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It’s Time for a New Year Mise en Place for Your Catering Business

As caterers, we fully understand that success lies in careful preparation. But what is important to remember is that this pertains not only to successful events, but a successful business overall. If your team is skipping the prep phase for your business, you are doing a disservice to your team, clients, investors, partners, and yourself.

This month, our International Caterers Association webinar welcomed Chase Mayer, director of marketing and business development for CBK Catering & Events and Charlie Schaffer, owner and president of Schaffer. These two experts touched upon exactly what is required for a little new year mise en place to ensure your catering business is set up for an abundant year from the get-go. And today, we’re going to share all the most important takeaways from them so that you too can organize, prepare and set your catering business up for success in 2023.

Part 1: Strategizing

The first part to your mise en place should be goal setting. Over the past few years, so many caterers have been focused on just getting by to keep up with demand, while dealing with staffing issues. When you’re in that fight or flight mode, it can be difficult to re-center and set goals for your team. However, it’s critical for longevity and success. 

So, Mayer shared that they implemented OKRs, inspired by the book Measure What Matters by John Doerr. This stands for:

  • Objectives
  • Key Results
  • Initiatives 

The objectives serve as the guide for what you want to achieve in the year—your north star so to speak. Then, with key results you can define what it means to achieve them and how you know you’re on the right path. Finally, the initiatives are the actions that will be taken to get there.

This OKR goal-setting process has been used by giants like Google, and has proven successful in each of the over 50 businesses Doerr saw it practiced in. So, why not give it a shot? 

Part 2: Budgeting 

Let’s keep it real here. Budgeting has been a nightmarish task since the pandemic. Inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain issues have been wreaking havoc on the simple budgeting of the past. But that’s not an excuse to skip it, unfortunately. 

Don’t miss the ICA during Catersource Conference & Tradeshow. Stop by the ICA Inspiration Zone during Catersource Conference & Tradeshow 2023 to join friends, peers, and colleagues.   

Create a budget that focuses on: 

  • Revenue 
  • Direct Expenses/Cost of Goods Sold
  • Overhead 

With this, decide if it’s a growth year or a consolidation year. Not every year needs to be geared towards expansion. Maintaining profit margins from the previous year, and streamlining and strengthening operations can be your only goals—and that’s okay. This will set you up for greater profitability down the line! 

Schaffer shared that one good benchmark to aim for is an 8-16% EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). This can be seen as a loose proxy for cash flow from the entire company’s operations, which lends itself to longevity.

Part 3: Staffing

The next part of your mise en place should be staffing. Specifically, management.

Putting together a management structure that allows for transparency in roles and responsibilities will avoid conflict, dropped balls, and lagging productivity. Schaffer shared, “For a while, I avoided putting together a structure; I didn’t want to put myself on top. But I have found that it helps and it matters. Our staff wants to know what is expected of them and the other teams. We also use the org chart to visualize the future.” Here’s an example: 

Once roles are streamlined, the next goal should be to standardize management meetings for efficacy and to reduce wasted time. Focus on outlining: 

  • A meeting format 
  • Goals of the meeting  
  • Recurring schedule of the meeting
  • Who needs to be there
  • What needs to be brought to meetings 

Schaffer noted that this specific format is the key that has made their management meetings much more effective. 

Part 4: Marketing

When there are so many to-dos on your list, it’s easy to set and forget your marketing collateral like your capabilities deck or your website. However, during this perfect time of year for your mise en place, it’s key that you analyze and reset.

You can do this by asking yourself a few questions: 

  • Does your website match the OKRs you outlined in part one? If not, how do you need to change what’s featured, your messaging, etc. to match those strategic goals? 
  • Where and how are your competitors marketing? Are you missing any opportunities? Do a full SWOT analysis to determine this.
  • Are there new opportunities in your market that you haven’t pursued, like new venues, outstanding RFPs, new sectors you haven’t approached, etc.?
  • Are you posting on social media consistently? Where is your engagement?
  • Are you participating in local events for brand awareness and recognition?
  • Are you applying for local, national and international awards to set yourself up as leaders in your space? 

With these answers, you’ll be able to make a strategic and tactical plan to spread the word a bit more effectively in the new year. 

Part 5: Expanding 

Now, while we have expansion as a final part to your mise en place, the reality is that all the prior pieces will add up to expansion in the new year. It’s critical to take a step back and look at the bigger picture during this slow period—or whenever your slow period may be. This planning and preparation will help your catering business reach new levels in the new year and beyond! 

To learn more about ICA membership, including future live and virtual education and networking opportunities, visit Membership awaits! 


Lead photo courtesy Chase Mayer

International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit