Recently, I heard Colin Cowie speak on Blue Ocean Strategy and how it helped his planning business. This reminded me of the Blue Ocean Strategy book, which I had read a few years back, and how its advice can help caterers grow their businesses and their brands.
Colin Cowie (left) and Bill Hansen (right)
What is The Blue Ocean Strategy? From the website, here’s the answer:
Blue Ocean Strategy was developed by globally pre-eminent management thinkers Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. They observed that companies tend to engage in head-to-head competition in search of sustained profitable growth. Yet in today’s overcrowded industries competing head-on results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Lasting success increasingly comes not from battling competitors, but from creating blue oceans of untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.
Blue Ocean provides a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant.
“I recently learned of an off-premise caterer who employs an Indian chef and prepares traditional Indian cuisine for weddings and events in hotels. That’s Blue Ocean!”
Working on your business
As caterers, we would love to eliminate the competition. That is, to get into new revenue and profit centers where competition is not as fierce. In my case, in 2008, 2009, and 2010, when the catering business dropped by almost 30% due to the Great Recession, I was able to get into catering school lunches. Certainly not luxury, but it was very profitable for three years, and enabled my firm to weather the rough seas.
I recently learned of an off-premise caterer who employs an Indian chef and prepares traditional Indian cuisine for weddings and events in hotels. That’s Blue Ocean! Another caterer has expanded into floral production, which gives her company the opportunity to do florals in hotels as well as package flowers along with their catering packages.
What can you do to get away from the red ocean—swimming around with competitor sharks—and go out into the deeper water where there are bigger fish to catch? Visit www.blueoceanstrategy.com and allocate some time exploring your options. I like to call this working on your business not in your business. If you’re serious about growing, you need to step back and up from time to time, and look at your business strategy from 30,000 feet, rather than from your kitchen, your warehouse, and your office.
Another way to develop your own Blue Ocean strategy is to plan an all-day, two-day, or three-day retreat with key team members and brainstorm ideas. You might even consider bringing in a facilitator to lead. I’ve done this and it works. It helped us to think of our business from a totally different perspective and from that, we decided to add event production to our services. This has resulted in an additional profit stream, where we not only earn revenue from food, beverages, rental equipment, and staff, but also florals, music, lighting, furniture, etc.
To conclude, I promise you that if you take the time to develop your own Blue Ocean Strategy that it will be time well invested. However, it will require you to get out of your Comfort Zone and get into your Challenge Zone. Are you up to that?
Bill Hansen is the CEO of Bill Hansen Luxury Catering and Event Production and a Certified Catering Consultant.