There is always a silly assumption in the catering business that the front of house and back of house does not get along.
“The sales team does not know how to sell food!”
“The culinary team never understands what the client wants!”
The list could go on and on. Get over it, caterers! You are missing out on the best, most collaborative internal business development relationship that I can guarantee will increase your sales, enhance your client partnerships, and improve team morale if you realize the culinary team can and should be an active and collaborative participant in your daily sales processes.
Encourage your sales consultants and chefs to tackle a few of these team initiatives together and see what happens:
Food is beautiful!
This is imperative. START THIS TODAY. Food is cool. Food is trendy. Food is sexy. Your chef is the most exciting person for a client to see in the tasting room. This is their stage. Let the culinary team be the lead performers. Sales consultants should absolutely assist in best supporting roles. Please—no excuses that chefs are not “customer friendly.” This is not acceptable; arm the culinary team with client information, event and venue data, and then also provide communication and customer skill relations training if necessary. Lastly, have the culinary team sit in a tasting as a guest to “feel” the experience to understand the client and sales perspective.
Sales training educational sessions
Encourage hands-on training and educational sessions so sales consultants can better understand the products they are selling. Invite outside industry experts to your office to conduct training sessions—including your local farmers, wine producers, produce vendors, meat purveyors, and fish and seafood suppliers—anyone that can explain their products directly from the source. Knowledge is power and clients will buy from a salesperson that is confident in the product they are selling.
New product roll-outs with invited clients
Invite a select group of inspirational clients into the kitchen for a “casual” new product roll out. The environment should be as comfortable as if you are inviting them to your home. Provide feedback forms, keep the roll-out to a structured time frame, and print tasting menus. Have service staff available and offer creative alcohol-free beverages. Taste a broad selection of menu items, show the products on new equipment, and create an environment for these trusted clients while asking them in return for valuable, honest feedback. It is very important that you curate an appropriate list of clients and keep the list small so this feels intimate and special.
Daily photo shoots
Create a photo lab in the kitchen. Keep a camera set up at all times and establish a process of photo share with the sales team that is manageable and timely. This will encourage the sales team to expand the portfolio of products they sell as they see more options coming from the kitchen and what other salespeople are selling and showing. Make sure the photos are client appropriate and visually appealing so you can use these for your social media initiatives as well.
Chefs and salespeople sit in hours and hours of production meetings. Rethink your meeting structure. Is it collaborative and forward thinking, or is the team spending hours over what happened in the previous week? Evaluate your existing communication systems and processes and the “meetings have always been done this way” mentality and start looking at the cost and time of these lengthy meetings.
Invite the culinary team to every sales meeting and give them 15 minutes to share new ideas, implement changes, and be creative.
Give your culinary and sales team a monthly budget to explore hot, new restaurants in your city… together. Not only does it give the team a creative boost, but it also develops the relationship among your players and inspires new ideas and fun.