding to an RFP?

Call today - we're the experts!

0 Comments