Scheduling tastings is not an easy task. It takes patience, persistence and drive. You will have good days and unfortun,ately you will have bad. There will be weeks when you feel like you’re knocking the ball out of the park every time you step up to the plate, one scheduled tasting after another after another...and other weeks you find no wind in your sails at all. Just strike out after strike out. This is where persistence, patience and drive comes in. You can’t get discouraged, you need to just keep pushing forth, against the wind. Stick with it and it WILL pay off. But the hard work doesn’t end here. Now that you’ve sold your goods, and painted a picture of your services you need to move on to plan B...execution.
Prepare for your tastings just like you would for breakfast, lunch and dinner catering. (Refer back to those yard lines for refresher courses). Be sure to have a conference room booked for an hour. Always arrive at least 15 minutes in advance to get the room and set-up adequately prepared. It could help your staff better understand your expectations if you created a video of your process so they know exactly how to conduct the tasting. Or you could use the video that we have already created for you in The Virtual Playbook.
Once the room is prepared and ready for guests, prepare for their arrival. You should have watched the video already so you know that utensils have been withheld until after you have the full attention of the room. Remember that once people start to eat you have lost the attention of at least half the room. After all your guests arrive, offer them a drink; water, soft-drinks, coffee, tea. Once everyone is settled in begin your presentation. This part of the process causes incredible anxiety to most people, after all the #1 fear of human beings is not death, it’s public speaking, so develop your own style. If it does cause anxiety, that’s totally normal, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get. Sometimes making a joke can loosen things up, perhaps make a joke about holding their utensils hostage, “I know everyone’s hungry and I want you all to eat as soon as possible but I’m going to hold your utensils hostage so to speak for a few moments until I go through a few things with you” Laugh with them. Take your potential clients through a complete tour of your food, menu, services...add the extras that you offer; Christmas parties, summer barbeques, dinner catering, etc. Keep an emphasis on the fact that you are there to solve their problems, that your focus is always on them. Open the floor up to answer any questions your group may have. Address some common questions, even before they ask, such as food allergies, dietary restrictions, gluten intolerances, etc. When you have answered all their questions, release the utensils from your firm grip and let them dive in. The golden question they might ask you is, “Do you want to join us” and you will answer “absolutely!” Then make it more personal, “I like your sweater, what do you do for the company? Is that your family in that picture?” I know this may feel a bit awkward, but you have to remember, people do business with people they like, so building a relationship with them is step #1 of this process. On the other hand, if they don’t want you to hang around then no big deal, just say thank you, wish them a great lunch and get ready to hit the road. BUT before you go be sure to let them know that they have an account set up as of now, so if someone needs breakfast tomorrow they just need to place the order now and you’ll be there first thing in the morning. Believe it or not many times you’ll start getting orders right there on the spot. Now that’s a successful tasting!
Tastings are one of the best ways to gain new business accounts. Well-executed Tastings are extremely important to the growth of your corporate catering division. They take practice — lots and lots of practice. You want to convey a sense of your company, food, and services. Most importantly, you want to convey what makes your company different, unique, or better that sets you apart from others.
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN:
Well-executed Tastings are extremely important to the growth of your corporate catering division. They take a great deal of practice. You want to convey a sense of what your company is about, the food you deliver, the services you provide. And what is different, unique, or better that sets you apart from others.
Your target market for Tastings should be companies that order from caterers regularly, but have not ordered from you. As a general rule of thumb, a regular customer is someone who orders at least twice a month.
WHAT TO BRING TO THE TASTING
In addition to food, there are a few essentials that you want to bring on a Tasting:
- Outline of Presentation
- Account Information Forms
- W-9 Tax ID Form
- Order Forms
To schedule Tastings, your business will need to make cold calls. If the thought of cold calling makes you break out in a cold sweat, consider using a person within your organization or hiring someone to exclusively schedule and execute Tastings. It does not need to be a full-time position. If you or your designated representatives have little or no experience making sales calls, it can be intimidating at first. In the beginning, it is helpful to use a custom-tailored Tasting script. If you need assistance The Corporate Caterer can work with you to prepare for your first Tastings. We can even accompany you on them you to ensure that you get off on the right foot!
If possible, as the owner, manager, or director of the catering operation you should be onsite during the Tasting. The more time this person spends with prospective customers, the better. It is very important that this person give 100% of their attention to the people at the Tastings. This means turning of cell phones and zoning into the mission.
