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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/.

 

Posted In Industry Information | 1 Comment

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.

Posted In Industry Information | 1 Comment

Posted On March 19, 2014 by Susan Pupa

Better Marketing Strategies for Catering Part 1: How Will You Talk to Your Audience (and keep their attention)?

Once you’ve found the right audience for your catering company, as we talked about in the last Total Party Planner blog, how will you talk to your audience and keep their attention? How will you distinguish yourself—and then get potential clients to remember you AND call you too?

The answer: with distinct messaging that strikes at the heart of your clients’ biggest concerns.

What keeps your clients up at night? Fear that the food won’t be ready on time, and people will be standing around, bored and anxious? Fear of pleasing picky relatives? Fear of looking like a fool at a huge event? Fear that you won’t even show up?

What can you do to allay these fears?

It’s not enough to tell people what you do. You have to show them what you’ll do for them personally. And you do that with strong messaging.

First rule of messaging: Show them, don’t tell them.

Check out this video about how words can make an impact on consumer response. It’s less than two minutes long—but be warned, you may be moved to tears.

(Just in case you can’t watch it right now, we’ll give you a brief synopsis. But knowing what happens doesn’t diminish the video. Make sure to watch it as soon as you get a chance.)

In this video, a blind man has a sign that says, “I’m blind, please help.” He has a cup for collecting loose change. A few people toss coins at him.

Then, a woman comes along and writes something new on the other side of his cardboard. Suddenly, people are giving him money left and right. When the woman returns, the man asks her what she wrote on his sign. She says that she just said the same thing he said.

But that’s not entirely true. She told a better story—a story that struck a nerve of empathy with the passers-by who more willingly shared their change with the blind man.

What did the woman write on his cardboard?

“It’s a beautiful day, and I can’t see it.”

Changes the perspective a lot, doesn’t it?

So, how will you change the perspective in your messaging? How can you strike an emotional chord with your audience?

Practice makes perfect.

Before we sign off, here’s an exercise for you to try.

Think of what it is you want to say about your catering company. Just as an example, maybe you want 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.”

Just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Write your own messaging or mission statement at the top of a large piece of paper.

Now, underneath, how many different ways can you say that exact same message? Set a timer for 15 minutes, and see how many taglines you can come up with. Compete with yourself.

When you’re brainstorming, THERE ARE NO BAD IDEAS. Write them all down. Because a bad idea may lead to a brilliant idea. You can go over them later and judge which to keep and which to toss. But for now, don’t hold back.

Consider changing how you tell the story, the perspective of different readers, and even separating the messaging. Perhaps the better strategy is to have a wedding message and a corporate message.

Here are some different combinations from our example to get your creative juices flowing.

For the wedding day you dream of

For food worthy of your important events

The icing on the cake to life’s celebrations

A wedding meal even your choosiest guest will enjoy

Delightful food for your most joyous occasions

Celebrate the joy of food, friends, and family with My Catering Company, LLC

Satisfying food that keeps the focus on you

Satisfying food that keeps the focus on your meeting

For clients and guests, serve them only the best

From comfort food to special diets—we’ve got you covered

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

The food you want, the service you need

It’s hard to show brainstorming in a blog. However, hopefully you can see the different focus in each tagline. Some focus on the food. Some focus on the event. Some try to combine ideas. Others focus on one idea. Depending on your niche, these are examples of the different angles you can try until you hit upon what you think will really resonate with your ideal client.

In fact, take a look at the last two taglines. The last one actually evolved from the one above it. However, since we’re running out of space, we’ll have to show you that evolution in another blog.

So, play with your story. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. What do they really want to hear from you? That’s when you’ll capture the magic of messaging.

Happy brainstorming—and happy storytelling!

Posted In Industry Information | 1 Comment

Posted On March 4, 2014 by Total Party Planner

The 2 Biggest Marketing Mistakes Caterers Can Make (and how they’ll mess up every business decision you make)

Two of the biggest mistakes caterers can make that will also mess up every business decision you make have to do with your audience. Do you know your audience and how to reach them? If you don’t have a really well-defined answer to this question, then you are likely wasting your marketing and prospecting time.

The two biggest mistakes caterers can make are:

1. Chasing after the wrong audience, and

2. Going after an audience that is too broad—trying to be all things to all people.

Fortunately, we here at Total Party Planner have 4 antidotes to this problem—4 questions to consider that will help you define who you are as a caterer and how to find the clients who are the right fit for your business.

