SYSTEMIZING YOUR OPERATIONS
One of the keys to running a successful catering business (or any business, household, life, etc.) is being organized.
Definition of Organized: Being able to find what you need when you need it.
Everyone has different methodologies of being organized. Here at The Corporate Caterer, we have a specific methodology about how to get organized and systemize your business which we lay-out for you in the next zone.
Take some time to look at the inner-workings of your operation, just as we just did when examining “Are you Making Money?”
It starts with the snail mail that comes in every day, don’t let it pile-up! Go through it right away, separate it into categories - recycle bin, inbox for immediate attention, inbox for things that need attention during the month, etc.
We are very big philosophically on systemizing...our goal is for you to have maximum success. Even though we’re talking about your corporate division, this methodology should be applied throughout your operation. Creating good systems are imperative to achieve success.
Another key is to organize your specifics. (This will be discussed in more detail when you reach the 25th yard line). Document exactly how a sandwich tray is constructed, how cookie trays are laid out, how a tuna sandwich is prepared (salt, pepper, celery, dill, whatever your operation chooses to use). Keep in mind that the key is consistency, the ingredients aren’t as important. You want your operation to be consistent, ALWAYS. Your clients should be able to rely on you for the same sandwich tray regardless of who prepared it (sandwiches can vary, but they must be laid out the same, cut the same way either diagonal every time or vertical every time). This requires you to spend some time looking at the inner workings of your operation and documenting your procedures. When it comes to sandwiches, they are no small feat. You must have specs if you’re going to attain repeat business. For our Boston operation the most popular sandwiches are turkey and chicken salad. However, these may not be the most popular for your region. You need to determine what the demand is and factor it in when you're creating and constructing your platters...BUT, here it comes again, they ALWAYS must be the same! Consistency is everything. Let’s say you have a standing order every Monday for 30 people. One week Peter makes the sandwiches and the following week Susan makes the sandwiches, the platters must be the same. There’s a format, it’s not at the employee’s discretion.
These procedures fall in line with having an excellent operations manual. You will learn, if you haven’t already, that in order to find success, you must have a complete operations manual, it’s essential. Almost all of the stuff we’re going to discuss in The Virtual Playbook needs to be outlined in your Operations Manual. I’m going to share a modo we strongly believe in, and we suggest you apply this to your operation as well...“Let systems run your business and people run your systems.” This is the foundation of a well-oiled machine. Ultimately, this will bring you a feeling of predictable results and a business that is profitable and has continued growth. You will be creating a business that can recruit and attain quality employees, which in turn will give you, the owner/operator, the freedom to come and go as you please. No more being held hostage at work 24/7.
In this industry, it’s no secret that we work a lot of hours, we’ve been there so we get it. In the beginning, 100 hours seems like a badge of honor. We’re not saying don’t work hard, but if you follow the tools outlined in The Virtual Playbook, you will have time to enjoy life, your family, your world outside of your business.
The basic principle of laying the foundation for this type of life is to build your company in the model of a franchise. People spend obscene amounts of money on franchises. Why? Well, because they have a much higher success rate than individually owned restaurants. This is a result of their cold hard systems. Every employee should be armed with the information they need in order to conquer every issue they are faced with, whether good or bad. It could be as basic as, “Are the sandwiches cut in half or diagonal?” as mentioned above. The answer is, “It’s in the Operations manual!” This removes employee discretion and creates a system. These systems will give you the freedom to have a quality work/life balance. If you follow this guide, yard by yard, zone by zone, you can rest assured your business will run like a well-oiled machine, even when you're not on-site. If you can’t leave your operation alone, then you have just made the best investment you could ever make for your business. I promise you, The Virtual Playbook is going to get you there. Whether on a tropical beach or skiing in the mountains, you will find the freedom to truly enjoy your life.
Moving forward, we’ll talk about customer services, food specs, policies, procedures, managing marketing & branding, developing a system to how the phones are answered, and what the uniform code for delivery staff is, etc. By the time you reach the end of this platform, everything will be outlined in your very own Operations Manual. Again these specifics will be covered when you reach the 25th yard line.
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
Independent business owners were asked, “What constitutes a successful business?”
This is a summary of the most common responses:
1) A consistent business that runs smoothly and produces predictable results.
2) A business that is profitable and continues to grow.
