Cranking Up Catering Sales in a Multi-Unit Restaurant Environment
There are many thousands of proven sales systems that your brand can implement to help make your catering sales sing. But here’s the rub. Even proven sales systems need to be followed and implemented by people. Once trained, we call these individuals “salespeople”.
Allow me to clarify. If you are thinking about increasing catering sales with salespeople, than you need to have a catering leader for your brand that can oversee the sales effort. I must also stress that your catering leadership will need support and buy-in from all those that are actively involved in the overall strategy of your business. If that support is not in place, I would recommend that you consider slowing your catering sales down until your business strategy is clear and focused.
Having been an entrepreneur my entire career, I have tried dozens of sales systems and many of them work well. I have found that with the right attitude, almost any proven system will help to standardize your sales process and will help to get the job done.
The sales structure required to sell your catering services for your brand should be approached from two perspectives simultaneously.
Perspective #1 – Centralized Sales Effort at the Brand Level
Depending on the scale of your multi-unit restaurant operations, selling off premise services requires seasoned individuals who are accountable to the revenue results of your catering and other off premise service channels. We must empower our people to sell our services at all levels of our organizations.
To this end we must work hard at selling services to corporations who are considering purchasing an “off premise” brand experience. This requires a dedicated sales effort from the top of your organization.
Under this structure, there should be key salespeople in specific territories calling on national accounts, regional accounts and local accounts. This sales team must take responsibility for making sure that the culture of the brand comes across in the selling process. In addition, they must develop and implement presentations and connect the brand to a larger network of buyers.
In addition, these sales people need to work in the field at the store level where they will teach and educate your frontline people how to sell catering services at the store level.
If this strategy is deployed properly, you will create a sales culture and organization that runs deep within the veins of your brand.
One caveat that I will point out here for those of you that are planning to implement this strategy, is that this sales team must also service the internal customer of you brand. This includes training individuals at all touch points of the catering transaction on how to sell more services to your customers.
The complexity of this effort will increase for your brand depending on the scale of your operations as well as the structural mechanics in the differences of managing both your corporately owned stores and your franchise partners.
This key sales team at the brand level should be part of your overall “shared services” strategy, not unlike order entry, marketing, accounting, culinary development, packaging and technology. Selling at the brand level will mitigate risk for the brand and help to provide a “unified voice” to the marketplace. This is VERY IMPORTANT for the long-term survival of the off premise business model.
Perspective #2 – Distributed Sales Effort at the Store Level
Once you have the first perspective properly structured, you are now in a fantastic position to leverage all of your human assets, at every level of the organization. The most powerful sales force we have as multi-unit restaurant operators is our frontline people. These people touch and serve our customers, each and every day.
I have learned that if we don’t invest into teaching our internal customers “the language of catering sales”, that in fact, because they care so much about our business, they will actually go out of their way to answer a customer inquiry to the best of their ability. If we don’t provide them with the right words to use and the timing of when to use those words, they will provide an answer to our customers whether we want them to or not.
This is where the power of language can crank up your catering sales. By investing in a formal “sales system” and making a commitment to train our frontline people in a unified and structured fashion, they will all be following the same compass. This compass is tied closely to the overall business strategy and so what happens next is extraordinary.
Our customers always respond positively to our organizations when we go the extra mile and make sure that we answer their questions properly. As we have learned, the catering channel requires special attention to details and subtleties that we don’t have in our retail operations. Our “salespeople” need to understand these differences and need to be educated as to what is driving this customer to buy these external services.
As you consider the path of expanding your services to include an “off-premise” revenue channel like catering, here are some ideas that I hope you will consider:
1. Build a sales team through a centralized model. (The key sales team)
2. Make sure that the sales team is accountable to the overall revenue that they are responsible for producing for the brand.
3. Take an approach of “shared services” as you sell these services across your brand. Franchisees and licensees need sales support too.
4. Teach your in-store people to sell at the community level based on a planned selling experience. This experience needs to be scripted, trained, implemented measured and adjusted as your business changes.
5. Take the time to understand the difference between “selling” and “service”. Although they are closely tied together, they are very different activities.
6. Consider a new model moving forward:
a. Control the selling experience centrally. This experience needs to be defined by the brand so that the language is consistent with the culture of your organization.
b. Order entry requires selling AND service. Centralize where possible. You will encourage specialization with this model that will be GREAT for your customers, both external and internal. Be consistent, predictable and scale-able.
c. Expand the selling experience to the store level and engage your team to get out and canvas actively in their communities. Make sure they follow a proven and agreed upon selling process, as designed for your brand. As your team members at the store level live in the communities they work in, they are in a great position to sell the services of your brand.
d. Teach your back-of the house people sales skills as well. As brand ambassadors, they become your voice in their communities. In our off premise channel, because we bring the brand experience offsite, anywhere where people work, live and play become potential prospects for more sales.
e. Take the heat of “off-premise” execution out of the stores. This requires a commitment to a strategy that allows for the best possible customer experience. Our store operations are already complex and depending on the dynamics of your brand and menu adding a catering revenue channel to the mix will increase the stress on your operations. Move all ordering out of the stores where possible and free up resources that are focused on manufacturing, packaging and distribution. This will result in more throughput and an increase in sales.