Posted On May 23, 2013 by John Cohen
This week I had the opportunity to attend the National Restaurant Show in Chicago. What an amazing experience to see 2,000+ vendors in action selling everything under the sun for the food and beverage industry.
Outside of the obvious products you would expect to see at a food show, there was a plethora of heavy equipment, uniforms, advertising media, cleaning products, technology, and educational opportunities. Even the United States Post Office had space on the show floor!
After literally visiting thousands of booths, I decided to put together a small list of things that were truly unique, or perhaps items that our Total Party Planner catering software users could use. So here it is.
Disclaimer: I am not being paid to endorse any of these products. I also have no first hand experience with any of them. Again, they were items that stood out from the normal. They are listed in no particular order or preference.
- Ozark River Portable Sinks : A clean, sleek, professional way to bring hot and cold water on-site with options to mount paper towel holders. The hot water is generated from a common 110 outlet. Definitely a great way to replace the 5 gallon water buckets for cleaning that you might be using now.
- staybowlizer : a patented device that secures bowls of all shapes and sizes from unwanted movement during mixing or filling. Also acts as a double-boiler. You really have to see the demo to appreciate this unique item!
- Fruit in Hand Fruit Starter : Fresh tasting flavors of ripe fruit added to any drink. I had a sample of mixed berry added to lemonade. Personally I enjoyed the small chunks of what seemed to be fresh fruit in the drink. They were also serving the fruit on a brie cheese stuffed pastry shell – which is what separated themselves from the other hundred vendors with a beverage product. Delicious!
- Marinara Tower : Probably the MOST unique item I came across at the show. It replaces the chocolate fountain with more savory options such as meatballs, mozzarella, calamari, etc. Samantha (the inventor) and her mom were great to talk to and I just loved the personal aspect of how they were launching this new product. Check out the website and read Samantha’s story.
- Meatless Meatballs by gardein : There’s no denying the fact that vegetarian and vegan requests are becoming more and more common. These soy based meatless meatballs were as close to the real thing I have ever tasted.
- Custom Concessions : On January 15th we posted a blog about the rising trend of food trucks. Well, if you want to have one built to spec, this company is the one to call!
- Cvap Cafe : food holding cabinets. According to the demo chef, we were served full cheeseburgers that were prepared over 2 hours earlier and stored in their holding cabinets. I couldn’t tell. They really did taste fresh off the grill.
- Manner Guard : mouth guards for the true germ-o-phobe! I threw this one in just for fun. This seems like more of a product for a dental office… but who knows… perhaps someday the FDA will require all food service workers to wear one. You can say you saw it here first!
- DissolvableLabel : for about the same price as the masking tape you might be using to label containers, you can now get fully dissolvable professional labels in a variety of formats. We watched the demo and they did indeed dissolve nicely in water. Shipping charges might put you over the cost of masking tape, but these are worth checking out.
Well, there were certainly thousands of other products to see at the National Restaurant Show. It became hard to distinguish who had the best frozen yogurt, gelato, chips, pasta, sauce, pastry, breads, seasoning, vegetables, desserts, soda, etc. because there were so many of them. That’s probably why you don’t see any of those listed in my unique finds list.
If you can, I would not hesitate to recommend you visit the show next year. If you did attend, and want to share some of YOUR favorite finds, please leave a comment!
Posted In Industry Information
Posted On May 7, 2013 by Emily Powers
Efficient. Easy. Friendly. Awesome. Quick. Knowledgeable. Helpful. Mobile. Evolving. These are just a few words our customers have used to describe Total Party Planner catering software and our support staff. All of these words illustrate one important thing that sets us apart from the crowd: our unending dedication to our clients. But don’t just take our word for it, we have compiled a collection of our favorite endorsements from our very own devoted fans.
We love you guys right back! If you want to be part of the excitement, contact our sales team for a free, no-pressure demo. We can’t wait to show you the product that has helped our clients so much!