If you are invited to eat with the company, eat with them. Always remember, it is not about you — it is all about demonstrating to the customers how your food and service will benefit them, while actively engaging in relationship building. You want to be thought of as someone they can count on to make them look good and come through in a pinch.
Tastings Do’s and Don’ts
1) Gather Information
Talk to your prospective client about their current catering situation. You want to create a menu that is appropriate for their needs. Find out what they most commonly order from their present caterer(s). Find out how many caterers they order from. Are there any problem areas they are currently experiencing? What are the most important attributes a caterer can offer them?
2) The Food Your Bring
Think about linking the information gathered about the prospect with the food you will feature at the Tasting. For example, if they never have breakfast catered, you may not want to bring samples of breakfast pastries. However, it may also be an opportunity to introduce a new catering opportunity. If they rarely order hot food, there is no need to bring an array of hot entrees. If the majority of their business is sandwiches, then feature your best-selling sandwiches. Ask specific questions about their preferences such as the number of vegetarians served. Are there particular types of breads that are preferred? What types are most popular?
3) Get Something in Return
Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Tastings are a significant investment of time and resources. Do not leave without at least getting complete contact information on all the people who order. Do not be shy about asking, “Is there any upcoming catering this week that we could help out with?” Be prepared to take orders on the spot.
1) Raise the Bar
This is a common mistake. It is tempting to want to “step it up” when presenting food on a Tasting. However, by doing so you are setting up your potential new client for disappointment. Do not bring meatier sandwiches or use special garnishes if it’s not your typical modus operandi. If you hear back that “Everything you brought us on the Tasting looked better than the first order,” all your hard work is tanked.
2) Promise Anything You Cannot Back Up
If you are only open for breakfast and lunch, do not agree to cater dinner to get the business. If you are closed on Sunday, do not agree to provide service that day. Certainly, there are times when you might go above and beyond to accommodate good clients, but now is not the time. After all, they have not yet placed a single order. Do a great job based on the meals you are setup to cater. They will find someone else to do the others.
3) Try to Stick a Square Peg into a Round Hole
You cannot be all things to all people. If you have never catered a clambake or a wedding reception, do not agree to do so if asked. Focus on offering the food and services you are familiar with and do well.
Following is a general list of tips and strategies concerning Tastings:
- The most important part of a Tasting is building and fostering relationships!!
- Ideally, the same person should communicate with the customer throughout the entire process.
- Do not provide Tasting samples of anything that is not on your menu.
- Do not embellish or change any of your items (e.g. adding more meat to sandwiches).
- If possible the business owner or manager should attend the Tasting.
- Within one to three days after calling mail a copy of your menu with a letter to your contact. This will give the prospect an opportunity to preview your offerings prior to the Tasting. It is also a good idea to include a brief handwritten note at the bottom.
- If possible, do a little preliminary research on the internet about the company you will be contacting. Having some basic information about the organization might prove beneficial.
- Call the day before the Tasting to re-confirm, especially if it was scheduled weeks in advance.
- The [name of city] Business Journal publication is featured in 41 markets in the US. If you subscribe for a year, the Book of Lists is included. This weekly business newspaper is a great way to stay informed locally, and it has a ton of sales leads.
- Within 24 hours, follow up with a confirmation e-mail. Samples are provided later in this module.
- Make sure the point person presenting at the Tasting is an EXPERT in all areas of your catering operation. You never know what type of questions you may be asked. If the person does not know the answer, make sure to tell the asker “I do not know. I will find out the answer and get it to you by today.”
- When preparing for your sample Tastings it's best to expect that more people will show up than less.
- It’s always a good idea to send a friendly reminder email within a day or two of the scheduled Tasting.
- Either leave a questionnaire with a return envelope at the Tasting or send an email with a link to an online survey (e.g. survey monkey). People generally like to be asked their opinion. Getting honest feedback, especially constructive how-to- improve feedback, is some of the most valuable information available to you.
- Leave a business Tasting sign-up form near your counter. (See Worksheets & Checklists for a form)
#1: Identify your target area such as an office park, geographical location, or business category.
#2: Get phone/mailing lists.
#3: Start making calls and document all information.
#4: Schedule Tasting.
#5: Send a scheduled Tasting confirmation email within 24 hours.
#6: Mail menu and letter within 1 to 3 days.
#7: Prepare for the presentation of Tasting.
#8: Present your Tasting and network: gather information and make connections. #9: Email or send a follow-up letter within 24 hours after Tasting.
#10: Email or send a follow-up letter after the first completed catering order.