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Posted On March 18, 2015 by Susan Pupa

Catering Baby Showers: Themes & Tips

First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes a bow wrapped baby carriage. Spring is a popular season for the arrival of new family members. And with the arrival of new babies comes baby showers! Catering for a baby shower is a unique experience. This infographic gives you a few hints for catering a baby shower this Spring.

 

Baby Shower Catering

Image Credits:
Rattle – Tyler Glaude
Fish – Fellipe Camara

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Posted On March 10, 2015 by John Cohen

The Down Low on SEO

SEO. SEM. SMS. OMG. The lingo of digital advertising can be confusing. It’s hard to keep all the acronyms straight and know what each one does. Not to worry, we can help you figure it out. Well, at least SEO – Search Engine Optimization.

What does Search Engine Optimization do for you? In short, Search Engine Optimization is used to help your website show as a proper result on a Search Engine Result Page (SERP) such as Google. SEO is affected by many aspects of your website, including back end meta tagging, website ease-of-use, navigation, and more. Having your website properly optimized can help you rank higher as an organic search result, which increases the chances of your website being visited and ultimately you receiving more calls.

Properly optimizing your website can be confusing. So here are a few tips to help you get started and increase your rankings.

  1. Develop a list of keywords to include in post titles, content, and back end meta tagging. Be sure to use a mix of branded and unbranded keywords. (For example, if you are Tulip’s Bakery in Brooklyn, New York you may choose keywords such as Brooklyn Bakery, Bakery in New York City, Tulip’s Bakery, Tulip’s in NYC, etc.)
  2. Create original content for your website. This includes adding non-stock images to your website, posting new content to your website’s blog, and adding rich media content (such as videos) to your website.
  3. Keep your Meta Descriptions short. Google tends to cut off website descriptions after 160 characters. Be sure when you use them they are concise and potential web visitors will be able to read the full description.
  4. Create a user friendly website. Google and other search engines scan for things such as ease-of-use of your website and your bounce rate. If you bounce rate is high because the content does not appeal to the user it resulted for or because your website is frustrating to use and has hard to find content Google will rank you lower on the search pages.

You can find more about Search Engine Optimization from Google. After defining your keywords and putting them into practice you can use Google Analytics to see where you rank for certain keywords or phrases. Remember, though, that Google changes the algorithm and what it looks for often so be sure to check in or read an article every now and then about what Google is looking for now.

 

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Posted On March 5, 2015 by John Cohen

When Caterers Cater for Each Other: Tips for Getting the Most from Catersource 2015

When you’re a caterer, one of two things is going to happen: You either LOVE to throw a party, or you never throw a party for yourself (like the old saying about the shoemaker’s kids never having shoes).

Catersource 2015 in Las Vegas is what happens when you get some of the best caterers and event professionals in one place and then let them all try to out do each other.

It is, in the simplest terms, FABULOUS!

Catersource is what happens when caterers cater for each other. They throw the party they would love to throw for themselves, and they get to geek out on stuff that others outside the catering, food, and event industries just wouldn’t understand. (I hear some folks are thinking of renaming the tradeshow CaterCon for 2016.)

Here are some of Total Party Planner’s tips for getting the most out of Catersource 2015.

Choose your speakers and sessions based on content, not personality.
Ask yourself, am I going for the flash? For the prestige of hearing someone famous speak? Or does this speaker offer something that would truly help my business? Sometimes you won’t know until you get there whether or not the speaker will say something extraordinary that could change your business and your life. But if you look at both speakers and educational sessions this way, you should make some good choices.

Get the recordings.
Consider getting the recordings of sessions you really liked. There’s no way you can catch everything someone says the first time. There’s no way you can take notes of everything they say. But you can get the on-site recordings to listen to again and to share with your staff at the home office.

Stretch yourself.
Try a few sessions you wouldn’t normally try. Look for growth areas. For example, if you’re a barbecue caterer, attend the veggie and special diet sessions. Attend event planning sessions to get ideas you can implement for your own clients. Check out presentation and food ideas that would be easy to add to what you’re doing now and that will bring delight to your clients.

Give yourself time.
Feeling overwhelmed? Take a moment to breathe and regroup, so you can enjoy yourself and be present for the sessions, speeches, and exhibitions you’re attending.

Look for the delight – and the applause.
If something wows you at the show, it will probably delight your clients. How can you give them that special extra touch that will really bring delight to their event, win their loyalty, and win you the applause?

