Sales can be tricky for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for caterers when their sales game and their culinary skill are on the line. Tastings are immersive experiences for prospective clients, and you need to sell with both your words and your food.
It’s not just two chairs in a meeting room with paperwork on the table; it becomes about flavor profiles, plating presentation, food-and-drink pairings, quality of service, and more. A tasting should be the closest thing a client gets to the day-of guest experience — it has to win them over as much as they want to win over their guests.
Thus, it's vital to get the process right if you want to book more clients. Here are a few strategies to get your tastings into gear.
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Create a sales script
Consistency is key, and there's no better way to be consistent than to employ a sales script. Tastings should become routine; only the faces and the flavors should change. With a winning process, you will find it easier to close with clients, making sale after sale. Map out the whole experience, from preparing for the client's arrival to the chef's responsibilities to the paperwork required to finalize the deal. A step-by-step guide ensures consistency and, the more you run through your script, the more comfortable and confident you'll be on the sales floor.
Learn to read the room
Even the best sales script can’t account for personal preferences and habits, so you need to be comfortable reading the room and adjusting your routine as needed. You’ve got people who eat extra fast (or extra slow), people who understand wine pairings (and those who don’t), as well as a whole host of allergens and dietary restrictions to consider. Keep your sales script as a framework and be prepared to pivot as needed, evaluating client behavior, and keeping the chef abreast of any changes that happen.
There’s a good chance that your prospective client is coming prepared with a long list of questions that they’ve found online or gathered from their friends and family. That means that you should come equally as prepared with answers to all of those top questions. Consider the FAQs you field often, as well as questions that have tripped you up in the past. If there are others on the sales team that oversee tastings, ensure they are up to speed in their responses.
Don’t skip the details
Just like in catering, you can't gloss over the details — every little thing matters and rest assured that prospective clients will notice. This entails everything from ensuring the bathroom is clean, and temperatures are comfortable to confirming that linens are pressed, and water is pre-chilled for their arrival. Every client that walks in the door should feel like the world revolves around them while within your four walls. After all, that’s how they want their guests to feel at their celebration.
Snap the important shots
A picture is worth a thousand words, so why not capture the best of the tasting? We take photos and extensive notes throughout so that we can reproduce their food exactly as they had it at the tasting. In fact, when the chef comes in to present the paperwork, we joke that the chef has already taken their first wedding photos — of their food! Show them the photos and paperwork, then get right to asking if they have any questions.
When the prospect has tasted all there is try, that’s when you can lay the sales pitch on heavier and bring up paperwork that needs to be completed to finalize the deal. At this point, the client has been wined, dined, conversed, and treated like royalty — there’s no better time to start talking details and map out the game plan for the success of their event.