3) A business that can regularly recruit and retain exceptional long-term employees.
4) A business that will allow me the freedom to come and go as I please.
While studies vary incrementally, statistics show that 86% of all independent businesses never make a profit, even after 10 or more years. The majority will either fail, lose money, or break-even. The owners, in essence, have “a job” not a “business” that can be scaled to grow. Eventually, most will throw in the towel, deciding it is too much effort for too little reward. This is not due to a marginal product or work ethic, but rather a failure to create the necessary operating procedures necessary to replicate what an owner does through his employees. The result? All of the key activities of the business are dependent on a very few people. This inhibits the business’ capacity to grow beyond the ability of those few employees.
The concept of Systemizing Your Business is not new or trendy. According to the Department of Commerce, franchises that are established with proven systems have a success rate of over 95%!
To illustrate, imagine ten people start separate, independent restaurants. Statistics show that after one year, six of the ten will be out of business. In the next five years, two of the remaining four will close their doors.
This begs the question: what did the two restaurants that are left standing do that the other eight did not? This is the basis of a franchise. It is taking the success formula from one business and duplicating it in another.
The “Success Formula” is your System.
E-Myth founder (and small business/entrepreneurship legend) Michael Gerber explains, “The way for independent business owners to achieve ultimate success is to build a franchise prototype. Your franchise prototype should document ‘the way we do it here,' and the resulting proprietary operating systems will ensure that tasks are always performed consistently, regardless of who carries them out. This will create predictable experiences that your customers can rely on – and which in turn will help you grow and develop a true turn-key business that will be attractive to investors.”
If we know and accept the franchise prototype theory, (we do), why do so few of us implement it?
These are some of the reasons holding us back.
1) We feel overwhelmed by the concept and don’t know where to start.
2) We don’t know how to document processes.
3) We don’t know how to get everyone involved with the operation on board.
Case Study: “The Standing Order”
Customer: “Hi, I am calling from ABC company. We are looking for a new caterer and would like to try you out. Every Monday during the month of January, we would like you to deliver assorted sandwiches for 20, tossed salad for 10, and drinks for 30.”
You: “Great, thank you! Let’s discuss some of the details, and we look forward to seeing you next Monday...”
No big deal, right? It’s a simple, recurring order. Almost anyone in your operation should be able to handle this easily – agreed? Guess what?
Fact: Over 94% of catering companies we have surveyed are not setup to execute this order in a properly systematized way.
Ask yourself, “What are the series of steps that it takes from this initial phone call to getting paid for the first lunch delivered? What SYSTEMS and Procedures (set-by-step instructions) come into play?”
Order Complete Confirmation
PAPER GOOD SPECS
Plates, Napkins, Salad Bowls, Beverage Cups
Forks, Knives, Salad Tongs
VENDOR ORDERING SPECS
GETTING ORGANIZED (OVERVIEW)
Effective organization requires making key decisions, establishing systematic processes and documentation. If you operate in a chaotic environment, the good news is getting organized is not difficult – theoretically. And it will help your business – significantly.
Starting, managing, and growing a successful catering company requires stakeholders to make numerous decisions that must be codified through documentation. To achieve maximum efficiency and profitability within your operation, everything needs to be put in writing. Following are some just some examples of decisions that need to be made and documented.
How will customers be greeted at your establishment, drop-off venue, and over the phone?
How will phone calls be answered?
How will employees handle customer complaints and concerns?
How will employees handle positive customer comments and feedback?
How much turkey will be used in a sandwich?
How will a sandwich platter be presented?
How will you construct an “assorted” sandwich platter?
What is your uniform policy?
What is your cancellation policy?
What is your policy an item is missing on an order?
Tips & Strategies:
E-Myth believes that “the goal for many small business owners is to be liberated from their business, and the best way to make this a reality is to build a franchise prototype. A successful franchise prototype requires flawless systems for marketing, finance, management, operations, and leadership so that anyone can step in and not only understand them but run them. This will ensure that the business can function efficiently without your daily involvement, or ultimately, your actual presence.”
Furthermore, “We encourage our business owner clients to get free of their business by becoming self-sufficient, lead-generating, client-converting, customer-satisfying machines. How? By designing systems to get work done, and training people to operate those systems to produce consistent results.”
