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Top Takeaways for Rebuilding Stronger: Catersource 2021 Education in Review

Catersource and The Special Event 2021 was a long-awaited revival for our industry. It marked the first large industry event many caterers had attended since COVID-19 began and provided hope for many participants regarding what’s to come. A major feature of Catersource each year—but especially this year, a major rebuilding year for many caterers—is education. Our International Caterers Association members brought their expertise and lessons learned throughout the pandemic and shared that knowledge to help other caterers level up moving forward. This month, we want to showcase some of the tidbits they shared so we can all keep learning and rebuilding together!

Ready to scribble some notes and take action to help your catering business recover stronger than it was before the pandemic?

Building Forever Clients 

Led by Jaime Peterson, Director of Sales, Saz’s Hospitality Group 

In today’s current climate, loyal client relationships are the bread and butter for every catering company. Peterson shared top relationship-building tips that start with your prospecting phase—not when you land the first event—and continue well after the final table is broken down at their event.

When you’re trying to build lasting client relationships, the number one thing to remember is that you never want to make someone feel like they’re just another sale.

So, with your initial contacts, when leads come into your catering business, always personalize the subject line, use their name in the body of the email (and make sure you get the spelling right), thank them for their inquiry, and be specific, so they know you’re paying attention to their needs and desires upfront. You also want to triple-check for grammar, make sure your pricing and menus are up to date and ensure accuracy so you don’t confuse anyone—there’s been a lot of changes this past year! And at the end, ask for a call and invite them for a site visit—whatever you feel is best for the potential client.

Once you land the deal, it doesn’t end there. Cultivate that relationship with everything you have! Connect with them on social, send holiday cards and generally stay in touch. If you provide your clients with personalized attention and genuinely care about them as people, they’re always going to recommend you and choose you above the rest! That’s where your trusty client base will come in handy during times like we’re experiencing right now.

Trendsetting Food Stations in Our New Normal 

Led by Syd Sexton, General Manager, Catering by Design 

Sexton and her team at Catering by Design are well known in the catering industry for their constant creativity and innovation—even pre-pandemic. So this session featured all their most creative trendsetting designs for off-premise catering in this new era of events. All the ideas showcased by our 2020 Caterer of the Year kept safety restrictions in mind without losing sight of innovative design. Here are a few of our favorite ideas they shared!

Creative Individually Packaged Items 

Paint Can Salads: Not all packaging has to be plastic. In fact, your sustainably-minded attendees will love when you get a little creative. Catering by Design offers pre-made salads in mini paint cans listing what’s inside on the cap!

Choux Pastries. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

Choux Pastries: Tasty pastries are displayed inside cake stands with glass domes atop to keep germs away. Then, the pastries on display are offered for to-go enjoyment in individual packages—on display for viewing and then grabbing an individual package to indulge in. 

One-of-a-Kind Interactive Stations 

Raclette Stations: Guests choose various meats, veggies, bread and more while a chef pours lamp-heated soft, gooey cheese on top. 

Racelette Station. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

What’s Kraken Station: Based upon the under-the-sea fictitious character, the Kraken display features sliced octopus ceviche topped with rosewater crisp and passion fruit puree. 

What's Kraken Station. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

Not Your Average Carving Station: Not every carving station has to be prime rib! Think outside traditional meats and add a prosciutto carving station to your repertoire with delectable Iberico ham. 

Prosciutto carving station. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

Corn “Off the Cob” Station: Guests grab a hot and ready flavored corn bowl featuring Southern, Mexican or Asian flavors.

Earth-Woodstock Fired Pizza: Set up a chef with tabletop pizza ovens whipping up made-to-order, piping hot pies ready to be devoured! Options for their menu include Hatch Chili, Spicy Margherita and Summer Squash. 

Eath-Woodstock Fired Pizza. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

Grazing Tables 

Are grazing tables a thing of the past? No! They need to be reimagined with displays that allow for portability and grab-and-go rather nibbling by the table! 

Food Walls 

Carnivore-Friendly Walls: Now this can fall under the individually packaged items, but it deserves a call-out here. Catering by Design featured individually packaged jerky and bacon pouches hung via clothespins on a unique display. 

Jerky Wall. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

Veggie-Lover Walls: Using hangable vessels, they displayed their famous Colorado Harvest salad for grab-and-go enjoyment! 

Salad Wall. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

Rebound with Frank & Jen 

Led by Jennifer Perna, Owner & Founder, Fulton Market Consulting and Francisco Christian, Managing Partner, Taylored Hospitality Solutions 

Throughout the pandemic, Perna and Christian have been supporting catering industry professionals with all their might. As a result, many catering companies have had to restructure their menus, teams and sales processes entirely—and many don’t quite know where to begin. In this session, Perna and Christian broke it down into these bite-sized steps that any catering team can follow for ultimate success:

Define Your 2022 Goals 

  • Address your overall company vision, mission and brand 

  • Has it changed? 

  • Sales revenue 

  • How much do you need to keep the lights on? 

  • How much do you want to make? 

  • Business process & culture 

  • How has the pandemic changed your company culture? 

  • How will you retain your top talent? 

  • Lines of business 

  • Are you offering to-go? Gifting? 

  • How is this different? 

  • Budgeting 

  • It all comes back to the P&L 

That should give you all the pieces to address: sales & marketing, proposal development, operations, and administration. 

They also stressed the importance of regular production meetings during this time. Without knowing what’s going on in every business area, you can’t be successful! 

Together We Are Always Stronger; Join the ICA Today 

At the International Caterers Association, we strive to provide transformational education opportunities to help catering professionals thrive—regardless of the global climate. Together we are always stronger! For more information on how to join the ICA and to be notified of future catering industry webinars and education opportunities, visit []( 


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