Some of the highlights we’re looking forward to are:

  • Keynote speakers Marcus Samuelsson and Neal Fraser: Marcus for his international journey and food style, Neal for his worked-his-way-up-from-line-cook story
  • The awards and competitions, particularly the NEW Bright Idea Contest, the Tablescape Contest (because what we see always blows us away, and we LOVE to be blown away), the Best of Buffet Las Vegas Contest (because, hey, food!), and the fun, fast-paced, creative Rapid Recipe Challenge
  • Rock the Night Industry Awards Celebration – our chance to party on the red carpet like true stars
  • The networking and connecting with friends and clients we see every year
  • The fabulous sessions, such as:
    • Increasing the Accuracy of Your Food and Beverage Recipe Costs
    • Financial Metrics for All Caterers: How to Achieve 10% Profit
    • Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Transform Disappointed Customers into Lifelong Clients
    • The Power of Veggies: Satisfying, Healthy, and Profitable Options for Events
    • Ten Places Money is Hiding in Your Catering Business
    • Pricing Theory for Caterers
    • Are You Too Busy to Be Successful?
    • The Four Seasons: Seasonal Gluten-Free and Vegan Menus
    • The White House Chefs
    • What the Heck Is A CRM, and Do I Need One?
    • Avoid Event Day Surprises. The Most Complete Checklist for Event Site Inspection
    • Management 2.0. The Next Steps to Success
    • The Five Most Important Lessons a Small Caterer Needs to Learn As It Grows

And we could go on and on and on…all the sessions look amazing! The point is, whether you’re looking for business tips, recipe and food prep ideas, or better presentation ideas, you’ll find it at CaterCon – er, Catersource 2015.

Make sure to stop by the Total Party Planner booth to say hi and tell us what wows you at the show this year! We are gearing up to reveal #SomethingDifferent in booth 2206. You’ll just have to come see us challenge the status quo. You’ll also see our team on Sunday in the registration area at Caesars. Ready for a little fun with something #MoreThanTechnology? Follow me on Twitter this week @johncohen99 for more about the show.

See you then!

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Posted On February 26, 2015 by Susan Pupa

Are Your Catering Services Being Passed Over?

“Mmm, delicious,” the bride-to-be says covering her mouth with her hand as she talks. “Those crab cakes are pretty amazing,” her fiancé follows up. You beam internally as you serve the couple their last course for their tasting. You know you’ve just nailed this one and are making the prep list in your head before they even walk out the door. “We have one more caterer to visit, but we can’t imagine they will be better than this! We’ll call you in the next few days.” And like a girl after her first date that couple leaves you giddy at your door and follows up your (what you perceived to be) amazing date, sorry, we mean tasting, with (wait for it,) nothing. They never call, never email, not a peep. What happened to them? Was it you? Was it the food? Did you come on too strong?

These are questions you may be asking yourself after a few tastings that result in no bookings. If you aren’t asking yourself where these people are going instead of booking with you, please see us after this post. We have another discussion to have. Asking these questions can help you better understand your customers’ needs and your business. If you find when you follow up with a potential client they have chosen another caterer do not hurry off the phone in embarrassment. Congratulate them on finding a caterer, then ask if they mind you inquiring why they chose that caterer over yours. Some people find it easy to answer these type of questions, but other may find it uncomfortable. If you find there to be a lot of resistance ask if they would mind you sending over a survey via email to help you improve your business.

One reason people may be booking with another caterer is pricing. Don’t let this scare you. People have different budgets for different types of affairs. If you find people are repeatedly claiming price as a reason for choosing another caterer who delivers equal quality for similar events, you may want to do some competitive price checking. Make sure you are in the same range as caterers you would consider your equals (be realistic). If you find that your prices are significantly higher, such as $5 more for similar appetizers or $15 more for comparable entrees, you may consider lowering your prices to be competitive. We are not saying cheapen your product by under pricing items, just make sure you are comparable.

Another reason you may find clients choosing an alternative caterer is the connection they felt with that caterer (or didn’t feel from you.) Yes, they are hiring you for your food, but they are also hiring you for your service. When you visit a restaurant you enjoy your meal more when it is served on time, the restaurant feels clean, and your waiter is friendly. People look for those same qualities in the person providing their tasting. If a couple feels that they could have a laugh with the chef or the staff serving them during their tasting they feel like they are being taken care of by a friend, someone who understands them, not by a stranger in a white coat. The connection may sound silly, but it’s important when people are choosing someone to handle such a large part of their event.

