A Successful Catering Event is Music to the Ears

When something goes as planned, it is pleasing and so we often say that’s “music to my ears”.  Thing is, to make great music, like great catering, it takes practice.  It takes perseverance.  It takes an ongoing commitment to doing the right things.  Every day.  All day.  Any great musician knows that they have to practice and train on their instrument.

To be successful at catering, like in life, you have to work at it.  Day in and day out.  Only after planning, training, playing and doing it, over and over, can you then be really good at something.  You can’t just put a sign in the window saying you do catering well.  You can’t just send out an email saying you are good at it.  You actually have to work at it over and over.  You actually have to feel it;  to live it; to mean it.

I have heard that you become an expert at something after doing it for 10,000 hours…. I wonder if that’s true.  If so, you’d better get back to work because we have a lot of work to do!  Catering out of restaurants is serious business.

Listen to this girl sing.  Listen to the notes.  The melody.  The perfect pitch.  When something sounds this good, it’s music to your ears.  And music to your ears, feels good.  Just like restaurant catering.  When done well, it will be music to your ears.

Enjoy a little music from 11 year old Maya Rae.  It’s music to my ears.  I hope it is to yours too.

Let’s talk catering!

Successful Catering Takes a Team Effort

I received these photos today, hot off the press from my team.  In the photo you will see the proud faces of Tracy Avolio, one of MonkeyMedia Software’s Senior Catering Analysts, John Dumbrille, our VP of MonkeyUniversity and Lisa Nguyen, one the senior members of our software services team.

Monkey's Working Hard kpbwork

They are working onsite with one of the largest KFC Franchisees in the ecosystem.  If you have not heard the news, you can read about it at the following link here.  We are growing catering sales for the brand.  A huge opportunity!

We are proud of the work we do at MonkeyMedia Software.  We think about catering in a multi-unit restaurant environment every waking moment.

Today, I’d like to thank my team for all the fantastic support they give me.  If not for their ongoing dedication and deep belief in the work we are doing at MonkeyMedia Software, I’d never get to do that things that I love to do!  I’m very grateful to work with such fantastic people!

I admire your passion, leadership and enthusiasm!  Keep up the great work gang!


We are a community – a place for second chances

David and Carrie Schat

For me, this restaurant business has always been about the people I get to meet.  The people who are slugging it out every single day to do amazing work in their communities.  People like Carrie and David Schat.  Talented, generous and kind.  Passionate about baking.

About a year ago, they sent me this photo.  I was not only honoured, but touched deeply by the connection and passion that they both have towards the restaurant industry.  I was touched that through the words of my book, they had some hope to try to get over that difficult financial hump which we have all experienced as entrepreneurs.

When they contacted me, they were struggling.  Business was tough, finances thin and they were very stressed out.  I tried to give words of encouragement, but as we all know, making it in the restaurant business is wrought with risk.  It’s hard for everyone.

I was sad to hear that they had to pack it in.  Join me in sharing that there is no shame in trying.  No shame in closing a restaurant.

Well, it’s been awhile now since I connected with both of them and a few days ago I received this email.  Please drop a comment on this post to provide words of encouragement to Carrie and David.  Even better, if you are looking for a very passionate and talented artisan baker in the Los Angeles Area, please contact David.  You won’t regret it!

Our industry is so amazing that wouldn’t it be cool if we reached out and helped someone who is so kind.  Someone like David.  Now that would be magic, wouldn’t it?

“Dear Erle:

I am sorry to tell you that we were not able to work though our challenges at the bakery and Dave decided to close the business. Our last day was December 9th. Dave put everything he had into it and I tried to help him as much as I could but it just was not the right formula. Dave’s business plan was not quite what the business turned out to be. He tried to evolve and make the necessary changes to the business and his mindset but he just could not get over the hump. Dave and I both learned so much about the restaurant business and being business owners. It was an experience that I will never regret. One of the things I cherish the most are all of the wonderful people I met along the way. Although you and I have not met in person, I have learned so much from you and you will continue to be a great inspiration to me. 

He also has an interview lined up with a wholesale pie company located in our area and Safeway is interested in him as well. 

