The Caterers Corner
Million Dollar Name! How do I grow into it? Caterers Corner: Million Dollar Name! How do I grow into it?
By Mbw (Mbw) on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 12:17 pm: Edit

I have a Million Dollar name and a $100.000.00 catering company. I want to grow into my name, but am unsure as to exactly HOW to do it. We are well positioned on the WEB, in the yellow pages,and have rarely been able to respond to all the requests for quotes that we receive.

"I am the great Oz!" OR "Don't look behind the curtain!" I am constantly dealing with people that think I am a MAJOR catering company. As I have sales experience I can handle the bidding process, as I have many years of cooking experience I can be the chef, and the web designer, accountant, and the dishwasher. Of course all this is stupid to try to do myself, but I don't know who to hire first. The upside is that my phone skills along with my company name have been enough to get deposits out of people without ANY personal contact. That's right! Often the first REAL contact I have with my cients is as we are loading in. To live up to my name, and our clients expectations we have spent most of our energy over the past few years on the food. Fresh and often organic, many clients call us back because our food rocks!

I now need to expand or die.
Any thoughts?
Any Northern Cal or SF Caterers here?

By fodigger on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 01:42 pm: Edit

Mark, Nice web sites easy to read. I'm a couple hours south of you in San Luis Opispo County. I think you need to hire a good cook first. If your strong suit is selling you should stick w/ that. That isn't to say you should give up control of the kitchen.But if you want to grow you need to get some help. Just curious, do you use the waitstaff from the cafe? Do you belong to any organizations? Here we have the Central Coast Wedding Professionals alot of leads come from them and the wedding fairs we attend. The cost is minimal(space charge and food samples) 1 wedding more than makes up for it and we always get several. How about wedding sites? Is there a couple of local areas where the locals get married that don't provide foodservice? Maybe you can get on their list. How about wedding cordinators they always have a list of proferd providers. Hope this Helps and Good Luck.

By mbw on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 02:16 pm: Edit

Weddings? Yes we do a few, but as I am still smarting from my own failed engagement, and I am a bit timid about concentrating on them right now. Besides, weddings are high stress events, and they pay about the same as corporate work with much more hand holding. We have done several "Commitment ceremonies" involving same sex couples. As this is kinda new, everyone is making it up as they go along. These have been a sucess for us and are more fun that the average "Normal" wedding.

Yes! I offer the cafe first shot at all catering shifts.

I have a cook/kichen manager, but she is self taught AND primarily Spanish speaking. She is honest, hard working, punctual, but has no real cooking education. If she sees somthing she can repeat it, but still has no clue why one coffee cake falls and one finishes fluffy. She has been with me over 2 years started as a dishwasher (as did I)and is my first full time employee. Keeping her will require a whole lot of work/training/arguing on my part I hope it's worth it. I feel as if I owe her something.

Thanks for the compliments on the WWW site. We list prices with our food. We book alot of parties just because of this. The final price is always variable, but it gives people SOME clue. They like that and so do I.


By Peachcreek (Peachcreek) on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 08:31 pm: Edit

You said it yourself-"rarely able to respond to all the requests for quotes we receive". I have a philosophy that is if I am able to serve every customer that walks through my door, my customer base will be taken care of. You should get your butt kicked for every customer that you did not acknowledge! Buddy! Thats' your business walking out the door, or getting hung up on, or not e-mailed . You need to take care of that now! Its polite business to least return the calls. Tell them something, but TALK TO THEM! If you don't make the sale this time, they might try again in the future. But don't piss them off by ignoring them. When you finally are able to accomodate all the business, you may have a significant customer base.
Mark, I don't mean to offend you. This isn't a flame, its a wake-up call............

By Panini (Panini) on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 07:19 am: Edit

Hi Mark,
I enjoyed you website. It's got a lot of work behind it, I know!, ours is just an online brochure, but yours is a internet business. Which brings me to peach, I fully agree with the phone remarks he made. The phone or e-mails are money.
We try to answer all calls or e-mails everynight. This is quite a task and alot of the times ends up empty. We have hired people just to help my wife do this. Another thing, people really enjoy a good referral. Get a referal base and use it.
It's a huge plus in the selection process, and most will come back for your offerings.
You sound ready to go to the bank for a line and get things rolling.
Chef the same $ as servers? Big smile

By Carl on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 09:54 am: Edit

This is a great example of what Sam and I have preached to people for years who want to start a catering business simply from the fact they are a great cook.....