Lastly, you may hear clients say they chose another caterer because of style. This may mean the style of food they served or the fashion in which they served it. Hey, what can we say, some people are won over by those little shooters of soup. If you aren’t sure what your catering style is work on developing it. People love picking a caterer with a specialty as it helps solidify the personality of their event. If a charity is hosting a backyard barbecue to raise money they will not likely hire a black-tie caterer for a four course, seated meal. They will find a caterer who can bring home that homemade-biscuits-and-Grandma’s-secret-barbecue-sauce feel without having Grandma slave over a stove for three days. The food puts the personality into an event. Remember that as you taste with potential clients.

It’s not always a bad thing if a client goes with another caterer. Maybe you all were not a good fit. Maybe they didn’t have the budget for the type of food you offer. All of that is okay, as long as you aren’t repeatedly passed over for potential business.

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Posted On February 18, 2015 by John Cohen

Catering Mistakes to Avoid

If you are new to catering or just opened your own business, you are probably overwhelmed with emotions about the first events on your calendar. Your first few catering events can be thrilling but can also be very stressful. Simple mistakes like mistimed meals, undercooked dishes, or forgetting prep tools can make your stomach turn with more than just butterflies. These five common catering mistakes made by fresh out of the kitchen caterers can be easily avoided with a little preparation. Be sure to plan ahead.

5 catering mistakes TPP (2)

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Posted On February 11, 2015 by Susan Pupa

A Little Love for the Anti-Valentine

So the countdown is on for all those madly in love at the beginning of 2015! Only a few days left and counting. And only 4 days until we’re past what may be known as the most torturous holiday of the year for singles. Valentine’s Day may be the money maker of all Hallmark Holidays for those in love, but there’s another catering customer that shouldn’t be forgotten on this holiday of hearts – the Anti-Valentine. Single’s and Anti-Valentine’s Day catered parties are becoming almost as popular as Valentine’s Day itself. Here are a few ideas to appeal to the Blue Valentines.

Single Ladies Dinner
Play a little Beyoncé and gather all the single ladies (All the single ladies!). Offering a singles dinner option can capture a different audience and give you a chance to shake things up in the kitchen. Instead of adorable love-themed dinner items for two, you can brainstorm some ideas for a group of single gals who enjoy the free bird side of life.

vodka soaked skewers

Vodka Soaked Skewers from The Kitchn

Single Ladies Dinner Menu:
Girl-Power Salad
Vodka Soaked Singles Skewers (Fruits or Veggies)
Free Bird Nests (Grilled chicken in crispy potato string baskets)
Toasting the Single Life (Champagne Cocktails)
Let’s Mix and Mingle Drinks (Mixed Drinks)
Rolling in (Cookie) Dough Pops (Every girls favorite, bite sized cookie dough bites)

Stupid Cupid Party
For every person who’s happy as a clam being single there’s someone else who is a little bitter about their status on Valentine’s Day. So on the flip side of those celebrating the single life, we suggest a Stupid Cupid dinner menu for those who are a little upset with the arrow shooting cherub. Everyone deserves a good dinner on Valentine’s Day.

meatballs

 Shot Through the Heart Meatballs from SheKnows.com

Stupid Cupid Party Menu:
Shot through the Heart Meatballs
Single’s Mac & Cheese (Single Serve Ramekins)
Don’t Wanna Taco ‘Bout It (Tacos)
My Bloody Valentine (Bloody Mary Cocktail)
Medium Sliced Prime Rib Bites
Broken Heart Cookies

Whether you’re heating things up in the kitchen for a couple or a group of singles, Valentine’s Day cooking gives you the opportunity to innovate.  Get a little creative and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Posted On January 30, 2015 by John Cohen

Organize Your Catering Business

At the beginning of this month we talked about setting goals and New Year’s Resolutions for your catering business. If your New Year’s Resolution for your business was to be more organized, you’re in luck! We’re in the business of keeping you organized. Now hold on, this is not a sales pitch (well, not completely). Organizing your catering business involves more than just a good piece of software.

When you think “what needs the most organization in my business” the first thing to come to mind is probably the events themselves. The events you cater and how well you cater them is what drives your business and brings you new clients. Fall flat on execution and you’ll see the effects in your business. When organizing your events you should have an accessible calendar. This helps with planning and booking jobs. The other top two organizational items for the actual events – food production sheets and full detailed worksheets. These two items tell your staff what food needs to be prepped beforehand and what needs to go out with the delivery, whether that’s platters, tablecloths, or the amount of food. Some of you may not include linens in your services, but what you probably do provide is serving and/or wait staff. Besides the food you are providing, your staff is probably the second most important part of your event. Total Party Planner is capable of detailing all of these tasks. It keeps an easily accessible calendar, can automatically generate a pull list for events based on menus, and can schedule event staff.

