As businesses prepare for the festive season and the new year ahead, Wendy Bartlett explains the importance of always being at the top of your game
For caterers, Christmas is a mixed affair. We are full of the joy of celebrations during the festive season and always excited about the next 12 months. But we are also very conscious of the demands of the last few weeks of the year.
We know the efforts our teams have gone to over the past 12 months, but we also know that you are only as good as the last meal you serve. The craziness of the Christmas period means you cannot let your guard down for one moment.
Expectations are higher at this time of the year, and people demand that every meal they have is the best experience they have ever had. It's jolly hard work!
But it's not just the contract catering world that feels the pressure at Christmas time. I was speaking on a panel at the CGA Peach conference recently. The conference was geared towards the retail restaurant sector, but there are so many natural synergies between what we do.
I reflected on how tough it is to be on the high street and how very fast-paced that world is. It can turn very quickly.
You really are only as good as your last meal – research and figures show that if you are all about good, consistent food that matches clients' expectations, then you will do well, even in a tough market.
However, it also shows that if you fail to deliver, there are a plethora of new restaurants waiting to take your place and your customers' spend.
You don't get a second chance, as it's so easy to switch allegiance. There are so many different restaurants, food offers and concepts biting on your heels so you have to be on your toes every day.
It's no different in contract catering. If we get it wrong the first time, the extensive choice out in the marketplace means customers and clients will move on and they won't give you a backward glance.
The good news is that customers will give you an initial chance. While consistently good food is incredibly important, customers will always look for new food options. However, if you fail to impress on the very first visit, you will lose them, maybe forever.
The customer experience is a sum of its parts. Whether it's your website, service at the first point of contact, the look of the food on the plate, the first mouthfeel, etc, its important to get this right.
No business can survive on just one element being strong or exceptional. Every piece of the jigsaw needs to be fully developed and brilliant. We know that training is vital as part of this, but so too is understanding the fast-paced and changing landscape.
The ‘third space' that people are often referring to is teaching us all so much. Pop-ups, terraces, food festivals, experience restaurants, etc, mean that new and authentic experiences are being created all over the place and at a faster pace. The contract catering market is watching very closely.
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