Archive for the ‘catering’ Category

There’s Gold in Catering, But You Have to Mine It!

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Catering is the most lucrative food and beverage activity for a private club.  This is so because of the economies of scale in serving a known number of guests a specific menu at a set time.  Club operators with the appropriate facilities fully recognize the value of catered functions as a means to boost revenues and net profit.  Savvy club members recognize that a robust catering operation subsidizes their club’s operation, relieving ever escalating cost pressures, rising dues, and periodic assessments.

Despite the many benefits of catered functions, how many managers put the necessary effort into this greatest of opportunities?  With a little bit of effort you can mine the vein of catering gold for your club.  Here are some common sense ways to exploit catering to your club’s benefit:

  • If your facilities and the opportunity are sufficient to justify the cost, hire a dedicated catering manager to sell and service catered events.
  • Establish a catering contract and policies to cover all aspects of the catering operation to include space utilization, minimums, guarantees, room charges, special service fees, room set ups, equipment rental fees, etc.
  • In conjunction with your chef, design attractive catering menus, pricing, and a catering sales packet.
  • Develop a catering marketing plan to focus action and accountability on attracting business.
  • View your catering space the same way a hotel views a room night or an airline views a seat on a flight – as the most perishable product you have.  If not used on a given day or evening, the revenue opportunity is lost forever!
  • Benchmark your catering operation in detail.  At a minimum track your space utilization rates and average revenue per function for each catering venue in your club.  Break down your benchmarks into times with similar demand or usage such as weekday (Tues, Wed, Thurs) versus weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun).  Track the utilization of your most lucrative venues such as your main ballroom for high end functions such as weddings and holiday parties.  Compare year to year benchmarks to track progress or spot weaknesses.  Use previous year benchmarks to set sales targets for future periods.
  • Aggressively court your membership to hold or sponsor functions for their businesses, trade associations, or as a venue for the special occasions of families and friends.
  • Ensure your staff recognizes the importance of catering to the success of the club and that the many “touch points” in planning and execution are seamless, efficient, and with “over the top” service.
  • Ensure follow up to all events to guarantee complete satisfaction and continual process improvement.

Bank robber Willie Sutton said he targeted banks because “that’s where the money is.”   Club managers need to target their catering operation for maximum use and efficiency for the same reason.  While I may be mixing metaphors, don’t neglect the catering gold for a lack of effort to fully “mine” the potential.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

What I Expect from My Catering Director

Monday, February 16th, 2015

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.  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.  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.  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.  Here are my requirements:

Conduct a market analysis of the club membership and the areas around the club to determine potential demand for catering and meeting services.  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.  This analysis should be reviewed and updated annually.

Prepare an Annual Catering Sales Marketing Plan and budget.  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.

Prepare appropriate collateral materials to support the catering marketing effort.  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.  These materials tend to be quite expensive, but they are important selling tools in your catering business.  There are other low or no-cost options available as you can see here.

Organize the planning and execution of the catering department to include the one-time development of the following:

  • 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.  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.
  • 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.  Experience has shown that a limited number of “packages” aid in the selling process and reduce the time investment in custom menu planning.  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.
  • Menus and pricing for different alcoholic beverage arrangements such as open bars, cash bars, beer and wine service, cordial service, champagne service.
  • 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.
  • A catering contract that includes all the policies and notes who, if anyone, is allowed to modify the contract at the event.  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.
  • Written policies and procedures for all the various meal, alcoholic beverages, and meeting set-ups.  This is used to train the banquet staff to a common standard for set-ups, preparation, execution, breakdown, and cleanup for events.  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.
  • Training material for catering staff covering all aspect of catering preparation, set-up, and service.
  • Agreements with rental and special services firms for tents, limousines, valet parking, audio-visual, telecommunications, computers, party favors, and decorations.

Access membership demographics for celebratory dates such as anniversaries and birthdays to be used to “sell” private functions and parties to club members.  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.

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.