The other key business aspect you’ll want to organize is your billing. Now, clients might not care if they never receive a bill from you. In fact, we’d venture to guess your phone would be ringing off the hook if you never billed clients. It’s too bad you wouldn’t be able to take those calls though as you won’t be able to buy supplies without any cash flow. Getting your billing sorted out so you get paid is a must. Be sure to track your proposals, the actual cost of the event, and your final bills. Some of you may have your menu costs down to a science but if you aren’t sure what it is costing you to make 75 Chicken Cordon Blues, you may want to take a closer look at your costs. This can help you determine if you are over-spending, under-quoting, or are right on the money. Total Party Planner is also capable of helping you analyze your menu costs, track inventory costs, and track event deposits and payments.

At the end of the day, if you are staying organized and running your business the old fashioned way with paper, pen, and a calculator we say “Way to be organized.” But, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t think there was a better way. Excuse our sales pitch for just a minute, while we explain. Total Party Planner is more than an organization tool. It can help you analyze your business costs, create contracts, and help you run a smoother business. It can save you time in handwriting menus, adding up your goods needed by hand, or calling individual employees to come cater an event. We believe in your businesses and think you should have the time and the tools to make them successful. To see a full list of the services the Total Party Planner software can provide visit our website or view a live demo.

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Posted On January 27, 2015 by Susan Pupa

Total Party Planner Catersource Sponsorship Winner Selected!

We are so excited to announce the winner of the Catersource Sponsorship opportunity! The candidates were all carefully considered and the final selection was chosen by our Board of Advisors. A huge THANK YOU goes out to everyone who submitted an application! We really enjoyed reading all of the entries and learning so much about all of the caterers who participated, along with hearing about the topics that are of interest to you at the upcoming conference. All of the submissions received were FANTASTIC! Selecting just one winner was certainly no easy task.

Now without further ado….

The sponsorship award goes to Davii Mandel of Mi Chicas Kosher Catering & Events from Spring Valley, New York!

Davii’s business has grown leaps and bounds over the past few years when she changed her business model and brought her daughter, Chany, on as a partner. She is excited for the opportunity to attend the conference and be able to bring her daughter with her. This mother-daughter team is hoping to gain knowledge and inspiration in the areas of tabletop decor, room decor, menu planning, tips & tricks, floral ideas, and are looking forward to meeting with experts in the field.

Congratulations Davii! We look forward to meeting you in person at the Conference & Tradeshow!

Chany & Davii

 

Davii and her daughter Chany of Mi Chicas Catering & Events

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Posted On January 22, 2015 by Lauren Methena

Why Does Everything Taste Like Bacon? Top 5 Over-used Food Flavors and Other Annoying Food Trends

Does everything really taste better with bacon?

Are you that person who can’t get enough of the stuff? Maybe you’re likely to experiment at Thanksgiving by making sure EVERY dish you make, from the turkey to the stuffing to the mashed potatoes, has bacon in it, as my sister did one year.

Or are you one of those people who have become jaded by the fact that chefs and marketing professionals everywhere seem to think they can sell more of something to us simply by adding bacon to it?

Pumpkin is another great example. I love pumpkin season. I look forward to pumpkin bread, pumpkin oatmeal cookies, and pumpkin curries! But even I have begun to question—does everything need to taste like pumpkin?

Just because we can—does it mean we should?

I offer for your consideration the top 5 over-used food flavors and other annoying food trends of today. How many of these have you experimented with in your own kitchen? And how do people react to these ingredients at your events?

Bacon
There are two major problems with bacon-flavored everything. (We’re going to take the reason of “it can get tiresome” as a given with any of these flavors.) The first is that BACON ISN’T HEALTHY. It’s fatty and salty. Don’t Americans have a hard enough time with eating healthy? We have too much unhealthy food temptation around us all the time—and we give in too often. Do we really need to add bacon to everything on top of that?

The second problem is that it’s an exclusionary ingredient. It may seem like a lot of people want to jump on the bacon bandwagon. However, by adding it to a recipe, you’re automatically excluding vegans, vegetarians, Jews, Muslims, and people with health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, from eating it.