Posted On April 18, 2013 by Emily Powers
The results are clear and indisputable. Across the thousands of clients we’ve helped in our 15 years of business, the results are overwhelmingly in favor of using catering software in your kitchen. The top 5 benefits of using catering software in your business range from being able to track food and labor costs more accurately to being able to create better financial reports—all of which lead to more money made and saved and less time spent on paperwork for you.
1. Make more money on each event.
Catering software lets you track the true cost of an event and where your money is going, from ingredients to labor to rental equipment—which will help you make a more accurate (and more profitable) quote. You’ll be able to help clients stay within their budgets and at the same time create menus with better profit margins for you. Better service, better event—and better money for you.
2. Run each event better.
Enter all your event details into TPP just once, and then you’ll have all that information at your fingertips. Print proposals and invoices, make shopping lists for the menu, schedule waitstaff, run inventory reports, create checklists for equipment—so nothing is forgotten, nothing is left behind. Keep track of every detail and any special instructions all in one spot. With all the right equipment and all the right people, you’ll be able to run a better event—every time.
3. Create a better client experience.
TPP makes the client experience better from your very first point of contact. You’ll have all the information your clients need at your fingertips—menus and cost, as well as calendar and staff scheduling information, so you can check for major conflicts right away and see if your favorite bartender is free that day. Once you’ve talked to a prospective client, you can print or email a proposal for them in minutes—which will make you faster than the competition and make you seem more together and professional. You’ll start building trust with your client right away.
4. Cut down on your work.
Remember the days of creating a proposal, then the menu, then the shopping lists and packing lists, then the invoice…never ending paperwork, right? When you use a quality catering program, you enter the client details once—and then really good software will give you the data in any form you want. Make dozens of reports, from food to labor. Create proposals and invoices instantly. Crunch the numbers. And TPP specifically can interface with many popular financial software programs. You can even keep up with your calendar and schedule employees through the software. It’s your one-stop information hub—your catering command center, if you will.
5. Win more applause.
In the end, you’ll run a better event for each and every client, tracking every detail from proposal to final invoice, including payments. You can focus on offering fantastic food and fantastic customer service. And with TPP helping you spend less time on the paperwork, you’ll have more time to enjoy the applause at the end of your event.
Think of all the things that computers have helped us do better and more efficiently over the last few decades, from banking to shopping. Don’t you think your catering business deserves the same efficiency and streamlined service? We do.
If you’re not sure how catering software would work out in the reality of your own kitchen and business office, consider signing up for a live catering software demo to see Total Party Planner in action. We can schedule one at your convenience—and you can ask all your questions.
Are you already using catering software now in your kitchen? How do you like it? How has it helped you the most? Leave us some comments—we’d love to hear from you.
Posted In Industry Information
Posted On March 21, 2013 by Emily Powers
For our March Spotlight, we caught up with Mark Baldwin of Blue Ridge Catering in Roanoke, VA. The Blue Ridge team just celebrated their 10-year anniversary in February and have shared some amazing pictures of their open house event! Read on for great info and tips!
Tell us about your business.
Blue Ridge Catering is a full service off premise catering company located in Roanoke, VA. We specialize in custom designed menus and service for weddings, galas, and events of all types.
How did you get started catering?
I grew up in the catering industry working for a family friend who owned a BBQ Catering company. I ran that business for his family after his death in 2001. In 2003 Blue Ridge Catering was formed.
How has Total Party Planner helped your business?
When I met TPP @ Catersource in 2006 we were a small company both in stature and revenue. We couldn’t have achieved the growth in both categories we have experienced over the last 7 years without TPP.
What is your favorite program feature in Total Party Planner?
That is kind of like asking me what is my favorite food or what is my favorite dish we prepare. There are so many features that it is hard to narrow down. Pack list and the contact management features are at the top of the list though.
What sets your company apart from others in your area?
Our continual quest for improvement. We aren’t satisfied with the status quo and constantly work on R & D. Our creativity and commitment to preparing the freshest and finest available.
What do customers expect when doing business with you?
