I know what you are thinking; catering isn't a game. It's a calling. You have so much to learn, Grasshopper, before you are fit to call yourself a Caterer. Sit down and you will learn. Catering has a set rule book. The number one rule is that the customer is always right and superior in every way.
Unless, of course, you are a caterer to the stars and can afford to get rid of riff raff. I thrive on these people because they are my bread and butter so to speak. There are only a few rarified creatures who aspire to cater to the stars. These people are ruthless and will walk over your prostrate body to build their reputations. Avoid them as they will be your downfall. I am not saying that you shouldn't strive to be the best banquet caterer ever, but I am saying stay away from Hollywood and the stars.
The roads are paved with failed caterers there. Start small at least in the beginning. But I digress.
As I was saying, "the customer is always right and superior in every way." When you first meet a customer for a catering job, you must make the right impression. You are the mirror through which everyone sees your catering service. You must be impeccably dressed, friendly, and easily impressed.
You can fake the easily impressed part; I do it all the time. Yes, the whole mushrooms will be so much better in the sauce than the sliced ones I usually use. You are so creative to think of changing my recipe. I think I'll make whole mushrooms standard from now on. You get my drift. Flattery will get you everywhere.
When you start to feel offended by making the customer superior to yourself, remember who is paying the bill. That irritating, changes her mind all of the time, irrational customer in the long run is why you are still in business. If you want to be superior, then you be the customer. When you start a catering business, you need word of mouth more than you need advertising. Making your customer feel special is all part of the game. You can talk behind their backs all you want, but to their faced, make them feel like kings and queens.
Just being a good cook does not a caterer make. Being able to cook and smooze at the same time makes a great caterer. It's all part of the game. If you aspire to be a wedding caterer, be sure that you can keep your temper, flatter the unflatterable, referee, and deal with Bridezilla and her mother, Momzilla. You may laugh now, but wait until you meet these ladies and try to fulfill all of their needs. If you can make these pseudo-monsters happy, you are indeed ready to be a wedding caterer, the hardest profession in the cooking business.
The next rule in the business is spend all of your time that you are not working with customers looking for catering jobs. You must do all bridal fairs, set up displays in tuxedo rental stores, and bridal shops. Most store owners are happy to at least put your cards on display. Make sure any cards or brochures you display are professional and attractive. In most states you are not allowed to cater out of your own kitchen. You must either rent a space and buy catering equipment or try to rent space in a commercial or church kitchen.
This rule is very important to follow. If you don't, you might find yourself in trouble with the local Health Department. If you rent space, you probably want to schedule appointments at the potential customer's house.
Make it seem as if you are doing them a favor by coming to their homes. You know how busy they must be and you want to lessen their stress. People fall for this all the time. When you are purchasing catering or banquet supplies, always use a good catering supply house or catering equipment store.
Do not go to a party store or discount house. Your supplies and equipment tell people who you are and you must be the best. Especially if you are catering for Bridezilla and Momzilla, it is imperative that you have only the best of everything.
You don't have to buy things all at once, but you do have to have all of the essentials for starting a catering business. Rule of thumb; look your best, show your best, and cook your best. The business will follow you efforts. When you visit a good catering equipment store, you must purchase nice white tablecloths, good stemware, a nice set of stainless, a really pretty punch bowl, a chocolate fountain, and chafing dishes. If you don't have the money to buy everything you need, use a good rental store and buy as you can. I know the chocolate fountain is probably a fad, but right now it is a must have for most wedding receptions.
When you are preparing to start your own catering business, go to all of the catering halls in your town. Check them out, take pictures, and ask if they will recommend your services in exchange for telling potential customers about their hall. One rule that you must remember; keep this agreement. Recommend the catering halls that give you business.
Catering companies are everywhere so you must make yours special. Work hard, please your customers, and keep up the friendly pretense and you will build a fine catering business. Approach the business like you would the game of Life and Win. Copyright 2006 www.ChoiceCatering.
com - All Rights Reserved.
Frances Coleman is the author of The Game of Catering. Find out more about what to look for in a caterer.