That’s why I say—enjoy it in moderation. Offer a few fun or inventive bacon items at each event, if you must. But don’t go overboard. (And by the way, as a disclaimer, even my sister had to admit that her Thanksgiving bacon experiment, which included a bacon-wrapped turkey, was a bit much for one meal.)

Pumpkin
I’m really biased about pumpkin, I have to admit. It would take a LOT of pumpkin before I would cry, “Too much!” However, this past fall, what bothered me is that it seemed like marketers were adding pumpkin to things just to get people to buy their stuff. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pasta, chocolate pumpkin truffles—even pumpkin Oreos (which, admittedly, were pretty good). Even if my palate doesn’t easily tire of pumpkin, my other senses did. Adding pumpkin to something doesn’t make it new, isn’t all that innovative, and doesn’t automatically mean that consumers will buy more of it. It was the seasonal manipulation that ruined it for me.

For fall and holiday gatherings, perhaps having one centerpiece dish that features pumpkin is enough. That way, that dish can really shine!

Wasabi
Somewhere along the way, wasabi became synonymous with exotic, adventurous food. “Look how crazy I am! I took ordinary peanuts and put WASABI on them!” “Whoa, dude!”

Wasabi is a fantastic addition to a lot of dishes. However, the snack aisle is now inundated with wasabi-flavored everything, from peanuts to potato chips! The novelty is gone. Wasabi has been relegated to that growing category of things hipsters are referring to when they say, “I liked it before it was popular.”

(Side note: Check out that fabulous “Simpsons” episode from February 2002 that featured Wolfgang Puck selling wasabi-infused rice crispy treats with a Portobello glaze at a private school bake sale. I reference it because it’s funny, and it proves my point that the wasabi trend is played out, if the Simpsons were making fun of it back in 2002.)

Kale
OK, I know kale isn’t a flavor necessarily. But as an ingredient, more manufacturers seem to be adding it to their food to make it seem healthier. I saw a package of veggie chips masquerading as regular potato chips with a little starburst in the corner: “Now with 2g of kale in every serving”.

What’s next? Kale-flavored jelly beans? Adding kale isn’t the magic ingredient that turns an average processed snack into health food. That’s just not how it works.

Gluten-free
Gluten-free isn’t a flavor or an ingredient—it’s just a category of food that doesn’t contain any wheat or wheat byproducts. But it’s amazing how many people are now going out of their way to advertise their products as “gluten free”—even if they’ve been gluten free the whole time!

Granted, buying things that are legitimately gluten free can be tricky. Sometimes, there are gluten products in the seasonings of things like potato chips, where you wouldn’t think to look for gluten. But still, I laughed out loud the first time I picked up a package of jelly beans that read, “We’ve always been gluten free!”

BONUS: Potato chips and chip-like snacks
I was going to stop at 5—but then I thought about the trend with snack foods. Particularly potato chips. Who decided that potato chips should be a blank canvas for all other flavors? That we can just willy nilly flavor poor potato chips with any crazy food combination that pops into our hungry minds?

And who on earth thought flavoring potato chips like coffee was a good idea?

There are now chips that taste like pizza, cheeseburgers, and even Mountain Dew! And please note, as if to prove the entire point of this blog, when Lay’s had a contest to find a new potato chip flavor, bacon and wasabi were included in the line-up. In fact, the wasabi chip won.

The flip side of this trend is that everyone is trying to make healthier versions of potato chips. Potato chips are both the devil and the gold standard of snacking. We love them—but we hate them—but they taste so good—but we hate ourselves in the morning for eating them.

So everyone tries to make the next chip that will replace the potato chip. They try to make them healthy by making them out of kale and beans to lessen the carbs and increase the protein.

But can anything really replace the potato chip?

So, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the snack aisle, searching for some pumpkin-flavored, kale juice-infused, gluten-free bacon chips—in wasabi and original varieties. They’re the latest thing, I hear.

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Posted On January 21, 2015 by Susan Pupa

The History of Software

The folks over at Capterra compiled this infographic about the history of software and added Total Party Planner.   As the first catering software company to release a fully web-based solution, we’re thrilled to be included!

 

The History of Software

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From the Kitchen to the Books, We’ve Got You Covered.

  • Calendars
  • Proposals
  • Staffing
  • Kitchen Worksheets
  • Inventory
  • Recipes
  • Costing
  • Profit Analysis
  • Invoices
  • Receivables
  • Custom Reporting

Experience Total Party Planner first hand. Attend a free demo.

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