I look forward to reading your blog and enjoying your continued success with MonkeyMedia. Thank you for all of your advice and support. All of my best to you!

This email means more to me than anything else that I do in my work.

Carrie and David, thank you for taking the time to send me this note and please know, that the restaurant industry is a place of second chances.  I have no doubt, that should you ever want to circle back on your passion for baking, you will find a home here.

Just reach out.  All the best.

Culture trumps Strategy! – What I learned from Ben & Jerry’s

Well, I’m back in Vancouver after what has been an amazing road trip. Austin, Dallas and Vegas. The whole trip was fantastic!

I love working in the field with MonkeyMedia Software’s customers, especially with the franchisees and their employees. I enjoy working on the front line with customers, and I especially love helping our young restaurant community members to “up their game” in the world of catering. Lucky for me, I now have this wonderful opportunity to really do the work I love!

I was invited to speak at the Ben & Jerry’s Global Franchisee Meeting 2013 about catering and off-premise for their brand. I’d like to share with you what I learned as I continue on this very personal journey. My visit with the Ben & Jerry’s family was very special, completely unique and transformative in many ways.

Ben, Erle and Jerry.
Ben, Erle and Jerry.

Let me just say that what I learned the most from this experience is that culture trumps strategy every single time. You see, Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever, a large multi-national conglomerate with business interests all over the globe. But no matter, as part of their mission statement, activism is part of the plan for B&J. They have a corporate campaign running called “Get the dough out of politics“.

It’s been that way since the beginning.

So, you can imagine how nervous a multi-national conglomerate can get when their brand ambassadors push the limits of the campaign by standing up for something like this… Check out Ben and Jerry’s www.stampstampede.org. Talk about creative! Watch this video to learn more about their current crusade. It’s bold and brave, that’s for sure. I admire them for their conviction.

Remember, this video below is not endorsed by the company. It is a personal project close to Ben Cohen’s heart. Nothing to do with the company!

As I immersed myself into the franchisee system, I was greeted with open arms, a high level of trust and a willingness to share and learn. And so, I made sure I spent time trying to understand their ways. I joined in on their activities, attended their education sessions and spent time speaking to their group about catering and the work that MonkeyMedia Software is doing to help our customers grow the off premise sales channel.

This was truly a unique life experience. You see, even though they are owned by such a large corporation, they have gone a long way to make sure that they remain responsible social citizens, as Ben and Jerry have always done. They are serious about their ongoing activism and their business culture is one of the most unique that I may have ever experienced.

I met wonderful, smart, hardworking and honest people throughout all levels of their organization. I am impressed by their sense of who they are, what they stand for and the responsibility that they take to make a difference in their communities that they serve. Independence lives strong and the culture runs deep in their DNA. The have a deep belief system.

Now that I have met so many people in the Ben & Jerry’s family, I am touched deeply by their passion and their unwavering focus about sticking to their core values. The culture that Ben & Jerry established early on, lives more strongly today and they have an incredible desire to act towards the common good, while maintaining an economic model that allows them to stay in business.

As with all companies at this scale, they do have a business strategy that is sound. However, finding the balance between the conservative ownership of Unilever and the activism for positive change that runs deep in their brand culture, is not an easy thing. They have chosen the hard path where others would have packed up and gone home long ago.

For me, their heritage and culture is so rich, that in fact, it completely trumps the business strategy. These people are connecting emotionally in their communities and their group understands that waking up in the morning to do important work is not just about money. They acknowledge that it needs to be there, but that in fact it is a byproduct of their group’s higher purpose.

I learned alot this past weekend. What a gift that Ben & Jerry’s gave me this week!

Thanks guys. I appreciate your trust. I am forever touched by the caring you have for our planet. Thanks for having me!

Looking forward to growing catering sales with your group!

Catering Tips for January

Happy new year!  2013 is going to be great for catering.

I was trying to think of something relevant to say for managing your catering operations in January.  But turns out, that I don’t have to!

You see, I’ve got this fantastic team at MonkeyMedia Software.  I am so lucky to work with exceptional people who are smart, motivated, talented and willing.  A lucky CEO.

