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Posted On October 22, 2014 by Susan Pupa

Pleasing Picky Eaters and Food Lovers at the Same Time Through Catering

Picky eaters—frustrating mothers and caterers since the dawn of time. (“If you’re not hungry enough to eat that wooly mammoth meat I just gave you, then you must not really be that hungry.”) There’s one in every crowd—a picky eater, that is. Or, more likely, several picky eaters. But is it picky eaters’ faults that they’re so picky about their food? Why are some foods loved and hated with equal passion?

And, more importantly, how can you as a caterer find a way to please picky eaters and food lovers at the same time? Can you please the picky eaters without denying the rest of us the food we love?

Science actually has an answer. Turns out our food likes and dislikes are influenced by both nature and nurture. Our genes influence how we taste certain foods and whether or not we’re going to like certain textures. Culture, experience, and nostalgia influence what we like, too, which is why mom’s spaghetti or grandma’s apple pie will always be the best!

And remember—it’s not always the taste that bothers people. Smell and mouth feel play very strong roles in whether or not we like a food. Texture is a big one. How many times have you served someone a food they hate, perhaps well disguised, only to have them declare they love what they’re eating?

These are some of the top foods that people either love or hate—and some ways to serve each to even the pickiest of eaters.

Cilantro

Best to get this one out of the way early. Turns out, some people are more sensitive to a compound in cilantro, called aldehyde. People with a certain gene think that foods with this compound taste like soap or metal. Try bruising cilantro first or adding it to food while it’s cooking to help lessen its potency. Both of these actions release some of the offending compounds, which could make it more tolerable to folks who are sensitive to aldehydes. Or, if you’re serving it fresh as a garnish, because you like the full strength of it, serve it on the side and let people add their own.

Onions

It’s not just the strong taste and odor of onions that people don’t like—it’s the texture of biting down on a small crunchy thing in the middle of your sauce or soup that turns off people from onions. But the taste of onions can make or break a recipe for onion lovers. Please both parties by sautéing your onions before you add them to a recipe, perhaps with a bit of brown sugar to really bring out the sweet tones of the onions, and then puree them before adding them to your food.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms fall heavily under the “hated texture” category. And how can you blame people? How many times have you eaten over-cooked, rubbery mushrooms? It’s enough to make the most ardent supporter hate mushrooms. On the other hand, mushrooms add such a wonderful, distinctive flavor to whatever they’re added to. They can make or break certain recipes—especially in vegetarian and vegan dishes. Consider processing mushrooms in a food processor to make mushroom crumbles, which when cooked could be mistaken for a tender ground beef. Or, take it one step further and puree them. If you make the mushroom crumble and then sauté the whole batch, you’ll release a lot of liquid. Once the mushrooms are very watery, pour the mushrooms and the liquid into a blender and puree. You can also add a little liquid, such as some broth. Or, try adding unsweetened coconut milk to make a thick mushroom cream that’s also vegan. (We recommend Trader Joe’s refrigerated unsweetened coconut milk, because it adds no coconut flavor.)

Ketchup

Ketchup seems to be the dividing line between food snobs and common food folk—and toddlers, who will eat ketchup like it’s a main dish. (And let’s be honest—is there anyone among us who hasn’t in a moment of desperation covered a child’s food in ketchup just to get them to eat it?) However, toddlers may be on to something. Ketchup is salty and acidic—and both flavors enhance other food flavors. If you’re thinking of offering ketchup as a condiment, try making homemade ketchup in a variety of flavors. Try adding dill or garlic—get creative! Because even the snobbiest food snob won’t be able to resist a well-flavored handmade artisanal ketchup.

