3 Types of Customization: Finding the Best Fit for You

For many caterers and event companies, customizing products and services for each client is key to their success or gives them a perceived competitive advantage. Customization is a consumer trend that spans across all aspects of our society and businesses.

However, satisfying every special request comes with many operational challenges in the catering world, including:

• The inability to say no

• Snap decisions

• Pricing without “real” costs

• Constant reinvention

• One-time use inventory issues

When a customization strategy isn’t defined, these operational challenges hinder the effectiveness of a business and affect profitability. Good business management and the demand for creating unique custom events is an ongoing struggle for a lot of companies.

Event management software is a tool that can help you create business efficiencies across all departments.

So, what does customization really mean?

There are three major approaches of customization: true, selected, and guide.

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True customization

Event details are created from a clean slate every time. There are no established choices or options. Menu items and services are completely tailored to each client. The operations team then builds an operation plan from the ground up.

Selected customization

Selected customization offers the ability to pick and choose individual components of products and services from an expanded list of options. For example, a sales team can mix and match selected center of plate items with a pre-approved list of accompaniments such as seasonal sides and sauces to create a custom entrée.

Guided customization

Guided customization allows customers to pick and choose within a defined selection of options. A boxed lunch—where you pick from a limited list of sandwiches, sides and beverage options—is a perfect example of guided customization strategy.

Companies that understand each of these approaches can then choose the software application that best suits their needs. A tailored system will make it easier for your sales team to work within a structured framework.

All levels of event management systems can be tailored to each strategy type. The challenge becomes determining what kind of auxiliary information you want the system to supply the operational teams and the additional labor costs involved in generating that data.

What kind of information?

With guided customization, pricing, production information and packing lists can all be pre-established only with regular updates and data management.

Selected customization requires a greater focus on supplying costing data to allow sales to tabulate the correct pricing based on the individual cost of selected items. Production quantities and its management may require additional administrative staff and oversight.

True customization requires a full investment of production, equipment and operational details of an event. On an event-by-event basis, it’s important to have production teams whose sole focus is the documentation and management of event data within your system

There are many approaches to establishing a good data set. However, the auxiliary costs of time and labor for maintenance based on the approach you choose can affect your bottom line. Determine if your pricing strategy is able to afford the hidden costs of customization.

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John Reed

Owner, Custom Culinary Solutions, Chicago, IL

John Reed is a professional chef with over 30 years’ experience. He is the owner of Customized Culinary Solutions, a culinary consulting firm located in the Chicago Northshore area. He works with restaurant, catering, and foodservice companies to provide the highest quality food possible. His contributions include menu and recipe development, emerging concept development, and transition management for companies introducing culinary and production software programs. His company specializes as an on-demand culinary department supporting out-sourced culinary project management.

An active member of the ACF, he has earned certifications as a Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator, and American Academy of...