A pleasant & satisfying experience from the initial inquiry until post event follow up.
What advice would you give a new caterer?
Be prepared for longs hours, lots of challenges and an interesting journey. To succeed in the long term you need to have a hunger for what lies ahead and what your next creation might be. Like they say, you are only as good as your last event.
What was your biggest blunder throughout your career? What did you learn from it?
Very early on… realizing that I had forgotten to send the Roast Beef to an event. I realized during cocktail hour. I was a guest at the wedding. I snuck out, got the Roast Beef and rejoined the reception.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as a caterer?
Partnering with La Tea Da’s to cater for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. We served about 14,000 people in 5 days of controlled chaos.
Posted In Industry Information
Posted On March 11, 2013 by Emily Powers
We have been absolutely blown away—AGAIN!
As if celebrating our 15-year anniversary in the catering software business last month weren’t enough to make a grown man cry (which we are not claiming or denying happened), your responses to our milestone certainly got us a little choked up.
Here are some of our favorites:
“A well-deserved happy anniversary to Total Party Planner. You ARE awesome and a wonderful business partner. Is the company you’re using to cater the event using TPP? Thank you for all your help over the years. To the next 15 years, salut!”
“Congratulations, John! That is a great accomplishment. We appreciate all of your attentiveness to your clients.”
“Congratulations on 15; we love your program and you have saved our ‘data’ lives. I want to adopt Emily in your support department and Brandy in sales.”
“I wanted to drop a line and say Happy Anniversary! I want to thank you and your staff for all the hard work and dedication into producing the BEST catering software on the market. It has made our hectic life much easier in keep track of menus, ordering and production. My hats off to you and your staff and thank you for all that you do in making Total Party Planner what it is today.”
“Congratulations! We are so happy to be growing old with you.”
We were over the moon about our 15-year anniversary. However, what we’re even more excited about is what this milestone has come to mean to the broader TPP family—and that so many of you took the time to share your congratulations and expressions of appreciation with us.
In all seriousness—we are here for you and because of you. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Posted On February 21, 2013 by Emily Powers
Are you using TPP in Firefox and having issues pulling up your PDF reports? Firefox did an update recently that included an in-browser PDF reader. Because of this, Firefox might have reset whatever plug-in you were using to pull up PDFs which may have resulted in difficulties in viewing them.
To fix this, in Firefox, please navigate to ‘Tools’>’Options’>’Applications’ and find where it says ‘Portable Document File’. To the left of that option, it should say ‘Preview In Firefox’. You will want to click that and change it to ‘Use Adobe Acrobat(in Firefox)’.
As always, our support team is here for you Monday-Thursday from 8:30am-5:30pm EST and Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm EST to assist you with this and any other question you may have. You can contact us by phone and 866-868-7526 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted In Web Based Version
Posted On February 18, 2013 by John Cohen
Think of all the things that can happen in just 15 years…
Computers can go from taking up an entire room to fitting on a desk in your home—and in another 15 years, they can fit in the palm of your hand.
Small babies can grow into teenagers, ready to start learning how to drive a car.
You can pay off a mortgage.
Four U.S. presidential elections can happen in 15 years.
And of course, let’s not forget about the wonderful things that happen to Scotch whisky and wine in 15 years!
Fifteen years is a significant amount of time—long enough for some fine things to mature but not long enough to become old and stale (unless you’re certain sitcoms or NBC dramas—but that’s a whole other story).
Which is why I am sort of in awe that we are celebrating the 15-year anniversary of Total Party Planner catering software on February 17! Our first real customer (besides my parents, of course) was King’s Korner, down in Chesterfield, Virginia. They’ve been in business since 1982—which admittedly makes our 15 years look like child’s play.
But that also means that they’ve been around long enough to have an intimate knowledge of the catering business. They have a good idea of what it takes to keep clients happy, pull off some amazing events, and have real staying power. And they chose Total Party Planner back in its infancy to help them run leaner, meaner, and more successfully.