Tofu

OK. Even for vegetarians, it’s easy to understand why many folks hate tofu. But if it’s so bad, why do some people absolutely swear by it? What magic have they discovered? Two things—how to flavor it and how to manipulate the texture. Tofu, especially when being used as a meat substitute or as the main ingredient in a dish, needs to have a chewy texture. Try these tricks. First, freeze it. Freezing firm or extra firm tofu makes it tougher and a bit chewier. Once it defrosts, you can squeeze the liquid out of it like a sponge. And that’s the second thing. Get the liquid out of it. You can either let it sit out on paper towels and press it between plates, constantly turning it and checking it. Or, you can cut up the tofu and bake it. You can do a slow bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or more (or until it’s the consistency you want), or you can bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for around 30-45 minutes, give or take. (This isn’t an exact science, so experiment with what works best for you in your ovens.) Once the tofu is nice and dry, you can marinade it however you like. Then, you can stir fry it, add it to soups and sauces, or bake or fry it to make delicious nugget treats.*

This list could go on and on…green peppers…oysters…black licorice…olives…What are some of the most polarizing foods you have served, and what’s your go-to method for preparing and serving them? Send us your recommendations at Total Party Planner and we’ll use the best suggestions in a future blog!

Happy cooking! And good luck with those picky eaters at your next event!

 

*Bonus suggestion. One of our favorite things to do is to take extra firm tofu, squeeze out the liquid, and cut the tofu into squares (which we call nuggets, because kids will eat almost anything if you call it a nugget). Spray a cookie sheet with canola oil. Then, lay the nuggets on the cookie sheet and spray them with the oil, too. Sprinkle sea salt, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder on the nuggets. Then, bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30-45 minutes, checking them to see if they’re crisp on the outside. If you cook them too long and they turn into croutons, that’s OK, too. Add them to salads or put them in soup—they’ll absorb the broth and become soft again but with a delightfully chewy, meaty texture. Kids love these! And yes, they often dip them in ketchup.

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Posted On October 14, 2014 by Susan Pupa

Technology Lessons Applied to Catering

I recently had the pleasure of attending a technology conference specifically for women here in Richmond, VA.   There were so many inspiring speakers, including top executives from IBM, Cisco, Capital One, and many non-profit and local tech companies as well.  The Governor of Virginia even made an appearance. With so many great educational sessions and opportunities for networking, it was a hugely worthwhile event to attend.

From my experience at the conference, I was inspired on so many levels with ideas and attitudes to bring back to Total Party Planner.  Here are some of my biggest takeaways that I feel can be applied to all businesses, not just technology companies:

  • Invest in people and relationships:   Team = Product. The quality of your product is a reflection on the relationships of your team.
  • Build and invest in strong foundations:  Invest in systems and infrastructure to help support your company and keep it running smoothly. We do this at Total Party Planner with having the right staff in place, along with different software programs to help manage our projects and departments. We also help provide caterers with a strong business foundation through our catering software.
  • Fail Fast:   It can be hard to accept that something you have been passionately invested in isn’t going as planned, but if a project or idea you have been working on doesn’t seem to be succeeding, know when to pivot and when to call it quits.
  • Be Inspiring: Inspiration begins with passion and commitment, and it can grow and change. Inspire individuals, organizations, and industries through dedication, innovation, work ethic, and resilience.

After experiencing first hand how myself, and other key staff members at Total Party Planner were inspired by attending the conference, I would definitely recommend finding similar events in your area.  In the words of Rebecca Jacoby, CIO and Senior Vice President of Cisco at the technology conference, “people are your only sustainable competitive advantage in business”.

 women etc

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Posted On September 9, 2014 by John Cohen

Why Caterers Are Keeping up with the Kardashians: Celebrity Catering Trends YOU Should Be Using, Too

Why should you care about what Kim and Kanye did at their wedding—or what Jessica Simpson and fiancé Eric ate at their four-day nuptials (the food for which apparently cost over $300,000, not including alcohol)?

Because celebrity-news-hungry clients are going to come to you with ideas for their own weddings and parties based on what they read in tabloids and online. And you want to be prepared. You’ll come across as the caterer in the know!

And even though many of these ideas come from weddings, they should translate well for all sorts of events, including corporate shindigs.

Here are emerging trends from 2014 celebrity weddings.

Pre-wedding eve dinners

Think rehearsal dinner, but bigger! People are starting to have bigger rehearsal dinners and are including out-of-town guests as a courtesy. We like this trend, because the evening-before meal gives hosts and guests alike a chance to catch up or get to know each other before the pressure of “the big day” hits. This strategy could be great for any large event—not just weddings. Kate Walsh of Grey’s Anatomy did a large pre-wedding dinner for her guests, as did Al Gore when his daughter got married.

