continued from … Catersource or bust (third installment)
Arriving back home fresh from the Catersource conference I was so full of ideas .. hell.. I just didn’t know where to start! Well first things first, the client became our number one priority and how did I ever lose sight of that I wonder? Without them we don’t even have a business.
Sharpening up my phone skills was first off and turns out I always need to work on that. A later conference taught us to always smile when answering the phone and that really works.. try it sometime, if you haven’t already.
Centerpieces for the tables .. hmmm, that was a little harder but I came across beautiful flower baskets at Costco. I never considered using fake flowers but I have to tell you these flowers looked real .. so real you had to touch them to tell the difference.
Tablecloths were a little trickier, but I contacted a linen company and managed to secure a deal to rent as needed. See .. we were using plastic rolls of checkered, but the linen upgraded our look, along with the centerpieces, considerably.
So now we have a really nice person ‘answering the phone’.. and our eye appeal on the buffet tables has gone up a notch. Our bookings are also increasing and we need an answering machine so we don’t miss any calls. Being a family business involves doing every job.
Our little barbequing business was really starting to take off. I should mention also that our equipment was always cleaned and presentable when-ever we went out. This was not easy because the road to our place was gravel and it was always a struggle to keep the equipment clean.
We even looked pretty good in our white tshirts.. our logo across the front, and BBQ Pit Crew across the back along with our black aprons. It was pretty sweet alright but still a lot of work, we transported that barbeque everywhere and it weighed a ton on the back of a 3/4 ton truck and had to come off on jacks and lowered to the ground.
So we started putting into practice the stuff we learned at the conference. Keep in mind this was over 20 years ago, as a mater of fact we are now over 30 years in business. We are second generation already and grandkids are now working in it.
Having learned all there is to now about catering from that first conference was sweet! Sweeter still.. was the fact that I won a tuition to the following years Catersource conference.
Now I am being truthful here when I say I thought I learned EVERYTHING from that first conference (yes I know.. ). When the next year rolled around I decided that only I should attend, because I had the free tuition and why waste it, but what else could I possibly learn ?
Fast forward to that conference in Vegas. I often wonder where we would be in this business if I hadn’t won that free tuition? The classes and the tradeshow was so much bigger and better and I was once again blown away by the educational classes I took.
What ever made me think I knew it all from that first year.. I will never know the answer to that. See .. it is like this.. coming away from that second year I knew we ALL HAD TO ATTEND the next year! Yes, we increased our sales again and put into practice even more techniques I learned from classes taken.
Meeting Carl Franklin Jones was a highlight .. he also did barbeque but different from us .. his was ‘true BBQ with real coals, real fire, and smoke and woodchips ‘ ours is propane.. (the debate rages on) The ‘Catersource forum’ became my go to guide when I didn’t know something .. ok so there was a lot I didn’t know! I now use the ICA Roundtable (which is open to non members too btw).
One particular question I put to them was how do I feed 500 people lobster.. as well as steak? We had never done lobster before. Which led to a conversation about tinfoil trays, do you throw them away or re-use them? Which led to a discussion on their cost. Oh.. and we ‘aced’ the lobster!
The people, the forum and the classes .. oh, and the tradeshow all combined to give me the direction I needed to grow our family business. This catering experience is hands down the hardest job I have ever done .. bar none.
We need all the catering buddies we can connect with .. it just makes it easier don’t you think? I can pretty much guarantee if you don’t have any, you will before the conference is over. The ICA Roundtable forum is open to all to help us elevate our game.
This business will burn you up and spit you out .. that is metaphorically speaking of course .. pretty good though, huh?
to be continued….