Business is starting to build again! And while it is incredibly invigorating and exciting to see positive growth on the horizon, this process doesn’t come without its challenges! The time for unparalleled creativity is still in full swing—now is not the time to resort back to old ways. If you do, you’ll never grow. The International Caterers Association hosted a roundtable webinar this past month to discuss opportunities and challenges that catering businesses are facing on the road to recovery. The conversation centered around the need to reinvigorate menus and teams as we look ahead. Catering leaders from Canada and the United States shared some amazing insight into what they’re doing to get ahead in the current climate.
Here’s what they had to say….
New Landscape of Events & Crafting Menus That Work for This Era
While some of the world is moving ahead, some aren’t quite there yet, and while business is booming in some areas, it’s trickling in in others. Regardless of location, last-minute small events are the norm today. So how do you prepare to service those types of events with limited staff and resources?
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Pare Down Menus
Executive Chef Karen O’Connor from Daniel et Daniel in Toronto shared that as they’re still in lockdown, they’ve used this time to prepare their menus for greater profit and functionality when the boom of events returns. For example, they were previously offering 12 spinach salads and cut that in half to make decisions easier and save on food cost.
Keep Clients Informed
As corporate events start to come back, Footers Catering in Denver has started to send out weekly updates on what has sold out and what’s still available to help meet and spark demand for those last-minute events that are becoming more common.
Charge for Small Event Tastings
While most haven’t charged for tastings in the past, with newly created menus that exude innovation and individualized packaging, it’s more difficult to execute tastings—especially with limited staff on-site. So, many caterers have had to start charging for small event tastings that haven’t booked yet, keeping booked or postponed wedding tastings complimentary to even out costs and bring back staff as needed.
Staffing Challenges in the Post-COVID-19 Era: Tips for Retaining & Attracting Talent for Your Catering Business
While business is back, teams aren’t quite there yet. Not only is it difficult to bring back old team members as they’ve had to find new opportunities on furlough or after being laid off, but new talent is also apprehensive about re-entering this fluid market. Here are some tips catering teams across North America have been using to attract and retain team members in all roles:
While we’re all struggling to recover from a year of no events, sometimes you bite the bullet and offer more to attract the talent you need to get your catering business up and running again. It’s an investment in the road to recovery. Signing bonuses are becoming a common incentive, with some catering companies offering incentive options like $100 or more after an employee works three shifts.
Chef Christopher Raush from Hamby Catering in Charleston, South Carolina shared that $18 an hour seems to be the minimum rate at which you can get quality, reliable team members on board. He noted that temp agencies don’t have staff, event producers are leading their own events and overall it’s been difficult—so offering those competitive hourly rates is the only way they’re getting people in the door.
Hire Younger Talent
While many catering teams have preferred seasoned chefs in previous eras, right now you need team members with fire in their bellies. That means heading to local culinary schools and colleges to get fresh talent who are ready to hit the ground running, appreciating opportunity. They’re more open to cross-training as well, since any experience is valuable at that point in their careers.
Keep It in the Family
We are family! The catering industry is based on core values of family, camaraderie, and celebrations. So why not work with your family, too? Encourage your team members to enlist the help of their friends and family, even if it’s on a temp basis. Those they bring in usually care more than temp staff you’d hire from an agency, even if it’s for a one-off event, because of their close ties to your current employees.
Make Friends with Industry Partners
This past year and a half has been all about getting creative. And that creativity doesn’t end here! Some teams are creating partnerships with companies who may have once been considered competition like hotels, country clubs and even other catering companies to share service staff. It’s a way to keep demand high and ensure there’s enough work to go around for those who want it. It keeps team members engaged, which is what you need to build again.
Speak with Your Current Team
Those who are with you now are team members who are dedicated, value work and feel a connection to your company. Elevate them where you can! It’s time to reward a job well done and start building new leaders! Speaking with each team member individually, which you may not have had time to do before, will unveil an opportunity you may not have noticed previously. This is key for retention and business longevity as we look ahead!
The Future Is Bright…
Opportunity is out there, and it’s building in momentum every single day. So many teams are busier than they have been in over a year, welcoming back old friends and creating new relationships with clients who are ready to meet again.
The International Caterers Association will continue to monitor trends and issues facing the catering industry as we forge ahead into a bright new future. For more information and to be notified of future catering industry webinars and education opportunities, visit internationalcaterers.org.
Lead photo courtesy Footers Catering