1.  You Can’t Be All Things to All People.

OK, this first item is a statement, not a question—but it is an important realization. Even well-established businesses can get side-tracked by jobs and clients that wouldn’t fit their usual client profile. Are you a no-nonsense, low-cost, no-frills caterer? A high-end, all-the-bells-and-whistles caterer looking for the big-ticket events? Do you want to focus on corporate or private events? Small dinner parties? Entertainment catering? Do you want to specialize in vegan catering or barbecue? Depending on where you live and work and what the demand is, there is probably a niche market out there—how well can you fill it?

2.  Who do you like to work with?

Another way to ask this is: Who is your ideal client? Some clients are going to be more demanding. Different kinds of events will demand different things of you and your staff. Do you like being able to take your time and add a personal touch to every dish you create? Then perhaps smaller, more personal events are for you. Or maybe you like the thrill of providing gourmet box lunches to VIPs at a 10,000-person tradeshow. What is it you really enjoy doing—the kind of thing that got you into catering in the first place? The more you enjoy what you do, the better job you’ll do—not to mention that you’ll be more relaxed and in your element. That’s likely to lead to better word-of-mouth referrals—and a better reputation overall.

3.  What are your specialties?

There are many creative ways to tie in what you love and what you’re good at that will help you distinguish yourself from your competitors. Specialties can include anything from food and desserts to décor to your special way of dealing with certain kinds of events and personalities. What are you really good at, and how can you translate that into finding the right audience for you? If you’re really organized and well connected with folks in your area, maybe you can promote yourself as an all-inclusive event organizer. Maybe you are really good at sports and want to focus on outdoor events—corporate picnics, family reunions, and other occasions where you can organize some team building and sports play. Get creative and have fun! Then, your clients will have fun too.

4.  How will you reach your audience?

Now that you’re starting to get a better idea of who your audience is, where will you find them? Where are they hiding—and what kind of messaging is going to convince them to call you for their event? The best ways to find the audience you seek are to talk to people, network, and do some research on the Internet and in local media. When you attend networking events, don’t just say, “I’m a caterer who specializes in big weddings and corporate events.” Say, “I’m looking to meet the corporate event planner at XYZ, Inc., as well as brides who are getting married in the next 9-12 months with guest lists over 200.” The more specific you can be, the more you will help others find the right audience for you. (And remember to ask them whom they’re looking for, too, so you can return the favor.)

And as far as messaging goes, your messaging should strike at the very heart of the biggest concern of your clients. Are they more worried about the quality of the food or about making an incredible impression on their guests? How can you put their fears to rest by exhibiting confidence, knowledge, and sensitivity to their needs?

The problem with not knowing the answer to these questions is that you could be making business decisions based on the wrong information—which can lead to wasting time and money,

That’s why discovering the answers to these questions will not only make your job more fun—they should make your business more profitable too.

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Posted On February 17, 2014 by Total Party Planner

Catering Staff Doing The Right Things Right

This past weekend my wife and I made dinner plans at a restaurant in Virginia Beach that we had never been to. We were really excited to try it since we read so many great reviews. There was one staff member, however, that had us leaving with questions about the management team.

Upon our seating, we were presented with a rather extensive wine list. Because it was Valentine’s Day weekend, I wanted to make sure I selected something memorable. I also know my wife really likes a more fruit forward Pinot Noir. So I suggested we wait to talk to the Sommelier before ordering our wine. Oh but wait… the Sommelier wasn’t available because he was handing out Valentines roses to the ladies that night.

What??!!

I kept telling my wife how much this reminded me of an old saying that a mentor would repeat to me time and time again: “Always make sure you have the right people doing the right things right.”

So, who made the decision to have the Sommelier hand out roses? Shouldn’t he have been Sommelier-ing (is that a verb?). If I were the general manager, I would have probably had the hostess hand out the roses upon seating guests.

So without talking to the Sommelier we ended up just playing it safe and ordering 2 glasses instead of a bottle. A loss for the restaurant.