Mark, no offense, but tough love here... You don't need more money to throw at this, you need help. You need a consultant. I will assure you it would be the best money you have ever spent...

Good luck,


By Panini (Panini) on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 03:13 pm: Edit

Are you looking for a gambling buddy?
What do consultants charge? Are you telling Mark to hire on a consultant or go to some seminars from the consultants and gain knowledge?
I'm not opposed to consaltants, but I'm opposed to their fee's. I was offered a consulting position once in the grocery business. When I explained that I felt that I was not qualified to do this job, especially all over the US,the responce was " are you kidding! I was a pastry cook for Publix, and now look at me" I'm making 2times as much as you with half the knowledge.
Carl's seem to be well established, but I would review the successes and audit them before I signed someone on.
Ya know, mi2zens
catersource was a file,

By Peachcreek (Peachcreek) on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 04:12 pm: Edit

I know I'm sounding like a broken record.......
There is so much free small business help out there. Before you start paying someone, find out as much as you can for free. There has to be small business economic development group in the Bay Area. The one in our area is funded with state and federal money, so most of it is free. You would be amazed how much information that you pay for is gotten by someone who has the time to go look. Then we pay for their time. I guess it depends on how much your time is currently worth. But if you have time to sit and talk to a consultant, you have time to sit and talk to an SBA consultant. Once you have a plan in place, decide what issues will need paid consultation. I don't use paid consultants, but think really hard and thoroughly before asking my attorney a question at $35.00 just for a phone call or $150.00 an hour...

By Matt (Matt) on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 05:45 pm: Edit

First I would have to say it sounds like you are headed in the right direction. I agree about ALWAYS returning EVERY phone call and email.
I also would consider having someone else do your site. You're not set-up for search engines, the pictures are really blurry and the site needs some better layout. The sfcatering site I mean. The other one looks pretty good. It sounds like you might want to count on sales and office work. My first hire would be a really good chef. Good chefs I believe are always easier to find than someone to run the business end of things. And you really wouldn't probably want to let someone else do that. (I am a control freak myself)

As for weddings, I would discount them. We make a killing on them. Always remember to upsell them, brides are always easy upsells.

I also agree with the others on here that in very rare cases spending large sums of money on consultants is ok. Although I personally would never do it. You can learn quite a bit on your own and I also am a strong believer in sometimes learning the hard way is the best way. Best of luck to you, it sounds like you're already in good shape.

Carl, Catersource is down. Not sure what is going on. Are they on a microsoft server??? There's a nasty virus going around attacking those servers.


By onions on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 05:58 pm: Edit

mark I would suggest you try SCORE, service corp of retired executives. they have a web site at they were a big help to me. Michael

By Hilary on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 10:54 pm: Edit

Good advice Onions! I just had a meeting last week with Score. We walked away with wonderful ideas. SCORE has volunteers for everything.. finance,sales, HR, marketing and much more. I have also learned a lot from forums like this and the one at catersource. I have heard many great things about the Catersource convention and hope to go myself this January
Good Luck

By Panini (Panini) on Sunday, July 22, 2001 - 01:18 am: Edit

SCORE and The Minority Business Developement Group in my area were my mentors in the beginning.
Carl, I reread my earlier post and it sounds like I'm anti consulting, not the case.
I also make time to attend every networking lunch I can. I'm not sure about your area, but here we have quite a few networking groups.
others: Chef's association,association of wedding coordinators-caterers etc. You know there is a mentor program with the IRS.Believe it or not! I will be assigned a person to help me with any tax issues that may arise. I believe you can get this when you first out, I just DBA'ed another business and they called.I believe this help is for 2 yrs.
Peachcreek, I must agree with you. except the sba part, at least here,they have an agenda. It's like watching paint dry.
Mark, dive in, the waters fine.

By carl on Sunday, July 22, 2001 - 03:54 pm: Edit

Panini: I understood your message. I am not a big fan of consultants either. Many are just idiots who couldn't make it in the real world, so they turned to consulting (scarey thought).

As for Mike Roman, I can attest that he is the absolute best. He gets about 1200.00 per day plus expenses. Let me say that a person in the position of the the San Francisco Catering guy could GREATLY benefit from someone like Mike Roman. I would be willing to bet that he will get the consulting fee back in a VERY short time...