Benchmark activities by type such as banquets (plated and seated), receptions (buffets, serving stations, passed trays), and coffee breaks.  Track number of events, number of attendees, revenues, average revenue per event by type of event.  This information can be used to budget, establish future period goals, and help establish policies and pricing to maximize revenues by type of event.

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.

Conduct after-event calls and surveys of catering clients to determine level of satisfaction with event and service.  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.  Such dedication to quality and continual process improvement will ensure the club the success of its catering operation.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Showtime

Monday, June 27th, 2011

“Show Time” – The time at which a catered event is to start, or when guests start arriving for the event.  More importantly, from our perspective – The time when all set up must be completed and staff standing tall ready to “rock and roll.”

A great deal of planning and organization goes into the preparation for each and every catered event at our club.  The Clubhouse Manager or Catering Manager has already met with the event host, selected or designed menus, reserved space for the event, ensured that all necessary equipment, supplies, and beverages are on hand to support the event, and scheduled the staff necessary to carry it off.

The Chef and his staff have planned the production of all food ensuring sufficient stock is on hand to meet the needs of the event.  The food has been carefully prepared with great attention given to event timing ensuring that food is ready to be served at its peak of flavor and freshness.

Guests are assembled, some coming many miles to attend the event.  The host is understandably nervous that all go according to plan.  Much planning and expense are on the line.  Everything is ready.

How do we make sure we meet everyone’s expectations?  Basically, there are four things we must do to meet the expectations of our members and guest.

  • We must be organized in both our planning and execution of the event.
  • We must be well-trained to deliver high quality service in all aspects of the event.
  • We must work as a team. Kitchen and service staff must understand their responsibilities, execute them efficiently, be prepared for the unexpected, and help each other out whenever necessary.
  • We must have positive attitudes and a strong commitment to service. We should smile easily and often, and look for ways to be helpful to members, guests, and fellow employees.

The tables are set, the room decorated and lights dimmed, the food ready to go, the music just right, the guests are expectant, looking forward to the occasion.  The staff is prepared – standing by, ready to give remarkable service.  The doors open.  Here they come.  It’s Showtime!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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What I Expect of My Club Catering Director

Monday, April 25th, 2011

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.  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.  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.  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.  Here are my requirements:

1.      Conduct a market analysis of the club membership and the areas around the club to determine potential demand for catering and meeting services.  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.  This analysis should be reviewed and updated annually.

2.      Prepare an Annual Catering Sales Marketing Plan and budget.  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.      Prepare appropriate collateral materials to support the catering marketing effort.  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.  These materials tend to be quite expensive, but they are important selling tools in your catering business.  There are other low or no-cost options available as you can see here.

4.      Organize the planning and execution of the catering department to include the one-time development of the following:

a.       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.  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.      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.  Experience has shown that a limited number of “packages” aid in the selling process and reduce the time investment in custom menu planning.  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.       Menus and pricing for different alcoholic beverage arrangements such as open bars, cash bars, beer and wine service, cordial service, champagne service.

d.      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.       A catering contract that includes all the policies and notes who, if anyone, is allowed to modify the contract at the event.  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.       Written policies and procedures for all the various meal, alcoholic beverages, and meeting set-ups.  This is used to train the banquet staff to a common standard for set-ups, preparation, execution, breakdown, and cleanup for events.  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.       Training material for catering staff covering all aspect of catering preparation, set-up, and service.

h.      Agreements with rental and special services firms for tents, limousines, valet parking, audio-visual, telecommunications, computers, party favors, and decorations.

5.      Access membership demographics for celebratory dates such as anniversaries and birthdays to be used to “sell” private functions and parties to club members.  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.      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.      Benchmark activities by type such as banquets (plated and seated), receptions (buffets, serving stations, passed trays), and coffee breaks.  Track number of events, number of attendees, revenues, average revenue per event by type of event.  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.      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.      Conduct after-event calls and surveys of catering clients to determine level of satisfaction with event and service.  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.  Such dedication to quality and continual process improvement will ensure the club the success of its catering operation.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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