I’ve been encouraging my team to write more about their thoughts.  Why not?  We live in a blogging world.  It’s a great way to get your ideas out.

So, to my good fortune, Hillary Jacob, one of our Senior Catering Analysts wrote a fantastic blog that all of you should consider reading if you are looking to get catering back on your radar for January.  I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did!  Just click on the link below.  You can even email her at hillary@monkeymediasoftware.com if you want to chat with her directly!


Hillary works hands on with our clients at MonkeyMedia Software.
Hillary works hands on with our clients at MonkeyMedia Software.

Hillary’s Catering Tips for January

The Catering Institute – Yes or No?

For those of you that know me, you understand how bullish I am on education and training when it comes to growing catering sales.

For the last year or so, our professional services team at MonkeyMedia Software has been working hard on our concept of a catering institute.  We’ve achieved a lot, and we are doing well with the materials.  Our customers are responding well.  We are ready to scale.  But before we do, I want to make sure its the smart thing to do.  So, I thought I’d ask all of you?!


Should MonkeyMedia Software establish the “Catering Institute”?

How about taking a minute to respond to this informal poll.  I’d be very grateful for your direction.  We have alot of effort in front of us and we want to make sure we do it right!

Thanks for helping today.  Let’s talk catering!

Great advice from some great leaders

I am really lucky!  I mean, really lucky!  I get to work with the best in the business.  This summer, at MonkeyMedia Software we have set up our Industry Advisory Council to help guide us responsibly as our restaurant industry legitimizes the catering revenue channel, especially for multi-unit restaurant operators.  We need a lot of advice as we navigate the complex landscape of growing a world-class company.

We will be making a more formal announcement later in the year.  So watch the press for that news!

The following leaders in our community have accepted roles on our IAC and we will be adding more quality people as it makes sense for us to do so.

I am so excited to have this kind of mentorship and experience.  Talk about adding depth to the bench!  I am looking forward to serving these force-multipliers in my career.

So, these developments got me thinking.  Again.  Not about anything in particular really.  Just thinking.  How can I do my best to really tap into the experience of the people around me? These wonderful, experienced, smart and generous people? I mean, if I don’t ask the right questions, how am I going to learn from them?  Sure, they have offered to help.  But, to what end?

Then I realized, quite suddenly really, that I continue to hold the responsibility.  The responsibility of continuing to “sell and market” my vision.  Then I started reconsidering my methodology.  After all, I have been “selling” for years.  Trying to stand on a soap box bringing prospects to my side of the playground.  Always trying to make noise about new features or point out the obvious benefits.  Why is “my” product or service better than someone else’s?  There are so many great companies with great products and truth is we all have to dig down deep to differentiate.  Well, I am tired of that.  As one of the key sales resources in my organization, I cannot sell unless I believe.  That means that I have to be able to present the proper value proposition to all my stakeholders.  I could not sleep at night if I had to sell vapour.  No way.  Not a chance.

As I struggled with this concept of “selling”, it dawned on me that in today’s world, we have to do it differently.  Find better ways.  So as I asked my Industry Advisory Council for advice, lucky for me, Tom Feltenstein had these powerful words to share.  Very powerful indeed.  He sent it to me in the context of my question to him of how do we get better at sales?  Here is his response:

“….. instead, here is the much smarter, more sophisticated question:  How can I set up a system of attraction that brings a steady, reliable stream of ideal potential customers to me, asking for my advice or assistance as a trusted authority or provider in their category of interest, or even better, who are predetermined to be my customers if accepted?”

Well.  Tom got me thinking about this.  I don’t have a clear response for him yet but I am working on one.  I’ll continue to work on it.  What I can say is that as a person who believes deeply that the catering revenue channel will change the landscape of the future for the US restaurant industry, I owe all of you a “system of attraction”. I think I have started down that path.  If I hadn’t would I be where I am? Unlikely.  Saying that, how do you put it in a bottle?  One that you can carry with you all the time.

I will work on just doing a good job today and serve my stakeholders well.  I hope you do too!

Enjoy your day!