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How to Manage Catering Staff at a Big Event: 10 Crucial Tips

No matter how amazing your event theme is or how great your entertainment is, food and beverages are usually the center of any big event. Sure, you might have the best menu lined up, but you could miss out on a large portion of repeat business and new leads without the right staff to serve it and show it off.

Yet somehow, the catering staff is often an overlooked component of effective event management and an event’s overall success.

In this post, you’ll learn 10 top tips for managing your catering staff at any scale of event.

First thing’s first…

Knowing you can trust your catering staff is a crucial part in the planning and execution of your event. All staff considered for a position at your catering company should be adequately vetted, as most will be on the front lines interacting with guests. And just like other factors within the hospitality industry, the guest experience is the backbone of catering.

Here are the ten keys to manage catering staff at large events:

1. Prioritize Training

Catering staff can have little to no experience, and even the ones who have a decent amount of experience will still need training. Not to mention that one of the biggest attributes of success for companies is their ability to adapt and incorporate new technology in the workplace ” and some of these technologies can require one-on-one or group training.

On top of new technology training, it’s always a good idea to have your staff brush up on the basics. When you provide proper training throughout the term of employment, you provide a proper foundation and give your staff room to grow.

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2. Get to Know Your Staff

When you get to know your staff, you come across as a more approachable manager. It also helps you determine each staff member’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can put them in the job role that sets both you and them up for success.

One good idea might be to have a team-building event outside of the everyday workplace. An outside event may seem a bit overwhelming for you and your staff; however, if you make it fun and maybe just once a month, it could offer a huge return on investment in their bonding, team loyalt, and overall confidence on the job.

3. Prepare Your Rush Strategy

Anyone who’s worked in the hospitality industry knows all about those moments when a rush of people wants their food or crowd around the bar for their first drinks or refills. Rushes can happen anytime ” from when everyone arrives to when the DJs and speakers take a break.

In your rush strategy, you should plan to have extra staff on hand, then cut them as your event dwindles down. That way you don’t stretch your costs, and you don’t have staff sitting around during non-peak hours. After all, big events can last hours, if not days.

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4. Improve Your Customer Service Experience

Customer service is a huge part of managing your staff at any event.  It’s what enhances the quality of the overall product that the customer receives. In fact, the Huffington Post tells us that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for an upgraded experience. That’s a huge number and an even bigger opportunity for caterers and event planners to increase their revenue.

There’s not one single factor that makes customer service perfect. As a broad definition, it’s a combination of active listening and effective staff processes.

A few ways to constantly improve your customer service are to: obtain feedback from guests, take advantage of opportunities to learn, anticipate guest needs, and have great attention to detail. Remember, great customer experience isn’t born overnight, so continue to implement effective practices in all areas of your business.

5. Model Behavior in Your Leadership

As the catering manager or the event planner, you’re in charge, and the people reporting to you follow what you do. You should model the behavior you want to see from your staff. That means showing up on time and being the last person to leave. Everyone is human, so it’s easy to walk in before an event in a bad mood.

However, you’ll want to remember that moods rub off on other people. When your staff’s energy goes down, it can result in the customer’s mood going down. Stay positive, put your best foot forward, and your business and staff will follow.

6. Give Rewards Early and Often

It’s simple: When you reward your employees, they reward you back. Turn the big event into a competition, and reward specific employees who serve the most people or receive excellent feedback from event guests. Having rewards or incentives can be a great way to motivate your team so they put forth 100% of their effort during the event.

7. Have a Comprehensive Back-Up Plan

Always plan for the worst and expect the best when it comes to catering an event. From broken glasses to bad weather, anything can happen. Usually, you’ll have a good amount of time to plan beforehand.

Ensure you have extra servings of food, extra cutlery, alternate staff, a serving plan for bad weather, a pre-diagrammed event layout, and a set menu that fits the palette of your guests. Big events can be overwhelming, but if you don’t plan ahead, you allow mistakes to happen.

8. Use Top-Notch Scheduling Tools

A big event usually requires a large catering staff “ and a big event can take place during a long duration of time, with multiple venues. That can be a lot to manage if you’re still using a pen and paper or basic Excel® spreadsheets to schedule your staff.

Remember, things happen: Employees get sick, have emergencies, or encounter unexpected traffic on the day they’re scheduled to work. How are you using simple technology to prepare for these incidents?

With today’s technology, employee scheduling software automates every manual scheduling process and eliminates any mistakes from human error. It ensures you have the right number of staff, keeps up to date, and is easily accessible at all times. If you find the right software, it will save you thousands and minimize a lot of stress in your future.

Not sure where to start? Check out our tips for finding the right catering software.

9. Communicate Effectively

When there’s a large volume of staff at a big event, communication can be the key to keeping your business running smoothly. You don’t just want to emphasize strong communication between you and your staff, but also strong communication between employee team members. It’s very easy for things to get out of hand and for your staff to start running around like proverbial chickens with their heads cut off.

When employees effectively communicate, they get all of the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively perform their job duties. Successful communication skills can be adapted for any type of industry ” from the emails you send one another before the event to coordinating on the big day. The trick is following through with all best practices.

10. Create a Positive Work Environment

Hostile work environments never work out well. Just because you are the manager doesn’t mean your catering staff management skills are 100% perfect. Work consistently on your management style by reading often, creating an open feedback loop with your teams, and conducting helpful reviews to support your team members and help them grow.

Planning an event and running a catering business are serious undertakings, but you can still have fun. It’s okay to joke with your staff and customers so they find it easier to open up to you. A successful work environment entails a healthy balance of fun and work.

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Now that you’ve got a handle on managing your catering staff, it’s time to capitalize on trends from some of the tops catering pros in the industry. We put together a free ebook to help you do just that.

The Biggest Food Trends Impacting Events

Some quick answers related to managing catering staff:

What are the roles and responsibilities of a catering manager?

A catering manager’s job is to produce and serve delicious food to attendees at an event. Their responsibilities include procuring ingredients, organizing staff, designing menus, and creating beautiful culinary experiences.