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New to Catering - Page 2

post #31 of 68
Thread Starter 

@Mikeswoods  Sounds like you need a cookie and a tall cup of hot chocolate.  So how did the deli work out?  Was it a hit or miss?  I have a feeling you have a "miss" story on the way. 

post #32 of 68

Actually the deli worked out well---


I did a lot of learning there--lessons of what to do and what not to do.


The kitchen was ancient--wood walk in cooler---wood kitchen counter tops--wood shelves--


Lucky for him todays codes didn't apply----


The shop was busy and well staffed with old school German ladies---and some outstanding cooks--

Berta was one of those----she had run a lodge in the mountains of Austria----from her I learned the basics of salad making----taste and smell---


There was a big trade in carry out---deli trays--cold canapes --sandwich loaves--along with full service catering.


He got lucky and hired a tough gal to sell catering---Michelle---she must have been on commission because she hustled a lot of work.


I was young and helped and observed----learning from everyone and keeping my mouth shut.

post #33 of 68

My true love was wood---that was my dream--carving--furniture and building things----


We have a strong ,tight family---my mother was a school teacher ,a lover of the out doors ,a concert violinist and a traveler.


My dad was the son of a Long Island business mogul----a rather hard man to have for a father,I;m sure.


My dad did not inherit the business sense his father had--perhaps because money was never hard to get as a young man--I just don't know that.


In today world he might be diagnosed with 'attention deficit disorder'---then ?  He was called a day dreamer------

post #34 of 68

That old building was terrible to work out of---All storage was in the basement--have you ever carried china and chaffing dishes up a flight of stairs?


That's just nuts. What a waste of time and energy.


Lesson---make your facility efficient----proper work flow---


And Michelle?  While good at selling and organizing ,I did not trust her completely. To cagy -to many whispered conversations out of my ear shot--or so  she thought.


Lesson---keep your own books----"trust ,but verify. " as mister Reagan once said.


Food? That deli had the worlds finest foods---and some great old world cooks.


Lesson----good food will sell itself----and people will be loyal to your kitchen.

post #35 of 68

My father did what he could to upgrade the old store----he was a store designer and window trimmer--


New paint--new coolers and kitchen equipment--shelves and new products----


Gourmet cookware was added along with gift items----the place was hopping---


He was having fun---all theses changes came with a cost so his bottom line suffered.


He had good luck with the gifts and cookware but it was crowding out the core business--food--


Lesson---stay focused on what is really important---


Soon enough the gift ware was moved into the empty store front next door---but the stores were not connected---so the labor cost was out of proportion with the sales---


Lesson--------don't put to many irons in the fire at one time----good grief.

post #36 of 68

This is turning into a novel---If anyone is interested,I'll continue----sorry for the long winded writing---


Time to shower up and head out into the romantic world of remodeling---today? Grouting a tile floor--

Ho Ho Ho---Mike----

post #37 of 68

You go tote that bale.....

We will be here when you return.

If like me you are a morning coffee poster we will "see" you tomorrow morning ;-)



post #38 of 68

Thanks---I'll be back----look for an old thread of mine about Berta----Mike-----

post #39 of 68
Thread Starter 
You sound like you've had an interesting life. The deli sounds great. I go out of my way for mom and pop restaurants, especially delis, bagel shops, and coffee shops. They just have the ability to make me feel happy as soon as I step foot in the door. It sounds like your deli was the same. I'm sure many lessons came over the years. Glad to hear you also found your true love. Its interesting how we have youth choose career paths before fully developing, or how we just end up in certain careers.

And yes, I'm still interested.smile.gif
post #40 of 68

Time went on---the bank next door to the shop bought up the whole block in order to expand---


My folks bought a nice historic building across the street---


The new building would house the Deli and gift shop--a kitchen would be needed and the basement was the logical spot.


My father set up the drafting table in the living room--Oh,boy----there was a 50 seat restaurant in the basement---oh god--


"Dad, what do you know about running a restaurant?" I asked---


"---------Well, I worked in a soda fountain when I was in high school----------"


I helped build out the new shop and restaurant.  The last thing I did before heading out to California was carve them a nice redwood sign for above the door.


I set off to go to school and start building furniture----Ah,to be 20 again----

post #41 of 68
Thread Starter 
Ah, to be 20 again... I was the girl that threw bbqs and would pre-sale meals by the plate (different price for ribs vs chicken). I had one friend check names off the "list" at the door and had another in charge of what I thought to be a simple task, salad. The friend in charge of the list did a great job. She was feisty so telling people no came naturally. The friend in charge of the salad....not so good. I noticed she put an entire head of lettuce under running water (to clean the lettuce). She was instantly fired. Good times. :-)

There were bbqs all the time in school but they consisted of hot dogs and potato chips. This was an insult to me. I had ribs, and they sold very well. My friends and I laugh at that to this day, because who charges someone to go to a BBQ??? I did. That should have qued me to take a different direction in life. Those were the days.
post #42 of 68

That's funny---I remember the first food fest we were in--


The other vendors scoffed at our prices---you're way to high!