Miniature food

Wolfgang Puck has all the best ideas—and his motto for hors d’oeuvres is if you can’t eat it in one bite, it’s too big. Think a mini-caprese on a stick, with one small cherry or grape tomato, one small piece of fresh mozzarella, and a piece of fresh basil on a stick. A potsticker with a little sauce in an elegant Asian-styled spoon that guests can eat in one slurp. Even miniature s’mores! What do you have in your catering software database that can be shrunk down and served in one small, fun bite-size portion?

Personalizing the party

You don’t have to carve your guests’ names in a marble table, the way Kimye did at their wedding, to tailor an event to your clients and their guests. Something as simple as renaming dishes from your menu after guests of honor (think things like Annie’s Alfredo and Pasta or Aunt Jenny’s Juleps) can really make guests feel special and make the event memorable. Consider getting a favorite family recipe from the hosts and making a large batch of Mama Mary’s Meatballs or Uncle Bobby’s Brown Cobbler.

Food after-party

For late-night events, serve a satisfying mix of savory and sweet snacks after the dinner and cake to keep guests energized as they dance and socialize through the evening. Jessica Simpson served sliders, French fries, pizza, cookies, and s’mores. Think things that are easy to eat and crowd pleasers.

Create-your-own

We’re definitely liking the DIY trend in catering. Not only do some of these self-service ideas take minimal or no staff on your part—guests can experiment with flavors and get exactly what they want. Another great Wolfgang Puck idea is to have a well-timed barista bar, so people can get espressos, iced lattes, and other caffeinated treats just in time to prep them for the main events. Instead of a champagne toast, consider a cocktail bar—offer Champagne and Prosecco, a variety of liquors (such as Chambord, flavored brandies, Framboise, etc.), juices, and fresh fruit, and let guests come up with their own unique combinations. And finally, one trend we really like is DESSERT BARS! Mindy Weiss, wedding consultant to the stars, is seeing dessert bars that include tried-and-true favorites, such as brownies and apple pie, as well as gluten-free, vegan, low-sugar, and other inclusive options—so EVERYONE can indulge!

What’s new about themes

OK, so themed weddings aren’t new, but the themes that people choose can be very timely. For example, Sin City: A Dame to Kill is inspiring vintage film noir, black-and-white themed weddings. What are some themes you could have ready to suggest—but that you can customize to your clients’ personal interests and tastes? ‘60s “Rat Pack” theme with vintage cocktails and American cuisine…Travel and countries, like a French cuisine menu paired with a Versailles theme, à la Kimye this year…A bohemian/hippie/gypsy rhapsody, like Ashlee Simpson’s wedding…Or maybe something a little more rock ‘n’ roll, like Linda Perry and Sara Gilbert’s nuptials (although good luck getting actual ‘80s rock stars to come up and sing their own songs with the band).

And don’t forget…

Other trends we’re seeing are tall cakes (like Mariska Hargitay’s seven-feet-tall cake), lots of color (brides’ dresses are getting more colorful, and the food should match), pairings (mini fish tacos with margarita shooters, for example, or maybe barbecue sliders with a mini stout ice cream float), and a move towards organic and sustainable foods. The idea of using organic, sustainable, locally sourced food isn’t just for crunchy celebs like Alicia Silverstone. It’s a trend that’s here to stay, because it makes sense. Not only will you end up with better quality ingredients—you can often times save money by sourcing fresh ingredients locally. And it’s a bonus that it’s usually better for the environment and the community, too.

What trends are you seeing in your area? We’d love to hear about them!

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Posted On August 19, 2014 by John Cohen

The Art of Catering Food Conference 2014

We recently had the privilege of sponsoring the Art of Catering Food Conference hosted by the International Caterers Association (ICA) and Catersource. If you are unfamiliar with the conference, it is mostly dedicated to culinary training and industry trends. There were over 500 chefs in attendance eager for a jolt of innovation from world-class caterers.

