There is nothing more instructable than the voice of experience. Therefore, we asked mature catering service operators to tell us what contributed to their success, and what they think led to the failure of certain businesses. This is their story.
The best preparation for opening your own restaurant is to work for someone else’s business first. Although you should of course study and take courses, you should also plan to work in a restaurant for at least a few years and do as much work as possible. Also, pay attention to the people doing different jobs in the restaurant, so you can understand the different positions. Think of it as learning and getting paid.
But just because you work at McDonald’s doesn’t mean you’re going to open a fine dining restaurant. You need to work in a restaurant similar to the restaurant, pizzeria, deli bakery, or caterer you plan to start. Bennigan`s President and CEO Paul Mangiamele said: “Working in different positions, at the front of the house, at the back of the house, as a bartender, as a host, serving and cooking,” he said. “Know all aspects of operations, because when you are the owner, the responsibility really stops on you. No matter what happens, you need to be able to step in and deal with it, because this is your business.”
Conduct basic marketing survey.
When Jim Amaral decided to start Borealis Breads, a wholesale bakery specializing in sourdough bread, no one else in Maine did something similar. In order to find out whether there is a market for the bread he wants to bake, he called restaurants and retailers, explained his thoughts, and asked if they were interested in buying his bread. “I came up with about 15 accounts that indicated that they would be interested,” he said. This is enough to start.
Test your real market.
When testing marketing, be sure to test a sample group that represents the market you plan to target. Remember that many people will praise free food because they think it is polite to do so. So asking a few questions can provide you with information that you can use. It is not enough for people to say they like something. Find out why they like it, if there is something they don’t like, if there is something they will change, and if they are willing to buy it.
Find your position and stay focused.
Amaral said that one of the key things he did and contributed to his success was to find a market niche that no other baker has ever filled. “We position ourselves as a unique product. We don’t have many competitors, which allows us to maintain fairly high wholesale prices.
One of the best ways to survive in this industry is to become an expert in your field, so don’t stray too far from your core business. you can become indistinguishable and lost in the chaotic market.
Don’t let customers leave hungry or unhappy.
Even the best restaurants will occasionally have dissatisfied customers. Stefano LaCommare’s policy is that no one will starve Stefano’s Trattoria. If someone is not satisfied with a certain dish, please determine whether the problem is personal taste or preparation. In any case, change the food.
At his Melting Pot restaurant, Brian Neel’s approach is that customers are always right, even if they are not.
“Even if we know that our customers’ views are not entirely correct, we will try our best to understand and make every effort to make them happy,” he said. Sometimes you just need to apologize; sometimes the free article will take care of it. Or, Neal said, “If this is a very bad experience, we will pay the check and invite you to dinner with us again. Most importantly, they feel that you sympathize with their concerns and are dealing with them. Be sincere at the time.”
Keep your food consistent.
Once you develop recipes that you trust and know your customers like, stick to them. Adding different spices or trying new things may be fun for you, but customers who want the dishes to have the taste of the past will be disappointed if they do not meet their expectations.
LaCommare recalled hiring a chef who struggled with this concept. LaCommare is good, but clearly and firmly states how things will develop. “I said, ‘this is my kitchen. My way. my style. I’m not saying you can’t cook. But if you want to work here, do it my way.”
Build relationships with suppliers
Build relationships with your suppliers so that when you have problems, they will be willing to do more to help you. Be loyal to them; don’t make unreasonable demands, pay bills on time, and respect everyone on staff, including delivery drivers.
“Your dealer is your lifesaver,” Mangiamele said. “They will make sure you understand special offers, discounts, and shopping opportunities.”
Write it down.
If you are a restaurant or food wholesaler, before signing a contract or purchase order, do not assume you have an order. Caterer Ann Crane remembers bidding for a fancy party. He is a new client, and he took his art director and flower shop to meet this person, and they all left the impression that they have the job. But the customer is accepting offers from the other three catering service providers. The lesson is clear: don’t take everything for granted.
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