Now think about this for your catering operation. Do you have the right people doing the right things right? Some examples of mistakes that I have come across are:

  • Utilizing any and all staff members for servers. Key mistake! The servers are the face of your company and directly reflect you. You want your best personalities out there. I have actually had entire experiences ruined from poor service – not necessarily bad food.
  • Hiring family members because they need a job. It’s not necessarily that you shouldn’t work with family, we did it for years, but are they the best person for a role? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
  • A staff member (or yourself!) not trained in website design in charge of building, or updating, your website. I know there are some great tools out there today, however, there is still no substitute for a professional who knows about design, blends, flow, content strategy, SEO, etc.
  • A salesperson who may only be money, not guest satisfaction, focused. Sure the sales are important but I don’t know a caterer on the planet that puts sales over applause at the end of the night.
  • A closed minded marketing manager. Every company, whether it’s catering or catering software, needs to be open to new trends, ideas, feedback, and even social media. Don’t get left behind!

Can you think of other examples where it may not have been the right person doing the right things right? Share your story with us!

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Posted On February 11, 2014 by Total Party Planner

In The Catering Kitchen With Mi Chicas Catering & Events

mi chicas logo

This month, we asked busy upscale kosher caterer and event planner, Mi Chicas Catering & Events, to share what brought them to use Total Party Planner, along with advice for other caterers out there. Read on for great info and tips on how they have grown their business exponentially!

Tell us about your business.

We are a women-owned (mother-daughter) kosher catering & event planning company. Clients love that they only deal with one company from the menu planning to décor, centerpieces, linen, staff etc! We just love what we do, especially the decorating and planning for each party on an individual basis so they are all unique and one of a kind.

How did you get started catering?

Davii started out helping her husband over 20 years ago. Slowly but surely, she took over more and more aspects of the business until it became her total responsibility. Chany grew up in the business and eventually became Davii’s partner.

What brought you to begin using Total Party Planner?

We saw it at the Catersource event in Las Vegas.  Even though we were using [another software program] at the time, we kept it in mind.

How has Total Party Planner helped your business?

We absolutely could not keep track of what we do without it! We log in many times a day and use it for all aspects of our business. We do our menus, contracts, staffing, packing lists, invoicing, everything on this program! It keeps us organized which is essential in this business.

What is your favorite program feature in Total Party Planner?

Just the fact that it is so easy to use.  It’s also logical, so if we don’t know something, we can often figure it out. If not, the email help is fast and easy to access. We can tell it was designed by people in the catering business.

What sets your company apart from others in your area?

Our high level of personal attention to every detail, plus our great design ideas and beautiful plate presentation make us unique in our community.

What do customers expect when doing business with you?

Our customers expect to be able to call or email us and get a quick response. They also expect us to take care of every detail so they can come as a guest to their own party. They also expect (and are frequently surprised to get more than expected) to have everything done on a professional level and at the highest standard.

What advice would you give a new caterer?

Ideally you should work for someone for a year or two before venturing out on your own. Be prepared to work long hours when you are busy and be ready to do everything necessary: cooking, baking, washing dishes, setting tables, waiting tables, schlepping dishes, etc. It usually takes a long time before you will have enough employees to take some of that off of your head. Also, don’t be afraid to charge!! If you undercharge, you:

1. Risk not covering your costs

2. Show that you are new at what you are doing and don’t respect your worth as a caterer, which causes people not to trust you.

What was your biggest blunder throughout your career?  What did you learn from it?

Not being organized enough for one of our most important parties and having a crowd of 300 people try to squeeze into a space that only held 200 comfortably. In that case, our customer had offered ahead of time to hire an event coordinator and, out of pride we said it wasn’t necessary. We needed an event coordinator at that party and we still cringe when we think about what a fiasco it turned into!

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a caterer?

A year and a half ago we took a big, brave step and rebranded our company. We changed the name to Mi Chicas Catering & Events, upped our prices to almost double and got all new chefs. We are proud to say that in this past year we have doubled our gross sales! It was a scary move and many people advised us against it, but we went with our gut and did it! We are looking forward to doubling our sales again this year!!!

Mi Chicas

Mi Chicas

Mi Chicas

Mi Chicas

Mi Chicas

Mi Chicas

 

 

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Posted On February 4, 2014 by Total Party Planner

It’s Not Your Secret Catering Recipes, It’s Your Branding

I recently stumbled across a YouTube video that completely reinforced everything I have ever learned about overall company branding. And here’s the strange part – the video was made in a kitchen by the Executive Chef at McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is giving away the recipe for their secret Big Mac sauce. Won’t that make them vulnerable to competitors? The answer is absolutely not. They understand that it’s more than just a single sauce recipe that makes up their company. It’s the overall McDonald’s brand.

