Erle’s Catering Sales Tip#345 – ABC



My team at the Catering Institute is working hard in the field today, as they do every day.  We spend all our time in restaurants helping them to grow sales and increase profits by educating them to be experts at feeding their customers where they Live, Work & Play.

One of the key elements that we get asked about every single day is how to sell more products and services in the business to business (B2B) channel.

Well, I have learned that in order to sell more off premise products and services into companies, we have to really focus on active selling.  We have to become professional selling organizations, every single day.  This is not for the light hearted.  It takes organizational resilience to really be selling at all levels of a restaurant company.

One idea that I like to focus on with all of our clients is on the “ABC’s” of selling.

Always Be Closing!

It is amazing to see how many of us experience an uptick in sales when we just start focusing on the basics of asking for business.

Here are 5 ideas that you can implement tomorrow to help you grow more sales.

1.  Ask for the order 3 times

2. Be persistent every single day.  If a prospect says no to you, it’s not that they are really saying no.  They are not buying for another reason and it is your job to find out.

3.  Know when to Cut Your Losses and Move on To Another Prospect.  This is part of the qualification process.  Are they qualified to purchase your products and services.

4.  Learn to Isolate Objections.  Make sure you ask your prospect “Besides {put objection here}, is there any other reason you won’t buy from me today?”

5.  Once Isolated, ask the Prospect, “If {put objection here} was not an issue, would you buy then?  Then solve for their objection.

Let’s sell more catering together!


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!

Menu development in a multi-unit restaurant catering operation


Product Development

As restaurateurs, we have done an excellent job at menu development for both our dine-in and takeout revenue channels. We have invested billions of dollars in product design, packaging, training and the proper kitchen equipment to ensure that our customers get the consumption experience that our culinary teams intended. We have mastered the art of driving more restaurant sales with limited-time offers and created crave-able items worthy of our customers’ return.

Yet for many restaurant operators, menu development for the catering sales channel remains a daunting task. Operators get stuck in the paradigm that their catering program is an extension of their brand’s current retail menu. The assumption that menus are the same between dine-in, takeout and catering can be deadly to our brand and catering customer experience.

Our kitchens are designed for maximum efficiency in our restaurants because speed of service is critical in an industry where turning tables is an important metric. As operators, we have to move customers through our restaurants as quickly as possible. Each and every day, we battle meal rushes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

These busy times are important for our restaurants because food is an important part of everyone’s day. As restaurateurs, we touch people with our products and services. What’s even more important to understand, is that our brand has a very personal and intimate relationship with each one of our customers. They eat OUR food and are committed to the impact that our food handling practices and nutritional values have on their bodies.

As a community we have really focused our energy on providing the safest, tastiest and simplest consumption experience that we can create in our establishments. So, when it comes to catering, why have we not been as thoughtful? Why haven’t we designed our menus for maximum efficiency and quality?

As we venture further into the off-premise catering channel, we really have to stop and review every single menu item to make sure it is “catering worthy.” We must realize that the catering experience begins with menu development, including R&D in production, packaging and distribution methodologies.

I learned this lesson over several years while developing the catering program at Tony’s Deli. You see, at Tony’s we were loved for our grilled panini sandwiches. As a “paninoteca” we knew that our products had to be on the grill for exactly 6 minutes at a high temperature. We also understood that our products were at their best if our customers ate them as they came off the grill. The experience was designed that way.

Sure we offered takeout, but we searched high and low for the right foil bag that would keep our panini at the right temperature without “sweating.” We knew that if our customers did not consume their panini while it was piping hot, the cheese would congeal, the focaccia would become soggy and the product would lose its structure. It was designed for immediate consumption. It’s simple chemistry. There was nothing we could do to alter the chemistry of that product.

Tony’s was no different than any restaurant operation that wanted to create a proprietary consumption experience. An occurrence so unique and special, that in fact, our loyal customers would drive across Vancouver for that predictable flavor. They knew what they wanted long before they walked through the front door of the deli. In some cases, they craved the experience when they woke up in the morning!

Certainly, as restaurateurs, we are masters at the art of creating menus that have signature items to attract customers, but I have come to understand that our catering menus must be different than our dine-in and takeout menus.

As a matter of fact, to create differentiation in our services, our menus for catering need to be different than our restaurant menus. This means that our customers’ catering experiences, from a menu and packaging perspective, should have a clear differentiation from our retail service channels and that as operators we must make the paradigm shift in regard to the menu development process.

I’m not saying the menu needs to step away from our brand identity, but it must be presented in a way that resonates well with the off-premise channel to enhance the brand outside of its four walls. The products and services offered for the catering channel can be a subset of our in-store products or new products all together. There is a strategy to consider here.

Imagine rolling out a catering program with branded packaging and the right story attached to the products, with the commitment to provide for a memorable off-site consumption experience.

Driving incremental sales is the only reason to launch a catering channel. Often, this sales lift in the catering space can be achieved by developing a simple menu of existing in-store products and then packaging and selling them differently than we currently sell them in-store.

Allow for differentiation in pricing, packaging and presentation so you can deliver a unique and thoughtful experience. One by design.

Let’s talk catering!