Friday, October 26, 2012

Digging Up the Root

When coaching new clients I first ask how I may help improve their business. Responses are usually along the lines of “My chef hates the sales team” or “We can’t seem to hire and keep good staff” or “We're always getting beat on price.” Such critical issues are common to caterers and restaurateurs.  However, addressing those issues will not solve the root problem. When I dig a little deeper, 9 out of 10 clients eventually acknowledge they want to improve profitability, to decrease their stress level, and to create a culture where everyone works in harmony. Understanding these goals is the first step toward eventually fixing the day-to-day problems that are a blight on every company.

It is common for owners to believe that if they keep doing the same things just a little better then everything will improve. Or they think that if they throw more money at a problem, it will simply go away.  Sadly, this is never the case.  Real solutions come from understanding your objectives and constantly reminding yourself to value the activities that will help you reach them.

Therefore, if your goal is to reduce stress, the last thing you need to do is mediate a personality dispute between departments.  Likewise, once you define your company culture, identifying employees who will be the right fit for your company becomes much easier.  If your goal is to improve profitability, the next step is to assess your sales procedures and evaluate your cost of doing business.  You may even discover a new appreciation for the all the time and energy you spend on cost-saving operations.

There are many strategies for setting up more efficient procedures or strengthening a team’s unity.  Unfortunately, on their own, none of these quick fixes will bring lasting change or progress.  Owners and managers need to dig deeper to identify their goals and their company’s fundamental mission.  Once these have been unearthed, the whole team will find it easier to work together to help the company flourish.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Swinging for the Fences - Part IV

In my series on the parallels between Major League Baseball and the catering game, I've examined the roles and responsibilities of the owners, the managers, and the players. With the playoffs underway and the World Series quickly approaching, it’s time to look at the fans, the paying customers, and see where they fit into this equation.

Simply put, the fan is king!

The only obligation the fan has is to enjoy the game on their own terms (providing they’re not celebrating by tipping cars and throwing bottles). And, as we see every year during the World Series, it is perfectly acceptable for fair weather fans to cheer right alongside the diehards. An organization would be foolish to discourage the enthusiasm of any fans.  I am always perplexed that along with the standard promotionals such as “Bobble Head Day” or “Ice Cream ‘Sunday,’” ballparks include the self satisfied announcement of “Fan Appreciation Day.” What, one whole day to appreciate the fans? Imagine how badly a hospitality company would fare if it only appreciated its guests on special days.  It would ruin us.  

Caterers must realize that, just as in baseball, clients may change allegiances at any time based on whim, whimsy, fickle, or folly. The client may determine that their caterer is not worthy because of a small PR mistake or because of repeated poor performance. Sometimes, the client is influenced by the preferences of others in the community. Or they lose faith, maybe rightly so, when their team trades all its core players as the Red Sox did this summer. Clients lose confidence when their caterer seems to have a revolving door of Chefs, account executives, and key staff. Really, anything can cause a client’s loyalty to waver.  That is their prerogative.  It is up to the caterer to find innovative ways to keep hitting home runs and keep fans engaged.

Baseball and Hospitality are both games of business. However, we – the owners, managers, coaches, players, and staff - must never forget that the game is, in the end, about ensuring entertainment and celebration for our fans and clients. Without that fun, the money never flows.

By the way, my favorite team was knocked out of playoff contention weeks ago but I’m one of those eternal hopefuls chanting the phrase “Wait ‘til next year.”  A similar determination drives me in catering.  Every new event, every new inquiry, every newly-met prospective client is a chance to be the hero who clinches the Series with a grand slam, thereby winning a fan for life.