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This Is What Top Caterers Have in Common

From the outside, cream-of-the-crop caterers seem to have it easy: tons of inquiries, a busy calendar, a reputable brand identity, and a team that keeps everything running smoothly. And while these qualities may ring true, top catering companies don’t stumble upon success by chance. Instead, they are led by forward-thinking professionals who know how to produce results.

So what sets these elite caterers apart from their competitors? First and foremost, they are growth-seekers. Always in pursuit of improvement, top caterers encapsulate five traits while working in and on their businesses. Keep reading to note the must-have characteristics to excel in the industry and see how your company measures up.

They are constantly innovating.

Creativity is one of the foremost traits of a leading caterer, as they’re the type to break barriers and introduce new culinary ideas to the industry. 

Known as trailblazers, “the best caterers continue to educate themselves on current trends and are often the trend-makers,” confirms Margery Reinheardt, CPCE of Hilton Houston Post Oak by the Galleria. “They have the ability to listen to a client and translate their needs into an accurate and memorable representation of what clients want, with the caterers' ideas incorporated. They are known to try what is new and borrow ideas to make something better!”

So whether pairing unlikely flavors or experimenting with a new presentation style, allow yourself to take some risks on your road to greatness. You’ll find that many rewarding opportunities exist just beyond your comfort zone!

They always bring their A-game.

Excellent caterers are problem-solvers, understanding they must adapt to unfamiliar surroundings, last-minute changes, and other challenges. But for top caterers, unexpected circumstances don’t stand in the way of achieving their intended results.

“Practicality is key, especially when catering off-site,” explains Marta Santamaria of The Venue and The Ridge. “Top caterers are fully aware of the importance of being able to execute your menu flawlessly, regardless of the location. This requires careful planning, organization, and attention to detail.”

To elevate your catering business, revisit your workflows and policies to ensure you—and your team—have effective standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place. The best way to stay on top of the game is to stay ahead of the game.

They educate their clients.

While you may know your way around a BEO, most people couldn’t tell you the difference between a 72” round and an 8-foot banquet (or when they would need either!). Experienced caterers anticipate a client’s unfamiliarity with the industry and step in to provide education in addition to quality service.

George Loving of SmokeDatt BBQ agrees, noting that skilled catering pros are comfortable “being an honest resource for the customer.”

“We believe that educating the client on what is needed for an event as well as helping them understand different aspects of hosting an event is extremely important because it builds trust,” Loving adds.

Skip the jargon and stick to language that reflects your expertise without adding confusion. When you demonstrate thought leadership as a professional, you’ll earn potential clients’ trust as a reliable resource to guide them through the process.

They support their teams with systems.

Most catering companies have established teams of supervisors, chefs, servers, salespeople, and assistants. But a team without trustworthy systems is a recipe for chaos. 

“What goes hand and hand with your team is a great system,” assures Shamaya Oberlton of Rock N Rolls Inc. “It is necessary to provide your team with an efficient system and the tools they will need to help with the day-to-day operational tasks.”

Your team must have the tools to run like a well-oiled machine. In a kitchen, this could look like a defined role hierarchy, cleaning procedures, and appliance maintenance schedules. But don’t forget about operational systems, like a customer relationship management (CRM) program, an HR portal for employees, or accounting software. If you want your team to do well, you must equip them with the necessary resources!

They leverage technology to their advantage.

As innovators, top caterers aren’t afraid to test the waters with tech solutions that can streamline their business processes. From social media schedulers to inventory management platforms, countless ways exist to reduce workload, automate recurring tasks, and operate as agilely as possible.

Colleen Reilly of Catering Connections shares a reminder that “it is important to use a catering software program that integrates all aspects of event planning: inquiries from prospective clients, confirmed bookings and payments, event calendar and scheduling servers, menu items and pricing, detailed kitchen orders and equipment required, cost summary, communications tracking, and final close-out of the event.”

When technology is on your side, you and your team will enjoy more efficiency, productivity, and growth. So test out some new apps and software to see how you can improve your operations!

If you want to rise to the top, listen to these experts and embrace the qualities that will help you secure your role as an industry leader. After all—to be the best, you have to act like the best! 


Lead photo courtesy WASIO Faces

Clint Elkins

Clint Elkins is the VP Sales for SB Value located in Charlotte, NC. Clint, a former professional race car driver, was one of the top motorsports promoters in the country by the age of 35. Clint used that experience and passion for business to launch his second career in a sales and marketing. Outside of work Clint enjoys spending time on his family farm and coaching his two daughters softball teams. Clint is also an avid cook and self proclaimed badminton superstar.