Even though Total Party Planner was there as a catering software sponsor, I was completely caught up in all the excitement of the impressive demonstrations and tastings. To say my palate was pleased is an understatement.

Just a sample of the many highlights that the conference offered were:

  • Using the science of combining chemical elements to create robust flavors
  • Unique and trendy appetizers
  • Blending sweet and savory elements in all aspects menu creation
  • Tours of 3 of the largest catering facilities in Atlanta
  • Inventory control systems
  • A look into the crystal ball of where culinary trends are heading
  • BOH costing vs FOH selling
  • Charcuterie trending appetizers
  • Scallops: The OTHER shellfish
  • A wickedly delicious evening extravaganza combining food stations of various artistic themes
  • Pairing craft beers (a hot new trend) with foods

If that wasn’t enough, the featured presenter was Kevin Gillespie – contender on Top Chef season 6 and owner of The Gun Show in Atlanta. Kevin’s story of creating a restaurant around family stories and values literally inspired people to a standing ovation at the end. If you want to read more about Kevin, check out his website. We could (and just may!) dedicate an entire blog to Kevin.

For me, the ultimate highlight was introducing Executive Chef Adam Gooch of Purple Onion Catering before he presented his topic Sweet Meet Savory, Savory Meet Sweet. Being a long time user of Total Party Planner catering software, I was honored to introduce him and summarize his tremendous achievements in the culinary realm.

AOCF Introduction

To learn more about the Art of Catering Food, you can visit the Catersource website.

If you attended The Art of Catering Food and have a personal favorite or story, please share it with us!

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Posted On August 12, 2014 by Susan Pupa

Total Party Planner Announces Partnership with Social Tables

TPP_small-1-jpgSocial Tables Logo - High Quality

Total Party Planner, creators of innovative web-based catering and banquet management software, announced this week the launch of an integration with Social Tables, provider of leading event diagramming, seating, and check-in software solutions.  The interface, which allows event details to be seamlessly passed from Total Party Planner into Social Tables, is available to all users of both products.

“To integrate with an event diagramming program as sophisticated as Social Tables is beyond exciting for our user community,” said John Cohen, Total Party Planner’s Founder and President. “And the fact that Social Tables shares the same core values as us in terms of customer satisfaction makes it even more special.”

Total Party Planner’s team of developers engineered the interface with Social Tables as an extension of Total Party Planner’s comprehensive features for complete management of a catering business’s operations.

Social Tables complements Total Party Planner by allowing its users to make accurate room layouts, create seating arrangements, and check-in guests at events.  Customers will be able to take their event detail in Total Party Planner and pass the information to Social Tables, where they can customize their event layout and seating diagrams.

“Partnering with best-of-breed technologies is a core focus for us to ensure we provide the best complete solution for our customers,” said Social Tables Chief Marketing Officer, Trevor Lynn. “Total Party Planner has an impeccable reputation in the Catering and Events industry, and we are proud to work alongside them to improve the businesses of our mutual customers.”

Once the room diagram and seating chart details have been created in Social Tables, Total Party Planner users can easily and seamlessly access them from their event at any time.

“The integration of Social Tables with Total Party Planner was seamless,” said Teresa Olson, of Emerald Ridge Weddings in Menomonie, Wisconsin.  “It not only was easy to get to but also saved me time by not having to login to another website. I have all of my events right in front of me at all times so I don’t miss out on that event booking.  I couldn’t be happier with both of these products and their support teams.  Absolutely amazing!”

 


 

About Total Party Planner:

Total Party Planner’s comprehensive catering and event planning software was designed by caterers, for caterers.  Total Party Planner thinks and moves like a caterer, streamlines your business flow to save you time, manages costs and analyzes profits. What started as a time-saver for the family catering business has grown into a robust catering and banquet management program beloved by industry professionals nationwide.

About Social Tables:

Social Tables, the award-winning provider of hospitality software, delivers the most dynamic diagramming and guest management platform on the market. The industry leading company consistently aids its 2,200 customers in achieving their sales and operational objectives. The company’s diverse list of clientele ranges from hotel chains such as the Hyatt Hotel Corporation to academic special events teams from Harvard Business School to corporate meeting teams such as Genentech.

