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So you’ve decided to add wedding catering to your restaurant’s offerings. What do you need to do to succeed?
First, you’ll need to market your services. You could add information about your wedding catering services to your restaurant’s Web site, and brochures, business cards and direct mail campaigns may also be helpful. You might advertise through wedding planning Web sites like The Wedding Channel, The Knot, and WeddingDNA.
Early on, you’ll need to decide which auxiliary services you'll provide. To create the environment and experience your customers want, you'll need everything from floral arrangements and centerpieces to a band or DJ to a wedding cake. It’s a good idea to keep lists of vendors who provide the services like this so that you can give these lists to your clients to help them in their planning. Claire Stoner, a former catering server at an inn in western Pennsylvania, says that the inn provided lists of vendors for its wedding catering customers. These lists included florists, DJs, videographers and any other professionals who could help with the wedding reception.
For the wedding itself, you need staff with particular skills—and they’re not the straightforward serving skills you might think of right away. For example, you'll need one or more staff members who know how to manage the cake-cutting ceremony and the subsequent dismantling and serving of the wedding cake.
Stoner remembers that many people at the inn where she catered ordered wedding cakes too small to feed all of the people at their reception. The inn solved this problem by suggesting to people that they order a backup sheet cake made from the same batter and frosting as their wedding cake. Jennifer Conger, a former wedding director and catering assistant, says that the restaurant where she worked limited the size of each piece of cake to two inches by one inch and made sure everyone had gotten one of those slices before distributing seconds. Both Stoner and Conger remember taking apart the cake layers, removing dowels, starting with the bottom layer and working up, cutting slices and plating them. They emphasize the need for staff who know how to do these things correctly.
Before the wedding reception, you or the designated event manager need to choreograph the event so that partygoers will experience the movement from one segment to the next as natural and effortless. Stoner says that the inn where she worked made lists of instructions for different people involved in food service and event coordination. The headwaiter in charge of the reception kept charts and graphs of tables showing seating arrangements.
Once you're in the wedding catering groove, if you like what you're doing and want to do more of it, it's a good idea to do two things. First, take photos of any arrangements of food on plates or displays of food and decor on tables and buffets that you're especially proud of. You can show these to new prospective clients.
Also, keep a list of references. The wedding site WeddingDNA advises people checking out prospective caterers to get a minimum of two references who've had a similar number of guests to the number they'll have at the wedding they're planning. http://www.landafun.com/landaadmin/BrowseImages.do?cat=7747&site=2
Written by: Kate Hough