One of the things newly engaged couples will be the most excited about is their tasting with the caterer. Picking out appetizers, entrees, wines, etc. is one area of wedding planning that everyone can get behind, and is generally seen as a perk rather than a chore. The best thing you can do is capitalize on that excitement by making their experience a positive one, to ensure you’re able to get off on the right foot.
So, how do you put together a memorable tasting? Check out some of our top tips below.
Photo Don Mears Photography
Focus on communication
When it comes to tastings, whether you’re a caterer or a venue that offers in-house catering, it really starts with prioritizing client communication from the beginning of the booking process. Be sure that you’ve outlined your policies upfront; remember, this could be the first time they’ve participated in a tasting so you need to guide them accordingly.
Bear in mind that some companies will charge for a tasting, while for others, it is complimentary after the contract has been signed. Group tastings have also gained in popularity over the last few years, so you may have rules about the number of people allowed or certain dates available. Given the wide variety of guidelines in the market, it’s important to lay the groundwork in advance to ensure everyone is on the same page and that expectations are being met.
When the time comes, be as prepared as possible walking into the meeting. The client will appreciate you being able to answer all their questions without delay, and it will absolutely eliminate any headaches for you.
Before the meeting, create a list of questions you plan to cover during the tasting and send them to the client ahead of time. This will help ensure that you don’t miss anything or skip over important information.
Make it a point to cover any and all food and beverage FAQs before they come up. Common questions you are bound to be asked include:
• How do you handle dietary restrictions?
• Do you offer children’s meals and if so, what do they consist of and how are they priced?
• How would we accommodate “surprise” guests who forgot to RSVP?
• Do you allow guests to have a meal choice and if so, are there any rules/guidelines in how to offer this?
The request to offer guests a choice of plated meals is a common one, so the key is to educate clients on best practices to stay organized when collecting and communicating choices. The general rule of thumb is that you never want a client to leave the tasting feeling overwhelmed.
Photo Don Mears Photography
Strive for consistency
While your chef may easily be able to create the same filet time and time again, it certainly does not hurt to take a photo of any item presented to the client prior to it leaving the kitchen. Some clients will be more detail oriented than others and will expect their selected dishes to look nearly identical on the event day, so it doesn’t hurt to file away the image as a reference.
Likewise, if your chef comes out to speak with your clients, be sure to take extensive notes about anything discussed. An off-handed comment about the selection of salad dressings will need to make its way to the BEO
Make it productive
The tasting is also a great opportunity to see if you can offer any further upgrades to your services. While you have them already sitting down and focused on their event, run through any options they could consider, such as upgraded linens, chargers or decor.
The goal is to catch them early in the planning process, anticipate their needs and offer additional products and services that may boost the bottom line. With that, have a list of your available inventory, along with samples and images, so you can discuss at length.
Should I allow other event pros to join in?
Clients these days are busier than ever, so it’s essential to make your tastings as efficient as possible. With that, there may be times when it’s wise to bring in other members of the event day team who may need to meet with the couple. Perhaps, for example, a florist would like to drop off a centerpiece or two to help the client better visualize on the table, or your local rental company would love to bring by flatware samples to consider. If you can weave these additional colleagues into the flow of the tasting without extending the time more than a few minutes, then it could be an ideal solution that your clients will appreciate.
Every caterer and/or venue does tasting a little bit different, so just remember that the tasting should be a fun and informative experience, with the client walking away feeling excited and full.
Heather Jones is the Catering Sales Director for Wente Vineyards, a family-owned property that is home to a winery and vineyards, a golf course, restaurant, and a handful of unique facilities for hosting weddings and special events.
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