We were really busy---best selling booth at that fest---some people like food ---

post #43 of 68

I once set up a bar for an old friend (everyone in the bar business is an old friend lol).

Vintage downtown building very trendy area.

The county courthouse and a zillion attnys (and their office staff) within walking distance.

Exposed brick and sky high original pressed tin ceilings.

Tried to talk him out of placing his cigar and vintage scotch room up ALL THOSE STEEP STAIRS but he wouldn't listen.

Even built a humidor up there.

Never took off  :rolleyes:.

That area is still trendy and the building is occupied by a ladies who lunch place.

They are making a fortune catering all the women's clubs.

The humidor?

Heard he tore it out and reassembled in his home.




Moral of story?


Just wish he would have put that damn humidor in the walk in basement.



post #44 of 68

It's funny how things work out----The new building worked out well---except the restaurant---

I was in Northern California for a year----loved the life--I carved signs for a couple of restaurants--worked on furniture and landed a job as a framer-


All was well--except back in Illinois--I got a letter that jerked at my heart strings--"we're going broke. I need you to come back and help your father---"


I carved the last sign well into the night during my 'going away' party---I left my shop set up and told everybody I'd be back in six months--maybe seven.

post #45 of 68

I was full of optimistic---how bad could it be?


The restaurant was a loss----to small--to much payroll--and little sales---dull menu---



It's not easy to tell a parent that it's time to kill  that dream--but that's what I had to do--


We were set to close it up about the time my brother returned to Illinois to get married---


We held the rehearsal dinner there--the gal that was going to play guitar and sing at his wedding liked the room--


She said," Gee ,this is a nice room. Why don't you have some entertainment down here?"


That was the humble start of our folk music club-----for the next two or three years the restaurant was only open Thursday ,Friday and Saturday nights.


That is a story unto itself---but the place was busy and a lot of alcohol was consumed---


Catering?  Oh,yea---that happened,too.

post #46 of 68

And also about that time...he was considering becoming a Suspense Novelist.... :lol:

post #47 of 68

I've got to get going to work----so this will be short.


The folk music club was fun and I learned a lot about promoting a place with zero budget---


I made friends with a reporter for a local news paper---He started posting 'reviews' of the musicians---all written by me---

Local papers need fillers and like free ones----a local business magazine became very useful some years later--I would write up articles about business open houses that we catered---


The catering manager,Michelle , left about this time---and the catering fell on my shoulders---


Our area was becoming the high tech corridor---our business meeting trade started to roll---

I found that delivering food to the offices became faster and less hassle when I set up the luncheons---

It only took a couple of minutes to snap out a disposable table cloth and set up the foods---about the same time it took to unload the carts without setting up the buffet.


I also learned that trying to collect a payment during a delivery took to long---so all but a few corporate accounts were given credit--2/10 net 30


The weekend club made weekend catering a chore---so I became rather selective in the jobs we took on.


Believe me, selling becomes easier when you do not care to do just any job----I learned to qualify prospects on the phone and weed out the tire kickers,pain in the butts,prima donnas and  lesser sorts---weekend work needed to be profitable or it was not going to happen.


We had added enough new company picnic business to purchase out own charcoal grills---

post #48 of 68

If this is derailing the thread or getting boring--kindly PM me and tell me to shut up----


The shop was sold in 1975----every thing except the catering department---the new owners did not want it.-------

post #49 of 68
Thread Starter 

@ Mikeswoods This is good stuff.  It has actually brought about new questions to ask all in this thread. 


Question 1-  When is it time to pull the plug on a business/idea, and when should you alter your current operations to try to "stay in the game"?  In other words, when do you accept failure, and when do you restructure your model?

post #50 of 68

As to pulling the plug? That's a tough one---I've been there twice--and sold the businesses both times--so a total loss was avoided---


I think the one thing a small business has going for it is evolution---if you are not always improving and changing,you will soon stagnate and die.



Two things lead to the sale of the shop----the business was changing----the core German immigrant customers were aging and the next generation were plain old Americans --- The large chain grocery stores were all adding deli counters---sure the uality was not as good as ours,but the convienience factor was real.


The last straw? Road construction---the shop was one block south of a railroad track--and a year long project was coming to build an underpass---this would cut us off from traffic----


A willing buyer was found----the shop existed for another 20 years after we sold it----the new buyers were Polish---sharp operators,too.

post #51 of 68

I planned to return to California---My father was once again looking for a job----


Neither one of those happened-----------------------------

post #52 of 68

I needed to build a nest egg,so I got a job in a warehouse---fork lifts are fun to drive!


My father was not having a good time----at his age no one wanted him---the job offers he did get were insulting.


I never saw his spirits so low---the shop was gone for nearly a year --my nest egg was getting bigger and I was starting to plan my return.


That is when he approached me about going into business with him as an 50/50 partner in the off premise catering business.


I had not left soon enough--and needed to think this one through.

post #53 of 68

We agreed on a business plan----I was hoping for a simpler business that was aimed at corporate customers--


The drama of weddings and home parties gets real tiresome--The selling time involved to land a corporate account is about the same as that involved with a home customer---and the return is greater---


My father had been busy before he spoke to me---not only were almost all of our old customers still interested in doing business with us---one of them had built an addition to their facility and had space to rent---the location was ideal---near the two major highways that led to the north and south corporate corridors---making delivery times rather efficient.


