Surprise-Induced Stress: An Unfortunate Symptom of Event Catering

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What do Catering Managers and their customers have in common? They DO NOT like surprises. Your customers, like Conference Managers and Event Coordinators, have a lot riding on planning the perfect event and they need your help to pull it off. Understanding your customer’s biggest frustrations ahead of time reduces any surprise-induced stress for them and you when it comes to event catering.

In a recent survey, we polled event professionals at all management levels to learn more about how they order catering for their events with multi-service times. We gathered insight into managing surprises so you can mitigate frustrations and boost customer satisfaction at your foodservice location.

Event Planners Hate Surprises, But They’re Always Being Surprised

When an Event Planner comes to be, they are pinned with a drive to plan the perfect event. This comes with the lofty baggage of planning for any contingency. Their goal? Avoid surprises at all costs. As a seasoned Catering Operator, you know that simply isn’t possible. The laundry list of event details, like guest counts and allergy concerns, are constantly changing. How could anyone believe planning their event will be as wrinkle-free as your table cloths on game day?

In addition to surveying catering purchasers, we consulted our own clients about how often they make bulk updates to orders. This probably won’t come as a surprise – most respondents said, with a heavy sigh, this happens daily. We’d venture to guess you’re rolling your eyes in agreement, muttering something like ‘tell me something I don’t know.’ Happy to! Most of the purchasers we surveyed, i.e. your customers, said they only occasionally make updates to their event orders. That’s a big difference.

Some Surprising Statistics

You know your customers are constantly making updates to their event orders. But, when we asked them how often they’re making requests, it was far less frequent. They may not even consider all those little changes as excessive.

Almost 70% of survey respondents said most of the time they have all the information needed to complete their order in one sitting. The Event Planner is coming to you thinking they have everything locked in. But when guest counts fluctuate or their superiors change things about their meticulously planned event on a whim, frustrations arise.

Event Planners are organized and detail-oriented and they’re hyper-focused on controlling the success of an event. Therefore, surprises can quickly overwhelm.  Fortunately, Catering Managers are incredibly skilled at rolling with the punches. By harnessing your expertise and anticipating surprises before they happen, you absorb the frustration rather than become it.

Be the Hero, Not the Scapegoat

You need to be readily available to your customers. But it’s impossible to stay tied to your desk answering emails and phone calls all day. Keeping track of any back and forth is difficult though when not attached to an order. Especially when you need to make sure all print sheets are up to date.

Consider putting a system in place that allows your customers to submit change requests to you as they arise. With a catering management software provider, like CaterTrax, customers log in to their account and submit change requests at their convenience. When you accept requested changes, order details and workflow documentation automatically update and all communication with your customer is saved.

Foodservice management software is designed to simplify the overall process. Without a solution in place, you still need to manually stay on top of any unexpected changes. Consider a ‘contact us’ form on your website. Ask customers for their order confirmation number so you can easily match any change requests to the right order. Or, maintain an Excel file where you track and manage all order change requests. Either way, implement a process which best supports your operation and ensure your whole team is on board.

It’s important to anticipate your customer’s needs and to have a standard procedure for managing any potential changes. Streamlining how you handle change requests reduces the possibility for frustration and goes a long way for overall customer satisfaction.


How do you reduce your customer’s stress? Share your own experience in the comment section below.

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