The catering industry is high-pressure at the best of times, but when a clients’ image is resting on the performance of your catering team, there is little room for error. As the caterer, you bear responsibility for getting orders right, making sure they are on time and adhering to issues regarding allergies or preferences.
It is up to you to ensure the best customer experience possible from start to finish –order input and confirmation, processing to delivery, quality and protecting the reputation of the business.
Catering events have a large number of variables, some of which are out with your control – human error, interaction between guests, etc. Therefore, it is vital that you prepare contingency plans – what to do if one of the team doesn’t show, or if there is a late rush of orders, for example. Most successful businesses have a ‘Plan B’, and the best caterers do the same. Indeed, such is the nature of the catering business that often your ‘Plan B’ will be more like ‘Plan A’, and ‘Plans C & D’ will be required.
Acquiring the trust of a company to act as its catering representative can be difficult.
Just like an interview, a caterer’s experience and references are key. Being that the performance of a service provider is subjective, it can be difficult to quantify, and therefore, reputation is everything. For example, a prompt, well-organised, good-mannered caterer who keeps their head when difficulties arise is far more likely to receive orders for repeat business and benefit from word-of-mouth than a caterer whose menu is too adventurous, portions are not appropriate or who panics under pressure.
In the age of social media, while public feedback may not always be forthcoming when an experience has been positive, clients are likely to be swift to complain if they feel let down.
The flipside of this though, is that if you impress customers, and continue to keep them happy, then they are far more likely to recommend you to others if asked, providing valuable marketing on your behalf.
Whether you operate internationally, regionally or focus on just one city, you are sure to come up against a large number of competitors, many of whom will claim to offer the ‘best’ service. It will be up to you to make yours stand out from the crowd.