The total, or the sum of all our experiences equals = what? Our life, our goals, our dreams, ourselves? Everything shapes us, some good and some bad, and then there is our work…
We spend so much time in that category. First off, what do we want to be when we grow up? Most of us fall into professions of our parents , relatives and friends I guess. Others strive for a noble or maybe lucrative position in life.
We study, we learn, and we agonize and somehow we end up employed. Those of us that dropped out of school, took whatever we could find. Sometimes going to university did not guarantee you a good job and some also had to take what they could find.
Entrepreneurs always made their own jobs, hopefully with a trade under their belts. I guess I was one of those, in my heart I wanted my own business, for as long as I could remember. Cutting hair in grade school with a deadly straight razor..omg, what was I thinking?(see blog.. Hair.. razor cuts, backcombing, car sex and grandma) made me want to own my own salon one day.
Becoming a caterer was purely accidental (see blog posts under business about catering, I have written three, so far).
Being a caterer is sorta like being a farmer with animals or owning a hotel, you are always obligated to be there. Sure you can hire someone .. but unless you are related to that person, they will never look after it like you do. Also the thing about catering is, you don’t get a second chance.. you are only as good as your last event or meal.
I want to say here that catering is the hardest profession ever! Everyone thinks we have such a great life.. we get invited to all the best parties!
It is hard.. hard.. work.. period! It took a few years for our catering business to take off, and it was not for a lack of trying everything. We were busy in the summer but winter was a bitch! Who wants a barbeque in the winter? ..hmmmm .. nope.. no one!
Having barbeque in our company name, was in hindsight, maybe a mistake. But I am not a quitter and by god I used everything in my arsenal (my brain) to figure out how to survive in this quirky business. Not being chefs certainly didn’t help, but not knowing something never stops me from trying. I tried a wrecking business once but not knowing a piston from a sky hook did me in… yep I was that stupid!
First off we always had the biggest ad in the yellow pages.. and that ad paid for itself many, many, many times over.(later on we were the first to do internet and post our menus and pictures and even a video.. painstakingly put up frame by frame of a whole hog turning on the BBQ). We even advertised in the ‘personals ads’ in the newspaper.. I though, well.. everybody reads the personals, right?
What we didn’t know we learned by trial and error and let me tell you there were a lot of trials and some errors (not too many thank goodness). One great idea we had was posting a ‘cheap menu’ on our yellow pages and later website. It was simple , beef, potatoes and two salads.. buns and dessert! This menu started out at 7.25pp almost 30 years ago to move to 12.65pp today! Our saying” from hotdogs to whole hogs” is also still used.
We posted a picture of this meal in the ad. (not this one, I can’t find it and I am at the lake no phonebook). I didn’t care that we would get all the ‘cheap’ calls. I only cared that they would call! Once I had them on the line they were mine and if they weren’t (say they wanted a plated menu or appetizers or whatever it was we didn’t do) then I made sure to regretfully acknowledge that fact and please think of us in the future.
Fact number one everybody loves a deal.. admit it.. you do too, so do I!! So anyone looking for catered food is going to call us first..!
Fact number two, we put AA in front of our company name.. gave us first position in phonebook under caterers. Another strategy we did was.. we stressed winter AND summer catering as well as YEAR ROUND CATERING.
Fact number three… give CUSTOMER SERVICE (those of you that are from the states, I think understand this more so, than we do). We were going into our third or forth year and we were burnt out! Feast in the summer time and famine in the winter months. I had never done anything so hard in my life.. we were always worried about keeping the wolf away from the door.
What I thought would be easy money.. haha.. wtf was I thinking, ..? turned into a nightmare.. it was dog eat dog! A good friend of mine wanted her daughters wedding catered and we agreed on a menu and price (much cheaper than what I wanted to charge.) They were saving some money by doing their own desserts (tarts set out on the tables beforehand). She asked a favor of me, to put them out for her.
I was starting to hate this catering business so much I said sure .. for a price (she didn’t take me up on it). That was really mean- spirited of me, but I did not feel bad. I was at the point that it was either them.. or me,.. and they were the enemy..omg! yes it did get that bad! Anyway long story short, we attended a Catersource catering conference that year in Las Vegas that changed everything!
Fact number four.. get educated about what you are doing and what you should be doing and what others are doing .. then go and do it better! Treat your customers with respect and value them.. without them, we don’t have a business. It was an attitude adjustment for me and knowledge is power! .. and holy crap.. there were a whole bunch of other caterers just like us .. struggling and wanting the same things we did.
We turned into caterers at that conference and it equipped us for the long road ahead.. which also required yearly updates for our attitudes, our business and our soul. Catering will becomes a part of your life weather you like it or not.. and if you don’t.. get out now because it consumes your life.. believe me. ( I will have a piece about balance in your life with catering but not today, that is another story)
Oh .. and the most important fact of all and the hardest for me to implement. Make sure you are getting enough money for a job.. any job.. because if you are not you will hate that job and resent that person for booking you so cheap .. trust me been there done that.. and it is not pretty!!
It is much more fun catering and working your butt off when you are making money, I know this for a fact. (I suppose this can apply to any job you chose to do) btw it ended up I loved catering, I loved the challenges and that is maybe what is key here.. I liked being challenged, every single booking is unique!
hmmmmm.. but I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up yet.. do you?