Be careful with catering consultants, check their credentials. You will find me listed on the site as well. I charge 800.00 per day + expenses. I am not as diverse as Mike. I offer a money back guarantee on my fee if I cannot find them at least triple my fee in savings or profit! That is usually real easy to do....

By Matt (Matt) on Sunday, July 22, 2001 - 04:52 pm: Edit

I'm not real familiar with Mike Roman but he does appear to have the credentials and we are definitely checking out the catersource convention this year to check it out. I just know that the majority of consultants don't have any experience. Just be careful in who you use.


By Carl on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 12:12 pm: Edit

The consultants you need to avoid are those like "Profit Management" who come in and do a boiler plate "analysis" and charge you an arm and a leg while not having anyone who has any experience in your field....

Yet, with that said, even they are better than doing nothing and can usually pay for themselves with their recommendations....

Best yet is Mike Roman.


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 12:27 pm: Edit

Mark, common sense is your greatest ally. You know your clients (hopefully) you know what clients you want. First, you just need to organize priorities, answering clients should be near the top if not on top, maybe write down the main activities of the business to hire persons to do them. For example, if packing is a major item, hire persons just to pack parties and, unpack parties. Have a place for everything and everything in it's place. (These persons can be multi-tasking, porters, dishwasher...etc.
Second, you may need a chef, on premises only. The chef should be responsible for all food standards and production. It is imperative he remains on premises only, he should not be involved on, "on premises" procedures or activities.
Thirdly have a service staff supervisor, whatever you call him/her they are responsible for set-up, service, break down.
If you need a sales person, get one.
You need to be free to make your business grow, whatever that entails, let your staff do the workload.
If you have to turn down work because of lack help or they just don't want to pay your price, you are better off turning it down then doing a poor job or providing a sub-standard product..
A consultant is going to tell you what you already probably know, he is just going to charge you to reinforce your thoughts. Yes, he might show you a thing or two but as you free yourself you will probably see these in the near future.
Good Luck

By Panini (Panini) on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 09:00 pm: Edit

Matt, If you require consultation on anything related to baking, my fees. Transportation,expenses, a round of golf or fishing every other day, new york style pizza and Shiner Bock. You will have you investment back in no time.

By Matt (Matt) on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 09:15 pm: Edit

Jeff, add in a cruise for yourself and you're hired. LOL

By Panini (Panini) on Tuesday, July 24, 2001 - 06:05 am: Edit

I know you can skeet shoot, hit golf balls etc. But can you fish off those things?

By sam on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 07:37 pm: Edit

I personnaly have never hired a consultant, but as caterers, you realize that a restaurant cannot provide the specialized services that we professional caterers do, its a different ball common sense tells me, that if I were going to explore hiring a consultant, I would want someone who had "been in the trenches", where I spend most of my time, not someone who is a generalized consultant to all businesses or to all types of food service businesses.,...just my thoughts....sam sears,cec

By mbw on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 10:38 pm: Edit


Isn't that what ya'll are?

Catergreat: Ouch!! My cooking skills aren't even great, and I still tried it oops.. Oh well.. Snicker.. Keep giving us "Newbies" a hard time what you say is so true. Frank Zappa had similar advice for Bands, and musicians.

Seriously about the paid consultant, the only thing I am spending money on now is produce, labor, insurance, taxes, etc...

I really appreciate the comments, (YES ALL OF THEM). I have been catering for years, but I miss working with all the professionals I used to work with in the restaurants. Reading all your posts here, and in ALL the other forums has truly reminded me of what it was like being in a professional environment. Consulting, your right, but I want the best, and you have offered me some real good advice.. I haven't thought about GOV $$$ for a while, and I KNOW my WWW page is nice, but in serious need of an over-haul.

Chefmanny: Your right about common sense, and also thank you for the outline for a simple, but professional labor structure. All of these things I know but have SERIOUS "Can't see the woods through the trees" Syndrome

My main obstacle is hiring good labor, and juggling the operations my cafe with the catering. I know it can work hand and hand (And has), but I need to do some thinking.

The message is clear.. I NEED TO HIRE HELP NOW!!!

By john on Thursday, August 23, 2001 - 07:24 pm: Edit

Good luck on finding help. I've been looking for a kitchen manager / line cook for 6 months.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, August 24, 2001 - 05:51 pm: Edit

And you probably want to pay him what? $8 an hour! Or $600 a week for 70-75 hours?

Add a Message

This is a private posting area. A valid username and password combination is required to post messages to this discussion.