We have previously discussed my theory that as caterers, we should not automatically take any and all events that are presented to us. The late Mike Roman continually preached that we had the ability to mold and transform our businesses into entities that we could successfully manage, and that might entail actually turning down business that didn’t fit our specific vision.
My colleague from Wisconsin tells this story:
“Early in my career, we were asked to cater an orthodox Bar-Mitzvah. Even my non-Jewish caterer friends know the concept here, but this one was different. The specific religious rules would not allow my wife and me to actually ‘work’ the event; we could ‘supervise’ if we ourselves would be able to abide by the strict rules of the Jewish Sabbath. In this case, this meant that from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, among other things, we were not allowed to drive. To comply with this obligation we had to book a room at a nearby hotel, check in on Friday afternoon, walk to the synagogue event on Friday night, walk back to the hotel after the event and repeat the process on Saturday.
“After sundown on Saturday we would be free to work as needed and of course drive home.
This not only dictated a long work weekend, but we also had to find babysitters for our teenage children. Since this story occurred before cell phones existed, we couldn’t even call our kids to make sure everything at home was OK. Using phones on the Sabbath was also prohibited.
“Anyway, the three-meal event was fine. Our customer was happy, we collected the under billed (of course!) fee, and we finally went home. I remember thinking at the time that ‘I guess all business owners sometimes need to work when they don’t want to and since this is the business we have chosen, this must go with the territory. We really missed our kids this weekend and worked 32 hours in two days, but I guess that’s what business ownership means.’”
“I am happy to report that I was wrong! We ended up driving our business from $200K to $1.2 million by basically dropping off breakfasts and lunches. Wisconsin summers were strong with picnics and tailgate parties, and we NEVER took another event like the Bar-Mitzvah described above.
“We learned how to tell our business what we wanted it to do. When it rebelled and told us it wanted us to cater an event out of our normal everyday business scope, we said no. This didn’t injure us financially, nor did it have negative repercussions.”
Do you currently have someone to consult about these issues? Do you feel bad if you ever turn down business? Do you just go with the flow and regularly work 80 hours a week?
Thanks for taking the time to read this week’s blog. As usual, please do not hesitate to contact me personally if you have comments or wish to share your thoughts. I value your feedback.
Michael Rosman is a member of the Catersource consulting team. If you would like information about him coming to your business to address your specific needs, please email Carl Sacks at [email protected]. His book, Lessons Learned From Our Mistakes – and other war stories from the catering battlefield is available through the Catersource store. You can visit Michael’s website at www.TheCorporateCaterer.com email [email protected].