Everybody knows the golden arches, the happy meals, the mascot himself – Mr. Ronald McDonald, the play areas, and the low prices. The Baby Boomers might recall the original jingle; “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun”!

They are consistent in everything they do, say, build, and introduce. Their “Plan to Win” includes – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. They have also been innovative over the years with launching new products such as fresh salads, Chicken McNuggets McCafe’s, yougurt, etc. They are charitable with the Ronald McDonald house and local youth programs. People are vary aware of their presence.

Their success has nothing to do with the recipe for the Big Mac sauce. They are successful because they are: McDonalds!

Now… I ask… do you think a new burger chain could take the Big Mac sauce recipe from the free video and compete with McDonalds? I’d like to see them try.

I’m not saying it would be a good idea to go out and make a video explaining how to make your famous tiramisu. The lesson from McDonald’s is to build your brand correctly from the ground up. You will naturally create recognition and solidify your place in the market.

As a catering company, does your entire operation, from the website to the business cards, have the same look and feel? Does your staff have branded uniforms (even those delivery drivers!). Do you only hire people that believe in your vision and core values? Is everybody in the organization an ambassador for your company? Are you well known for a specific service style -  or being cutting edge innovative? Are you the most customer service centric company in your area? I could go on and on, but you get the point.

The same rules apply to the Total Party Planner catering software company. In fact, our competitors CAN watch videos of how our software works. But that’s OK. There is so much more to the company than a few videos could ever show.

How about you? Share your branding story with us. We would love to hear from you!

Posted In Industry Information | 1 Comment

Posted On January 21, 2014 by John Cohen

Caterers Just Want to Have Fun

By now everyone has created their business goals list for 2014. Right? If you haven’t it isn’t too late!

This year, more than ever, there just seems to be a common theme in the blog world around having more fun at work. Great point, but how does a catering business do that when there always seems to be a million tasks and priorities to juggle?

We need to find some simple things that can be executed without significant time in planning – or effect on budget. So we thought we would compile a top 10 list of things caterers can do to have more fun at work.

  • Close the business for 3 hours on a Tuesday afternoon and take the entire staff to see a movie. Just promise us one thing… you won’t forget the popcorn!
  • Celebrate birthdays once a month with a fancy cake. Your staff will appreciate the gesture and give them a chance to interact in a social setting.
  • Have a corn-hole tournament. It’s all the rage, it can be played indoors, it’s fun, and everybody can participate. Teams could be BOH vs FOH – or managers vs staff. Want to make it a company write-off? Order a personalized corn-hole board with your company logo.
  • Do a simple team building activity at least once a month. Here’s a link to a site that has some fantastic ideas to get started.
  • This may sound simple, but when was the last time the staff went out to the local pub for appetizers and beverages? This could also be used as the time to celebrate achievements or birthdays.
  • Dedicate part of your Social Media to staff news. For example every Monday morning spotlights a particular staff member with their picture, interests, job role, etc. It can really makes someone feel part of the team.
  • Nominate a social committee. This group of people would be responsible for putting together weekly or monthly activities based on the staff feedback. One caution: be sure to set a budget or you may find yourself with an expense report for a 3 day trip to Hawaii for 10 people!
  • So many people are playing video games these days. You can buy a wii or xbox for the office. Give your staff the latitude to take a break every now and again to relieve stress. Another gaming idea could be a ping pong table. We used to have one here at Total Party Planner and the developers especially loved it.
  • There is a lot of creativity and artistry in catering. Who’s your most creative person on the staff? Have a contest and find out! It could be anything… painting, singing, an instrument, or poetry. You may be surprised at what everybody learns about there co-workers.

And lastly… update the recipes in your catering software program. WHAAAAAAAT?! How is that fun!? OK, admittedly it’s not in the “top” list of items, however, it can be fun if you put some incentives around it. Maybe for every 100 recipes built, or verified, somebody gets to leave a couple hours early on a slow day.

We want to hear from you! What are some of the fun things you do in your office? Share your stories with us!

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