Have you ever eaten out, had a really nice meal, then returned again and it was not as good? The food was nice, then not; the service was great, then rude; maybe the overall experience was just not the same?
Consistency in catering is about providing the same experience, standard of food or service all the time – and it’s something most food businesses struggle with. In fact very few manage to accomplish it.
So why does it happen? What goes wrong? And how can food businesses fix it?
Have you ever looked at your business as a customer? If not, you may want to try it as seeing things from their perspective will give you a better understand of how the business operates as a whole and where improvements can be made.
Ask, check, watch, fix.
Next, put some monitoring in place. Do you record complaints? Ask for feedback? Observe staff?
Training is at the heart of any business. Ensuring all your staff understand their roles and what is expected of them is crucial. Make sure new staff are inducted and mentored sufficiently so they know what to do at all times. Monitor and review your staff, consider regular team meetings or 1-2-1 talks.
In the kitchen, ensure the head chef sets the standards and all chefs follow this. Ensuring all chefs understand how to cook the recipes is usually the job of the head chef or catering manager. This is really important: if one chef was off would the other know how to cook the dishes in the same way, to the same standard? It sounds obvious, but are there recipes with methods for everyone to follow? Maybe have pictures of presentation too.
In the front of house, similar rules apply: ensure there is a supervisor at all times who takes charge and co-ordinates the rest of the waiting staff. It is their job to manage the orders between the kitchen and waiting staff, ensuring the kitchen is not over-whelmed but orders are cooked in good time. It is also their responsibility to handle any complaints and resolve them as much as possible.
Wow your customers
Always try to go the extra mile to keep your customers happy. A smile costs nothing and is a simple way to welcome customers. Always ask if everything is OK within 5 minutes of serving the food. Listen to your customers and never argue. Be polite and courteous. They are always (usually) right. Consider loyalty cards or vouchers. Maybe start a mailing list or newsletter or try social media to communicate with your customers. And definitely ask for feedback.
Getting it right
Providing a great service doesn’t need to be hard – it’s about getting the basics right – not just most of the time – all of the time. Watch what happens, where things go wrong, ensure staff are trained and monitored, listen to your customers and make them feel special.
Get this recipe right and your customers will not just come back again and again but they will tell their friends and families about you too!