The Dish on Catering
Don’t just dress to impress—drive to impress

Don’t just dress to impress—drive to impress

Want to know how to lose a social catering client? Drive up in a dirty, banged-up, smelly van. 

Social catering is a huge catering profit center. Handling a customer’s small dinner party is a great way to fill the gaps between the bigger jobs. It’s also a great way to ensure consistent business outside of party season.

Here’s why it works: Most women don’t cook, either because they don’t have time or they’re just not interested. And the days of throwing big elaborate dinner parties where the host spends all day in the kitchen getting it ready are gone. In fact, most women we work with don’t even know how to reheat a meal correctly.

That is great for growing a catering business! They love your food and want to feed their family and friends some of your fabulous chicken tetrazzini for dinner on Friday night. You’ve obviously made an impression with your food. Now make sure you make an impression all the way to delivery, starting with the delivery vehicle.

How you deliver that fabulous food makes a big impression.

Picture this: your delivery driver pulls up in front of your client’s house in a posh neighborhood. But instead of pulling up in a van that is clean and sparkly, the driver pulls up in the client’s driveway in their own clunker. The client looks out the window and thinks, “Oh my, I hope the neighbors don’t see that van.” This is not the kind of impression you want to make.

To make it worse, the client sends her husband out to help your driver bring the food into the house. Your dishwasher, I mean driver, who just left the dish line at the restaurant, is smelly and sweaty and opens the back doors of the van. The husband sees his order of tetrazzini on the dirty van floor that looks like it has not been cleaned in weeks.

Some restaurant just got this client’s next catering order. And it’s not yours.

My company has five catering vans. And I’m very proud of our system for keeping them in order.

One day I sent in my request to logistics for a van on a specific day. I received a confirmation by return email that van number five would be available for me. The next day when I went to pick up the van, the one I ordered had been taken to another event. No problem. Two other vans were on property and not scheduled. I picked one, got into the driver’s seat and drive the van around to the loading area. 

From the moment I got into that van I was so glad van number five was not available for me, and I was fated to choose this van.

First of all, it had a filthy windshield and when I turned on the windshield washer there wasn’t any washer fluid. It was dry as a bone. The low tire pressure light was on. I checked the van log and the leaky tire had been reported on the log every day for the past two weeks. There were black marks all over the inside walls of the van. The emergency kit of gloves, napkins, sterno and lighter was not in the van.

If this van had been used to deliver food, it would have been graded a C. It was not horrible, it was not acceptable or, as we like to say at my catering company, The Festive Kitchen, it was not a Festive Fit!

The logistics manager, when hearing the report, sent me an email apologizing and explaining that the c.e.o. of the company should never have driven this van. I disagree; the c.e.o. definitely needed to drive this van.

I’m happy to report that we improved the process to keep the fleet in top shape. All van drivers have been trained to keep their vans spotless. The logistics manager learned she was letting her drivers dictate the condition of the vans, not her. Just like systems in your restaurant for food, you have to inspect the systems for your logistics in catering.

An impression is an impression is an impression. There is stiff competition out there for the catering dollar. A clean vehicle can mean the difference between a happy customer and one who starts looking for another caterer.

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