From how the telephones are answered, to what specifically constitutes an assorted sandwich platter, to how many salads bowls are included with a delivery, to how a meal is set up in a client's office, to how employees are trained, to administrative and billing procedures, “the ways you do things” will be structured, consistent, documented, and measurable.
You may feel there is a lot of work to be done. There is. But, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. When something works well, it gets documented, and then it is always done the same way. This is how you create a system. Once you have an Operations Manual, it’s done. You will modify and add to it as necessary, but the guts of it will remain intact forever.
You will build your Operations Manual as if you are building a business within a business. In other words, it will be done over time and step-by-step, not as a big hodgepodge thrown together. Whether you are thinking about your systems, or getting input from others, or writing scripts, or instituting specific procedures, you will create Step One of your system. When you are done with that, you will move on to Step Two. When you are done with that, Step Three, and so on.
It all starts and ends with consistency. When everything is organized and proven, your operation should be able to successfully run on its own so you can focus on the things you want to do. It may be growing the business. It may be more time away from the business. It may be both. It can be whatever you want it to be.
10 POINT PLAN FOR PAPERWORK MANAGEMENT
The key to successfully dealing with your paperwork is to keep up with it. Granted, this is easier said than done. If you are starting with one big mess, the first thing to do is sift through it and decide what to keep and what to throw away.
Throw away, shred, and recycle all junk mail, catalogs, and out-of-date information. Be aggressive. When in doubt, throw it out.
2) Open all mail
Trash all advertising inserts. If you pay your bills online, discard all payment envelopes. Shred loan offers and checks from credit card companies immediately. Don’t even look at them.
3) Sort in Piles (or storage bins if necessary)
4) Take immediate action one item at a time.
Starting with one pile, resolve what to do with every single piece of paper in front of you. Do not postpone these decisions.
5) Do it.
Chances are you will either have to Pay it, File it, Record it, Respond to it, Sign it, or Scan it. Do not create a new pile for any of it.
6) Implement this system – daily.
Have an “INBOX” on your desk for new arrivals.
7) Create a “To-Shred” box.
Appropriate paperwork should be added daily.
8) Organize your passwords and usernames
Use a software program such as One Password and /or keep a hard copy safely filed.
9) Vendor List.
Keep ALL of your vendors listed by the name of the company. Include a phone number, contact person, account number, ordering information. Add to it as needed and post it so that it is accessible to your staff.
10) Straighten up at the end of the day.
This should only take few minutes. Get rid of what you can and tidy up what is left. Once a week, wipe down your desk, monitors, and keyboard)
GETTING ORGANIZED (TIPS & STRATEGIES)
The following tips and strategies concern answering phones and suggestive selling:
MANAGING PHONE CALLS
A lot of corporate catering orders are placed over the phone. The representative(s) that handle these calls are the voice of your business. They should be polished, friendly, professional, helpful and efficient.
Think about your own experiences with representatives on the phone. When you are the customer, and the service representative on the phone is polite, helpful, and thorough, and you think, “I am in very capable hands,” it feels good, right? That is how you want your customers to feel every time they interact with any of your employees, whether it is in person or on the phone.
DO’S & DON’T’S
Following is a matrix of do’s and don’ts on how staff should speak on the phone with customers:
When a customer says, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” “It is my pleasure.”
“Yep.” “Uh huh.”
When the person calling your business asks
“Is [name] there, please?”
“Who’s calling, please?”
“Who’s calling?” “Who’s this?”
When the caller responds, “Stacey from 123 Company.”
“Thank you Stacey, one moment please.”
“Hold on.” “Just a minute.”
Appropriate responses, when the requested person is NOT available
“I’m sorry Stacey, she is not available at the moment, may I put you into her voice mail?”
“He’s busy right now.”
“She’s not here. Can you call back?”
“He can’t talk right now.”
When a customer calls, requesting a last-minute delivery at 11:30, and you are unable to accommodate that time.
”We are booked solid through noon. We would be happy to deliver you lunch by 12:30.”
“Typically with same day orders, we can deliver by 12:30. We might be able to get to you earlier, and we will try. Does that work for you?”
“No. Same day orders get delivered last.”
“Sorry. It is 12:30 for late orders.”