 
Contact:

Susan Pupa
General Manager
Total Party Planner
866-868-7526
susan@totalpartyplanner.com
www.totalpartyplanner.com

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Posted On August 11, 2014 by Susan Pupa

Pinterest for Caterers

In our last blog post, we discussed how Pinterest can help with your internal event planning by generating ideas and giving you an organized space to visualize them.  But besides the internal ways that Pinterest can help your business, there are a number of other great ways Pinterest can give your catering business a boost.

First and foremost, the same Pinterest boards you create for your internal planning can be made public so that prospective catering customers can view your vision.  The boards work double duty, organizing your event while promoting your services at the same time.   Pinning events you’ve catered or items and services your company offers can quickly go viral on Pinterest as others are looking for ideas themselves, and re-pinning to their boards and projects.  When people view one of your original pins, and want more information, they click to get the full content, which takes them away from Pinterest to wherever the content is stored.  This will ultimately drive traffic to your website, and potentially generate new business.

In addition to pinning for a party that you have coming up, you can create boards of industry specific topics that you feel might be of interest to your audience.  Perhaps these could include tips for brides who are starting the wedding planning process or ideas for the office manager booking the company luncheons.  You could also share recipes for popular items.  Even if it isn’t your own original content, it will still help get your name out there, and your client’s will appreciate the tips and ideas you have to offer.  A quick search on Pinterest for “catering” returns a vast array of pins. Some are shown in the image below:

pinterest

Pinterest offers a range of tools to help your business reach more people.  A great tool is the “Pin It” button, which you can add to your website to allow visitors to pin items from your site, to their Pinterest boards.  If you can include some stunning visuals on your website, this is an excellent way to have your content go viral.  The same pictures that you include on your site or on Pinterest of your items can also be used in your catering software; you can add them to your Total Party Planner account for display on your proposals.

Pinterest also offers businesses analytics, so you can see just how effective your Pinterest efforts are in driving traffic to your website, or which of your pins are most popular.

To mention, while Pinterest can be a fantastic marketing tool for your business, there are some potential drawbacks to its popularity for caterers to be aware of.   Now more than ever, you are probably finding clients coming to you with ideas and requests for their events that they found through the site.  These can be difficult to accommodate – especially when they request certain menu items that are not something you regularly offer or are familiar with.   If custom menus are not something you typically provide, having to create these new items can ultimately increase costs.  Food costs may increase due to the need to purchase special ingredients for a single recipe, and then an increase in labor might accompany it due to the need to familiarize and perfect this new recipe.  These recipes may also include ingredients that are out of season, again increasing the costs.   In this new Pinterest (and social media) friendly world, it is best to be prepared for these special requests and consider suggestions from your own companies offerings that are comparable.  You may also wish to enter the recipes into your Total Party Planner account to have a better idea of what the costs might be.

For more information on starting a business Pinterest account, visit their website at http://business.pinterest.com.

Happy Pinning!

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Posted On July 1, 2014 by Susan Pupa

Pinterest for Party Planning

When client’s give you free reign to plan every aspect of their event, you probably have some go-to tools to get the creative juices flowing.  If you aren’t already using it for this aspect of your business, Pinterest is a great platform, to not only help you generate ideas, but to organize and bring everything together into a visual package.

I’ve recently had my party planner hat on, as I have been preparing to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday.  All you parents out there can probably sympathize with me on how the first birthday is a pretty big deal.  Not only is it a time for many of your relatives and friends to gather and spend time with your child (and perhaps watch them devour their first piece of cake), but it’s also a time for the parents to celebrate surviving that first year of parenthood!

To help me plan all the details of the party, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. And there certainly was not a shortage of it available.  Pinterest allows you to “pin” ideas or anything you find on the web that you want save.  You organize them by pinning to a virtual “board”.  Think of it as your cork board collecting ideas for a project.   You can pin from anywhere on the web, or you can search Pinterest to see things that have already been pinned.  You can search other users’ boards to find ideas and see what others are pinning.

