I have never been much of an athlete, however, I thought it to be most fitting to open this extremely long overdue post with a reference to the American pastime, baseball. Its as if each of these last four and a half months have been their own inning, with new players up to bat (including myself), a handful of strike outs, and the mystery pitch, not knowing which twist is coming at me next.
Of course, the analogy is in reference to my time as a “catering director” and “pastry chef” and the bustling restaurant, food., in downtown Summit, NJ. Let me say right off the bat (the pun was intentional), that I absolutely LOVE my job. As much of an advocate I am to open and run your own business, there are times when a decision to work elsewhere (as I have) is without question the best one you can make. I know I did that. Not to say I won’t open my place down the road, but I wouldn’t trade in the amount I’m learning here for anything.
With that, the blog is back up and running in full force. No, I will not be ranting and raving about my staff, customers, coworkers, or any of the sort. I may remind you, dear reader, this is not that kind of blog.
So here we go. Starting a catering division at an already established restaurant is no easy feat. Having a multitude of other responsibilities can inhibit one’s ability to get the primary job done; or at least make it take for-ev-er to complete. Nevertheless, four and a half months later, we have a menu. I can’t tell you that there is any one system or way to create something like this. After my first two failed attempts at it, I finally figured out that, yes, you can serve eggs buffet style and, no, you just can’t serve French fries in a big bowl with a “ketchup dipping sauce.” Hello? Duh!
My toughest struggle was, and still is (and really just always has been) pricing. Never having money growing up, I always see something that really isn’t expensive as expensive. As a result, I undercharge, big time, and that will not only put us out of business, but my rear end will be out on the street so fast that I’ll have to rename my blog to “eating dirt on the streets of manhattan.”
So as I work on getting over my fear of charging customers “too much,” I have a menu without prices listed. This works for a number of reasons.
- Clients won’t be limited to priced out quantities. For example, if each item is priced to serve 18, a party of 20 is forced to get two, spend the extra money and waste the extra food.
- Prices can fluctuate depending on market costs and situations. Every time you want to change your prices, you have to spend money printing new menus. If that’s four times a year (with each season), the cost adds up. Plus, if there’s a lobster shortage this winter, you won’t be stuck charging $14 for something that costs you that just for the fish.
- You can tailor the menu for each client. In hospitality, its important to make the customer feel as if they are the only one you are taking care of. I know, with so many people coming in and out, its not an easy task. Nevertheless, having a conversation with your customer is super important. Binding your catering menu to a flat rate sometimes eliminates that conversation. They see the price as too high, or they don’t bother asking any more questions because all the information is right in front of them (so they may think). Truth is, I want to talk to clients. How can I cater your party and make it a success without getting to know you first?
In writing this and (hopefully) many posts to come, I never presume to know it all. In fact, every single day I’m learning something new, and I consider myself lucky for that. Nothing is easy, as much as you wish you could just have a quick drop off, get it done business, hospitality doesn’t work that way… at least for me.
So now that the menu is printed and we are ready to roll…. Anyone having a party soon?