This is The Event Group’s 20th year of business as a catering company in Northwest Arkansas! It is no cake walk to run a catering company and has come with many challenges along the way, but we are thankful to be able to celebrate this milestone for our company and reflect on some of the major lessons learned along the way. Recently our very own President, Shellie Morrison, has shared her best tips to succeed as a caterer, however these tips can translate to other businesses as well. Hope you enjoy or pass along to a friend you know that may be impacted from this personal insight!
- Possess excellent organizational skills. This may not seem like a big deal in the beginning when you can easily know all the details of the business, but once your company really takes off in growth, you must have systems in place to help keep track of details, but also to free yourself from the burden of having to store everything in your mind -that is an unpleasant and unhealthy way to live. One of the latest organizational systems our team has started using is ToDoist.
- Know how to multi-task. Be on the look out for areas where you can maximize your time. For example, in catering there is typically a pattern to slow-paced times versus fast-paced times. Example of a slow paced time: before an event starts after set-up has already taken place. This could be a time for you to catch up on quick email responses. Much of our time as a caterer is spent at events and it’s great to think ahead what could be best to bring with us so we can step aside (not in front of guests) and catch up on some work items.
- Relate well to all types of people—nervous brides and moms, busy corporate leaders, etc. This one can be difficult because you may work with all kinds of different people, but remember that your expertise is not the client’s expertise, and it helps to talk to them as you would a friend and let them know that you have their best interest in mind. Offer advice because you have the experience and sometimes they really need help knowing what is best (it will bless both sides).
- Ability to keep up with the latest trends. There will always be new competition entering the market and new trends to keep up with, so make sure to re-evaluate your business from different angles several times a year and see if there are new or more efficient ways of doing things.
- Social marketing skills. It is crucial in today’s world to have a social media presence for your company. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are all places that people are searching to see pictures and evidence of your product/service. It is wise to have someone in charge of this for your company that will maintain your “brand” and consistently post in ways that will draw in new/returning clients.
- Hire excellent front and back of the house staff. Your product may be great, but if you do not have excellence-driven staff, your clients/guests will notice and that is where you will easily lose business. Have a strong process for hiring part time and full time employees.
- Have a great working relationship with your vendors. As a caterer, we interact with all kinds of event vendors (venues, florists, bakers, DJs, etc.) and these relationships can develop into some of our biggest referrals for business. It’s great to reach out from time to time and connect with vendors through a friendly e-mail or maybe send them a little treat to let them know you appreciate their referrals. Also, it’s important to reciprocate when you are meeting with clients -be quick to ask and share if they need any vendor referrals.
- Be able to improvise and make on the spot decisions. Unfortunately mistakes will always happen and events will not always stick to the schedule that was planned for months, so it is important to keep a positive attitude and be quick to problem solve what is best for the specific situation -keeping the client’s best interest in mind. Your staff are watching how you respond to stressful situations and whatever you do they are most likely to mirror. So if you are quick to stress and make rash decisions that are not in the best interest of the client, your staff will probably do the same thing. Lead by example.
- Follow all state and industry standards for cleanliness and food safety practices. Make sure to check that your staff are practicing your industry safety standards daily and not getting too comfortable or sloppy. Systems are crucial so that staff are methodical in the way they always do things. If a bad report comes from an inspection then your business could be in major jeopardy.
- Love what you do! Simple enough. Take time to stop and enjoy the things you are doing and frequently remind yourself of why it was your passion to start your business in the first place. Perspective changes everything!
Maggie Lechner, The Event Group Social Media Coordinator