In my planning, I created a board dedicated to the party.  I then started searching using terms like “first birthday party” and “kid’s birthday party” to get some general inspiration.  Later, I got a little more specific searching for types of food, dessert, and décor.  I browsed other users “first birthday party” boards as well, along the way pinning whatever caught my attention.   Once I had a vision of what I liked for the party, I refined my board and shaped it into what I was hoping to include.   You can see an excerpt of my board here:

Pinterest Board

 

 

Using Pinterest for your internal planning is only one of the ways Pinterest can be used for your business.  Pinterest is also a great social platform where clients and prospects can interact with you and everything that you have to offer.  To learn more about Pinterest, visit http://about.pinterest.com/.

 

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Posted On June 9, 2014 by John Cohen

An “Island Style” Restaurant & Catering Story

On our recent trip to Turks and Caicos, my wife and I had the pleasure of dining at some really fantastic restaurants on this quaint Caribbean island. There was one place, however, that really made a lasting impression.

“Crackpot Kitchen” in Grace Bay Village and local celebrity owner Chef Nik knows that customer service is one of the best ingredients a restaurant or catering service can include in the culinary experience.

I would say that most of the service in Providenciales (or “Provo” for short) was simply cordial. Nothing more. From making phone reservations, being greeted by the hosts, served by the wait staff, and maybe checked by management – it all fell short of us feeling special at most of the restaurants.

It wasn’t until we dined at Crackpot Kitchen that we felt like we were truly appreciated. Our host could not have been happier to seat us without a reservation (frowned upon at most other places) and then Dameo our waiter took it to another level of excellence.

And then… out came owner Chef Nik. He personally visited our table and thanked us for coming in. What makes this even more special is that Chef Nik is a fast rising celebrity on this Caribbean island. We knew “of him” from the local magazines but never thought we would actually get to meet him.

Chef Nik-2

I should mention too that our 4-course meal was awesome!

Chef Nik is the star of the first cooking show in Turks and Caicos. Since he can remember, he was cooking for his siblings to help his mom out while she worked as a police officer. Eventually, all the kids wanted Nik to cook instead of mom!

His style comes from a unique twist on traditional ways to cook red beans and rice, okra and rice, stew conch and conch fritters, fish grits, and red bean soup. Chef Nik worked for years at several restaurants perfecting his craft and learning other cuisines such as Italian, Japanese and French.

In 2012 Chef Nik started his catering business and the concept for the TV show – which is part cooking and part comedy. He also started a Cooking Camp for kids 10 to 18 years old. The inspired children eagerly learn Chef Nik’s twist on native dishes.

Thanks to Chef Nik for a great experience and understanding fully that customer service is truly one of the best ingredients a restaurant or catering service can dish up!

For more information on Crackpot Kitchen please visit their website : http://www.crackpotkitchen.com/chefnik/

 

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Posted On May 27, 2014 by John Cohen

John’s Interesting Catering Finds at the National Restaurant Show

The National Restaurant Show is always a great excuse for restaurants and caterers of all sizes to visit the windy city of Chicago, IL. This year was certainly no exception.

The show has everything you can imagine (and more!) for our industry. Food, equipment, technology, demos, celebrities, education, parties, and did I mention food?!

From my two and a half days on the show floor, I compiled a list of cool things that I thought really stood out from the crowd. With thousands of exhibitors, this is a pretty tall task to uniquely define your product.

This list is compiled in no particular order of favoritism – but rather the random order that my pile of paperwork, cards, gifts, etc. were crammed into my bag.

