As every club manager knows, catering is the most lucrative part of a club’s food and beverage service since it adds revenue volume, economies of scale, and certainty to a very uncertain and volatile business.Â Lucky is the club that has the appropriate facilities and venues, as well as a board that recognizes the contribution and necessity of a robust catering business to the club’s bottom line.Â But having the facilities and strong backing of the board is only the first step in a successful catering operation.
Having a disciplined and detail-oriented Catering Director to oversee the operation is the single most important contributor to success in catering.Â Not only must the club find and hire such a professional, but the General Manager must clearly spell out his or her expectations for the Catering Director.Â Here are my requirements:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Conduct a market analysis of the club membership and the areas around the club to determine potential demand for catering and meeting services.Â This analysis should consider any rules or restrictions the club has on accepting outside business, as well as identify and analyze in depth any competition the club will have for these services.Â This analysis should be reviewed and updated annually.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Prepare an Annual Catering Sales Marketing Plan and budget.Â This plan should identify potential target markets and how to best reach them, specific programs or campaigns to market club catering and meeting services, monthly sales goals, and measures and reports to track efforts to meet the plan.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Prepare appropriate collateral materials to support the catering marketing effort.Â These should include a proper presentation folder and brochure with lots of professional photographs of your club and venues; sample menus and price lists, room diagrams, planning checklist, planning worksheet, sample room set-ups, sample contract, and all club policies relating to catering.Â These materials tend to be quite expensive, but they are important selling tools in your catering business.Â There are other low or no-cost options available as you can see here.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Organize the planning and execution of the catering department to include the one-time development of the following:
a.Â Â Â Â Â Â Room diagrams for all venues to include dimensions, capacities with various set-ups, and occupancy limits; location of electrical outlets, lighting and sound controls, telephone jacks, HVAC controls; availability of wi-fi; availability of window shades and lighting controls to darken rooms; and a list of available audio/visual and computer equipment.Â Diagrams should be prepared for each venue with various set-ups to show prospective clients and as a guide to help club staff set up rooms for specific events.
b.Â Â Â Â Â Menus and pricing for different meals and types of events, including sit-down banquets; receptions with buffets, serving or carving stations, or passed trays; continental breakfasts; and meeting breaks.Â Experience has shown that a limited number of “packages” aid in the selling process and reduce the time investment in custom menu planning.Â This is not to say that the club won’t do custom planning, but anything that limits the up-front investment of planning time makes the operation more efficient.
c.Â Â Â Â Â Â Menus and pricing for different alcoholic beverage arrangements such as open bars, cash bars, beer and wine service, cordial service, champagne service.
d.Â Â Â Â Â All catering policies to include hosting policy, deposits, minimums, guarantee counts, cancellations and postponements, service charges, client decorations, entertainment, corkage and plating fees, client supplied food, donations, rentals, methods and timing of payments, fire safety, etc. must be determined, formalized, and printed up to provide to prospective clients.
e.Â Â Â Â Â Â A catering contract that includes all the policies and notes who, if anyone, is allowed to modify the contract at the event.Â This is useful protection for the club when, in the flush of a great celebration, the client’s daughter tells the staff that she wants to keep the open bar going for another hour.
f.Â Â Â Â Â Â Written policies and procedures for all the various meal, alcoholic beverages, and meeting set-ups.Â This is used to train the banquet staff to a common standard for set-ups, preparation, execution, breakdown, and cleanup for events.Â This is a major one-time effort, but it will save the club hours in efficiency of operations, while providing consistent quality service to all clients.
g.Â Â Â Â Â Â Training material for catering staff covering all aspect of catering preparation, set-up, and service.
h.Â Â Â Â Â Agreements with rental and special services firms for tents, limousines, valet parking, audio-visual, telecommunications, computers, party favors, and decorations.
5.Â Â Â Â Â Access membership demographics for celebratory dates such as anniversaries and birthdays to be used to “sell” private functions and parties to club members.Â It is also important to “mine” the data of members’ business ownership as these companies will be prime target markets for business meetings and events.
6.Â Â Â Â Â Benchmark usage of all venues to determine utilization rates with the aim of establishing policies and pricing strategies to maximize use and revenues of key dates and times for prime function space.
7.Â Â Â Â Â Benchmark activities by type such as banquets (plated and seated), receptions (buffets, serving stations, passed trays), and coffee breaks.Â Track number of events, number of attendees, revenues, average revenue per event by type of event.Â This information can be used to budget, establish future period goals, and help establish policies and pricing to maximize revenues by type of event.
8.Â Â Â Â Â Prepare a Weekly Catering Sales Report for the general manager to include catering event and revenues for the week, key benchmarks, prospecting efforts, call reports, and 60-day rolling forecast of upcoming events.
9.Â Â Â Â Â Conduct after-event calls and surveys of catering clients to determine level of satisfaction with event and service.Â The focus of such surveys is to capture future business while improving any areas of dissatisfaction.
Like any other product or service, the club’s catering function must stand head and shoulders above its competition and continually strive to improve its quality, service, and standing in the community.Â Such dedication to quality and continual process improvement will ensure the club the success of its catering operation.
Thanks and have a great day!
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