ADDITIONAL PHONE TIPS & SUGGESTIONS
Answer the phone with a standard greeting and your name such as “Thank you for calling The Corporate Cater, my name is Michael. How may I help you?”
Before placing a caller on hold ask: “May I place you on hold for a moment?” It is important to wait until they say “Yes” before you do.
When finishing up a call and it is evident a follow-up call is required ask the customer: “How should we leave it? Will you call me or would you like me to call you?”
To minimize back-and-forth calls and maximize efficiency, try this:
“Hi Mary, This is Steve from Fewer Phone Calls Catering. Regarding your lunch tomorrow, I want to confirm you do not need paper products. If this is correct, a return call is not necessary. If you do require paper products, please call me at 555-1212. Feel free to leave a voicemail. Thank you.”
“If I were ordering this for myself, I would...” is an effective remark when you are helping a customer plan a menu.
Always ask for the name and phone number of the person calling for information. Sometimes a simple follow-up call will land you the job.
When a potential customer calls for general information about a specific event, instead of suggesting, “Take a look at our website and give us a callback.” Try this:
“Are you near a computer? Let’s go to our website together and create a sample menu for your event right now.”
Do what you tell them you’ll do. If you say, “I will get you a proposal by the end of the day,” — DO IT. If you need more time, call, before the deadline, and say, “Hi [name], I underestimated the time required to complete your proposal as thoroughly as I’d like. Will it be ok if you receive it by 2:00 pm tomorrow?”
Whenever necessary get specifics. For example, if a customer orders “20 sodas with extra diet”, you will want to ask: “How many of the 20 would you like to be diet?” This is because the definition of “extra” could be vastly different for the customer, you, and the person doing the set-up.
When the call is over, wait for the customer to hang up the phone first
When taking orders, as much as 20%, sometimes more, additional revenue can quickly be realized by making suggestions and asking questions. Often you are inquiring about additional items your customer may have forgotten to order, or has not considered, or was unaware you offered. Suggestive selling is all about educating the customer about various options. With practice, you will know the subtle nuances when a customer is on the fence and needs a gentle push, or when suggesting a lesser amount of an additional item(s) is a wise strategy.
Customers will value offered suggestions. If your chef has come up with a new sandwich, salad creation, or a great new cookie, make sure your customers know about it.
“For a limited time, we are now offering a great new ____ that is extremely popular. It is selling like hotcakes.” (Maybe it is hotcakes!)
Customer: “I would like to order baked goods and coffee for 20 people.”
You: “Great. Would your group also enjoy some fresh sliced fruit or fruit salad?” Customer: “Umm...no...I don’t think we need it.”
You: “You can always order it for a lesser amount, say for 10 or 15, as another option. Perhaps there are food allergic, gluten intolerant or other dietary restriction in the group?
Examples of Breakfast Suggested Add-Ons:
Coffee, Tea, Decaf
Juice, Spring Water
Sliced Fruit, Fruit Salad, Whole Fruit Cereal, Granola
Examples of Lunch Suggested Add-Ons
Green Salad, Pasta Salad
Potato Chips Desserts
Beverages should always be suggested if they were not ordered. Additionally, always suggest a specific number of extra beverages.
Help your customer anticipate your delicious food with visual descriptions. You will be surprised how easily a few added words can turn a no into a yes.
Customer: “I would like sandwiches, chips, and drinks for 20 people.”
You: “Would you like some extra drinks? 25 or 30?
Customer: “I would like to order the sandwich platter with chips and beverages for 20
You: “Great. Would like to also add cookies to your order?” Customer: “Umm...no...I don’t think we need it.”
Alternative Descriptive Example
Customer: “I would like to order the sandwich platter with chips and beverages for 20 people.”
You: “Wonderful. Would like to a platter of our popular homemade chocolate chip cookies to your order?”
Customer: “Umm...that sounds great!”
Educators Verse Order Takers
To increase sales and profits, your telephone representatives should consider themselves “educators” as opposed to “order takers” Is there a new menu item you are excited about, but it is not selling as you had hoped? Do your customers know enough about it? Why do you feel they should try it? Have you ever tried including a sample of it with their delivery?, with a brief note explaining why, “As soon as it came out of the oven, I thought this would be perfect for Ann and her colleagues at ABC.
Also, whenever appropriate, ask for the sale. Sometimes it is as easy as that.