  • Tech Slinger. Holsters for wearing our mobile tablets as accessories. OK, maybe it’s more function for wait staff than fashion, but a big statement as to where we are as a technology society. What a great way to always have your Total Party Planner catering software within reach too.productsthesideorder
  • My ‘Vendor Congeniality’ award goes to Prop & Peller Pretzels. They had to be one of the most happy, friendly, energetic staff we encountered the entire show. We met them at the very end of a long day when most vendors seem to mentally check out. Not this team- you would have thought the show just opened. Oh, and their pretzels were fantastic too!
  • With the growing demand for higher quality, healthier restaurant meals, HealthyDiningFinder.com is helping consumers eat better. A quick search by zip code will bring back a list of local restaurants and their healthy dining options detailed in full nutrition.
  • Legal moonshine? Yep. Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine comes from Tennessee’s first legal moonshine distillery. Just to believe it, I had to try it. My full body shutter from gulping half an ounce was proof enough for me that this was the real deal. I love their slogan: Shine Responsibly. You even have to be 21 to enter their website! Moooshine_blackberry
  • Broaster Company pressure fryers are fantastic. My brother and I called them the grease-less fried chicken makers. Because it’s pressure fried, genuine Broaster Chicken is more tender and juicy. I must admit we visited this booth on a number of occasions. I think we might have been considered addicted.
  • I’m guessing that everybody has had an experience with putting sugar packs under a wobbly table – even though ultimately it never stabilizes the table – right? So Flat Tech Technology developed a product that stabilizes any wobbly table. If I didn’t see it in person I wouldn’t believe it – but it really worked great! They have different products for various sized tables.
  • A really neat ‘novelty item’ was the custom wine shade by di Potter. These cute pieces of paper turn any wine glass into a lamp shade look-a-like. You can print a theme, accent an  event color, advertise specials, or simply use your logo. I also thought it was a great way to just show that a table was reserved. ws_tucketred_r
  • My ‘Mega-Food Booth’ award goes to Dietz & Watson. It was amazing how much food variety they were serving! Great presentations, recipes, portions, and most importantly taste. Family owned and operated they are focusing more on the healthy deli options that are “good and good for you”.
  • We noted last year that the vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free diets are not just a fleeting trend. The increased number of vendors this year offering these products continues to solidify this statement. But my ‘Great Tasting Vegan’ award goes to Vegetarian Plus. The vegan Kung Pao chicken and sparerib cutlets may have fooled even the most discriminating carnivore!
  • Taking off on the craft beer craze, Begley and Bills , a sub-company of Seelect, has developed a line of craft organic sodas. They are using a proprietary blend of sweeteners found in nature and they boast a calorie count of just 8. As a soda lover myself, I could definitely substitute this product for the traditional soda lines.
  • Social Media businesses and mobile developers were prevalent this year in every aspect. Again, just confirms we are an advanced technological society. A couple that stood out from the crowd were Fuwak and payForward. The representative at Fuwak (who I think may have been the owner) really  had the most passion for the product. I think he might be a modern day Don Lapre!
  • Kudos to the U.S. Post Office for not giving up on “snail mail” in this era of electronic ‘everything’! With a pretty impressive island booth, they were there to promote the power of direct mail campaigns. In fact, the reason that we stopped by the booth was because of a direct mailing piece we received as attendees of the show. So perhaps they are correct? In our case it worked well.
  • My ‘Name Dropping Advertising’ award goes to Hampton Creek Foods. Somehow they were able to prominently display a quote from Bill Gates about their low fat mayonnaise product. Good for them – I doubt Mr. Gates is interested in any kind of financial kick backs.
  • Check out the cool meatball/cake pop roller by Heavenly Cake Pops. Roll 21+/- balls at a time that are a perfect 1.25″ in diameter every time! I watched it from scratch so I know it wasn’t just a gimmick.easy roller
  • Summer time is picnic time! What better way to upgrade your picnics than with some trendy, delicious Iced Coffee from Farmer Brothers. The portable unit is practical and easy to use. Hint: the French Vanilla was crazy good. This team also gets runner up for the congeniality award. Super consumer experience in their booth.
  • Last, but certainly not least, my all time favorite sweet at the show came from The Christie Cookie. When they say that on average they have 50% more goodness (nuts, chips, etc) in their cookies they really mean it! The ice cold milk being served with warm chocolate chip cookies just put the icing on this sweet NRA find.

Well that’s about it for 2014. Thanks to the National Restaurant Association for another amazing show!

If anybody has a special find of their own, please leave a comment and let us know.