As you can imagine, TPP has grown a lot since then—and so have our customers! The software is now web-based for mobile access, while you’re on the go at events. There are more features, bells, and whistles than I ever could have originally imagined, thanks to giant leaps forward in technology.
And Total Party Planner has given countless numbers of caterers a leg up—that extra edge they need to coordinate bigger and better events, improve menus to improve margins, and even turn around proposals and invoices faster to their own clients, so they can win more business—and more applause.
A lot has happened in 15 years, for us and for our customers. And for the last 15 years, we say, “Thank you!” Thank you for choosing us to be your business partner in the kitchen and in the office. We are extremely proud to have served you for the last 15 years—and we look forward to working with you and contributing to your success for at least another 15!
To your success, now and in the future,
Owner and Founder
Computica, Inc., for Total Party Planner Catering Software
Posted In Company Information
Posted On February 13, 2013 by John Cohen
Have you ever tried to write a bio or an article for yourself? It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s hard to write about yourself and all your accomplishments.
That’s why we like to let our clients (we think of them as partners, really) tell their own stories about their passion for catering and how Total Party Planner catering software has helped them focus on their passion—not the paperwork.
Our client partners really tell their own stories the best. That’s why we recently reached out to Rick Kerzner, owner and chef of Emily’s Catering Group, and asked him to share what drives him as a caterer and how TPP has helped him win the applause.
TPP: What got you into catering?
Rick: I worked for a very large caterer and worked my way from entry level dishwasher to the number two guy. I wanted to be number one!
Why do you cater today?
It’s all I know how to do well. I struck out on my own, as I was tired of someone else making (bad) decisions that would ultimately affect my livelihood, my family life and my overall satisfaction. I enjoy the controlled chaos, pulling together all of the logistics and ultimately making the greatest day in someone’s life truly spectacular.
What attracted you to Total Party Planner?
At first, the cost of entry. I was originally only concerned with keeping a common calendar up-to-date and in order.
What is one of your favorite moments using Total Party Planner–maybe your favorite ah-ha moment?
Several years ago, I had switched from the desktop to the web-based solution. The program was still in its infancy when I was putting together one of the largest proposals I had done to date. The party was a very important wedding, 300 guests, very specific details and menu. As I would format the menu online, the new menu items would be imported in no specific fashion, and to change the position in the menu would literally take 20 seconds or more for each line. You couldn’t imagine my frustration!
I called John Cohen personally to share my frustration, and he point blank asked me, “What do you suggest?” I asked about drag and drop. John proceeded to tell me how it was cutting edge technology, and he wasn’t sure about how to integrate it.
Three or four days later, he called me and told me to open a specific link. He then introduced me to “The Kerzner Drag and Drop.” At that point I was sold! Any business owner who cares that much about his customer and that relationship is someone I want to do business with.
What is one of your favorite features or tips for using the software?
The one tip I always give new users is not to worry about getting all of the information into the program at once. Every time you book an event, put it into the software, and over time most everything you do will be there.
Finish this sentence: Total Party Planner Catering Software is better than … any other catering package I’ve seen.
Thanks to the great suggestions that fantastic, hard working partners like Rick and countless others have given to us over the years, TPP has grown, getting smarter and sharper along the way.
That’s why we’re so grateful to our client partners—not just for your business but for the great ideas you’ve shared that have helped make TPP the top catering software on the market.
Do you have a catering success story that TPP played a role in? We would love to hear about it, so we can feature you and your business in a future blog post. Just shoot us an email (along with some pictures) at email@example.com.
Drop us a note—we want to hear about your applause!