A simple ,efficient ,no frills shop was set up---office---kitchen/scullery---equipment room and garage---


Staff? Our old supervisors from the original place were still available---I cooked and my father manned the phones.


Marketing became a big focus----------





Anyone want more?

post #54 of 68

I made the worst of rookie mistakes Thursday nite.

Forgot an order.

A small one (2 doz strawberry macs and a chocolate torte) but still....

I have continued to bake for a select few of my oldtimers (the ones that will do without if I am not available...the ones that kept coming even if they only had the extra cash for a pan of brownies) and she called Thurs pm asking if she could pick up her order Friday am.


What order?

I had to admit the bumble if for no other reason than to actually write up what she requested.

She lolololed and reminded me that a month ago we ran into each other at the cleaners and we talked about her Vday party (for all her single lady friends) and she was not surprised...as I never wrote it down.

Anyway back to the mistake (forgotten order was a wee matter easily corrected) came home and pulled the ingredients together...

I had to make a torte for my sweetie so just doubled up and got them in the oven.

Next prepped all the mac ingredients (grind and sift and measure and whisk) prep the sheet pans and collect piping tools.

Still had time so also prepped the ganache and raspberry puree and the glaze.

Pulled tortes to a cooling rack and as the oven had to cool to 300 for the macs turned it off.

On to the almond batter!

Whisked and sweetened and colored and flavored and folded.

Piped let cure then popped into the oven.

Set the time for halfway so the pans could be rotated.

Okay boys and girls.....did you catch my mistake?



Edited by flipflopgirl - 2/15/14 at 6:30am
post #55 of 68

Well the timer went off and I proceeded to the oven to rotate the pans.

Saw the shells had spread.


The oven was still cold.

Yep...never turned it back on.

D##n it to heck!

Set the oven to a fast preheat but left the pans in there just in case....

Remade the shells...measure and grind and whisk and sift and color and flavor and fold and pipe onto the prepped sheet pans pulled the by now cooked thru really wide and flat mac shells and placed the fresh pert ones in to bake and set the timer for halfway in order to rotate pans.

Deja vu lol.

Moral of story?

IDK...maybe that the ugliest macarons are also the tastiest?


Were the best I ever baked...IMO.



post #56 of 68

I'm hungry---that sounds so good-----

post #57 of 68
Thread Starter 

@flipflopgirl  Moral of the story---You made so many you're sharing with all of us? Maybe? One can hope. :-)


@Mikeswoods Keep it coming.  How did the catering take off? 

post #58 of 68
Thread Starter 

@Meezenplaz Do I hear a memoir in the making? 

post #59 of 68

Well I certainly have a lot of stories.... hmm how many does it take to make a WHOLE memoir? :crazy:

post #60 of 68

I was starting to get bored by my long story---


How about I change tactics and get to what worked?


The new shop worked fine --marketing became the main focus for the first two years---


We had plenty of Yellow page adds---in today world--a top notch web site would be the ticket--


We concentrated on businesses--lots of meetings---self service---we did set up the buffets and included everything--

the bigger the corporation the better--IBM,Xerox,Intel and the like---you see,those companies have multiple offices ,so one sale often led to several new accounts.


Almost all of them had open accounts---so you need to wait 30 days for pay---


We averaged 14 to 17 meetings per week day---




Business open houses---Most were rather fancy cocktail parties---some were cook outs---all were profitable and fully served--


You better get to know the in's and out's of this type of promotional party---I've seen some of these go very wrong---



Major company celebrations---often an anniversary party---------

These were often the largest and most memorable---with decorating ---buses to haul guests---big guest counts--exotic locations--


These affairs are frequently over 1000 guests---we had one cable company will 2200--a shipper with 7200---

There better be some good people working for you--and dependable suppliers---



Company picnics-----the most profitable single type of party we did-----we did 4 or more on a typical summer week end--

80 guest minimum--average was 200 guests--some were in the 1000s



Fund raising parties----usually a formal dinner---some times a 'show off' theme party---

Beware---these are often a 'party by committee'--trying to get these people to agree on something is worse than attending a condo association meeting.


Concession stands----yep---cash money---Horse shows---remember that---also food fests---trade shows--gun shows--a rock and gem show paid my property taxes every year.


Weddings----we did a bunch---I really hated most of them--and worked most of them personally because that type of gathering is most likely to have problems.   All to often the bride has dreamed the event into a Hollywood movie---perfect beyond human ability---

Be careful if you wish to enter this arena---some times the lions eat the gladiators.


Gift packs----Yep---gift boxes filled with gourmet cheeses and fancy foods---your corporate customers need something like this---we made a lot of them-some customers ordered dozens---


Rentals----to much to list-----


I'm sure I forgot a few----Join in---add some comments or ask questions---We out grew our first shop and moved into a 3800 SF building and were soon enough jammed to the rafters---

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