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Posted On May 9, 2014 by Susan Pupa

Better Marketing Strategies for Catering Part 2: How to Craft a Marketing Message that Resonates

Some people make marketing and messaging sound easy. Just tell a story. Keep it short—less is more. Show them, don’t tell them. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. What’s keeping them up at night—and what solutions do you offer them? That’s all well and good, but how do you choose your words? How do you actually craft a marketing message that does all that?

That’s what we’re going to discuss—the actual nuts and bolts of how to craft a marketing message that resonates with your prospects and clients.

All the things we mentioned in the first paragraph are true. You want to tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. That’s why testimonials (particularly video testimonials) and personal anecdotes are always your first choice in marketing. A good quote from someone is more likely to feel like a personal recommendation to someone encountering your business for the first time.

Keeping it short is a must. Say enough to pique your audience’s interest and leave them wanting more—so they’ll contact you for the rest of the story.

And show them, don’t tell them. This video about a blind man shows how a slight change in perspective can make all the difference in the world. In the first part of the video, the blind man is not getting many donations. However, after a woman makes a slight change to his sign, the donations come pouring in. What did she say that made the difference? (You’ll have to watch the video or read our previous blog to find out.)

But how do you actually make the edits you need to create an effective message?

Let’s look at a specific example, so you can get an idea of what kinds of word choices and edits can make your message more powerful.

In Better Marketing Strategies for Catering Part 1: How Will You Talk to Your Audience, we talked about better ways to say, “We’re the best catering company for weddings and large corporate affairs, with flexible food options for every location and special needs diets.”

This message is too long and too clunky to be an effective tagline. It’s also very boring and generic. There’s no magic in this phrase. A general rule of thumb is that you need to catch your audience’s attention in the first five words.

One of the alternatives we came up with to this statement was:

The food you want, the service you need

How did we actually go from the really long statement about corporate events and weddings to this short, succinct eight-word phrase?

There were three major factors: 1. Word play and brainstorming. 2. Editing—lots of it. 3. Customer needs, wants, and desires.

If you look back at “Part 1” of this blog, you can see some of the brainstorming ideas we came up with. That flow of ideas led to this tagline:

From weddings to corporate events—flexible food, impeccable service when you need it

It’s good. There are a lot of things to like in this tagline. It hits all the points from our original phrase. “Impeccable service” sounds pretty exciting. However, the phrase is still too long. We felt like it was getting there, but it wasn’t quite right yet.

The first thing that nearly always adds power to your messaging is making it shorter. We asked, do we really need to state the kind of event we want to cater? That seemed like the most expendable bit of information; therefore, it was the easiest to cut. From there, we came up with:

Flexible food when you want it, impeccable service when you need it

Ah! Much better already. But then, in staring at that phrase, someone saw a parallel in the two phrases and a way to shorten it even more to its simplest parts:

The food you want, the service you need

And that is how we started with:

We’re the best catering company for weddings and large corporate affairs, with flexible food options for every location and special needs diets.

And ended with:

The food you want, the service you need

What’s nice about the last phrase too is that its brevity automatically adds a sense of urgency. What you want—what you need—we have both. Right here. Right now. Immediately. Call us.

It gets to some of the major concerns clients may have about hiring a caterer, too. Will the food be satisfying? Can you cater to our special needs diets? Will you be able to handle all our guests and give us the service we need during our board meeting? This tagline says, “Yes” to all those questions.

One thing that’s important to develop is awareness—which can grow and improve over time. If you’re not born with it, don’t worry. Keep working at it. But with proper awareness, you can start recognizing if a marketing message isn’t working. Is it too long? Too clunky? Just not hitting the nail on the head like you think it should? Doesn’t matter—even if you don’t know how to fix it, recognizing that something needs to be fixed is a huge first step. Because then, you can seek help in fixing it.

We hope that walking through this one example of how a tagline evolved helps get you thinking of how you can craft and edit your own messaging. Because with all the words that are out there in the English language, how on earth do you choose the right words that will resonate with prospective clients and spur them to take action? Now you have a solid example of the mindset that goes into choosing those words.

And remember, if all else fails, you can always hire a copywriter.

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