Posted On January 15, 2013 by John Cohen
One business trend that continues to grow is serving gourmet food from a food truck. They’re not just for fairs and carnivals anymore. In the past few years, restaurants, caterers, and ambitious young chefs trying to make a name for themselves have been taking advantage of food trucks, food carts, and kiosks, because:
- The novelty for consumers of getting great, adventurous, and even gourmet food from a truck makes it more of a sought-after “event” rather than just a meal
- You as the chef and server have more flexibility in menus and pricing, since overhead is usually low, you have fewer regulations in many cases, and you can even decide how permanent or temporary to make your food truck or food cart experience
- Since overhead is low, and you can go where the clients are instead of waiting for them to come to you, there is the potential to make a decent profit
- It’s a great way to get the word out about your catering business or even yourself, if you’re a young chef, and let everyone sample your food without the major investment of their own time and money that a sit-down restaurant requires
For caterers specifically, a food truck or food cart is a fantastic way to get more catering gigs. It’s basically an opportunity for the public to do a paid tasting with you. You’d be amazed at the relationships you can build one-on-one within the community, when someone tastes something great that they get from you personally from a food truck. That relationship, coupled with a great food experience, can go a long way in making you first in a person’s mind when he or she has an event to cater or when they want to recommend a caterer.
Some caterers are going a step further and actually bringing the truck to events, as talked about in this article from Entrepreneur Magazine. Caterers let the clients choose the menu, then they prepare it and serve it from the truck on-site.
Not to mention that having a food truck, cart or kiosk emblazoned with your logo is always good for branding.
Having a food truck or a food cart you can take to downtown businesses on a busy weekday, or even a kiosk you can rent in a high-traffic mall, business park, or even hospital, to name a few potential-filled areas, can go a long way in expanding where your business can go. It gives you greater options for serving, for catering and traveling, and for making money.
Posted In Industry Information
Posted On January 8, 2013 by John Cohen
Getting bored with serving the same old food on the same old plates and platters? Every caterer knows that part of getting the “applause” at every event is in the presentation! So, in the New Year, why not create some irresistible visuals and try perfecting some of these creative serving suggestions for the usual food suspects at your next catering event?
Grab and go!
Alleviate long serving lines and messy, drippy plates by creating small veggie portions in cups with the dip already conveniently added in the bottom. To-go cups are also great for dessert—pack a couple of mini-cupcakes in a to-go cup, put on the lid, attach a spoon, and you have a tasty party favor guests can take with them.
Some dishes are naturally messy, such as certain tapenades and caprese concoctions. However, these Mini Caprese Bites look elegant and are manageably bite-sized. There’s little risk of someone squirting tomato seeds all over themselves with these little treats. Experiment with taking some of your favorite tapenade ingredients or other hors d’oeuvres and making mini bite-sized kabobs out of them. Fruit kabobs are also usually a big it—especially at family and kid functions.
Nature’s Fruit Bowls
How festive do these little lemon bowls look—and think how great the raspberry sorbet inside them will taste with that hint of fresh lemon it gets from it’s natural bowl? We’ve also seen chili baked in scooped out onions—delicious! These types of treats can take a little longer to prepare, although a good melon baller will make your job easier. Maybe save these fancy presentations for smaller events where you have a little more time—or for when your kids, nieces or nephews want to “help” you in the kitchen.
Fruit in Ice Cream Cones
Decorative and practical, because guests can eat the cone while they eat the fruit! Can’t you just see these with a dollop of yogurt, cream cheese dip, or even just some whipped cream in the bottom or along the inside as a bonus treat?
Confession time—the whole reason for writing this blog was to tell you about cupcake fondue. Everyone loves a cupcake! The only thing better than cupcakes is getting to dip them in sweet warm frosting and decorating them yourself! A brilliantly fun presentation and experience for guests.
If at least one of these serving ideas doesn’t put a smile on your guests’ face, then you can always go for broke and serve them candy sushi.
These clever little morsels are made from rice crispy treats, fruit roll-ups, gummy fruit snacks and Swedish fish. Sure to satisfy the sweetest sweet tooth and make people giggle at the same time.
Get creative in the kitchen and in the banquet hall in 2013! Have some creative serving suggestions of your own that you’d like to share with the Total Party Planner family? We’d love to hear from you! Send us your idea and a picture or two, and maybe your idea and business will be featured in one of our upcoming blogs! Just contact Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s to your success,
President and Owner, Total Party Planner
Posted In Industry Information