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Serving It Up For Better Beverage Catering

donnaThere are many resources focusing on food & beverage catering sales in the marketplace that are available through research studies, consulting companies, trade associations, and management firms. But if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of adult beverage sales in catering, one truly valuable source is a brand  company – especially one who has done the in-depth research.

Donna Frederick, Senior Manager of National Accounts for Beam Global Spirits and Wine, is one such person who has in recent years spent a great deal of time studying hotel beverage catering and what makes for a successful formula. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Donna and discussing her varied experiences and working knowledge of beverage catering.

Don Billings: Why would Beam Global be interested in hotel and restaurant catering operations?

Donna Frederick: Having called on the hotel industry for 15+ years, I thought it always seemed we were missing an opportunity in the catering, banquet, and event management area. When it was brought to my attention that over 60% of the beverage business in most hotels was coming out of that area, I believed the best way to identify any opportunity was to go directly to the consumer and ask what they thought.

catering005DB: So you embarked on a series of surveys to find out what?

DF: The first survey was extremely eye-opening, to say the least. After much discussion, I thought it may be best to see just what the hotels were offering, so a second survey on menus was commissioned. Once again, it was a very eye-opening experience yielding some important information. It helped identify Best in Class menu information that has been very valuable to the hotels. The next challenge was to implement the necessary changes – I wanted to be sure the hotels were equipped to make the changes and that they had some of the same insights we did. We both needed to be on the same page. The third and latest survey, developed late last year, focused on hotel catering employees.

catering051DB: over a three-year period you had commissioned three studies: the first was called “Hotel Catering Consumer study,” the second was “Hotel Catering menu study,” and the third study completed in November of 2009 was “Hotel Catering employee study.” it’s my understanding you have collected all three studies into an abbreviated “Combined Hotel Catering study.” I’ve reviewed this study and it is a very detailed statistical analysis – no pretty pictures, just a lot of number-crunching and charts, along with some guidance. Can you share a few interesting findings that came out of the combined research?

DF: all of these observations are backed by custom on-line research conducted by next-level marketing and are statistically significant at the 90% confidence level. each study used a specific set of parameters.

Here are a few takeaway points:

• Catering represents the 2nd highest profit area, after rooms, in a hotel
• Catering represents 60-80% of beverage sales in most hotels
• #1 area that needed most improvement is Better Beverage offerings
• On the menu survey, only 2 of the 5 catering menus offered any type of beer
• #1 requested item in each survey was signature drink offerings
• Staff training was identified as extremely important
• Only 20% of catering events offer a theme

DB: So how can Beam Global work with a hotel or restaurant catering department and how can you help improve their profitability?

DF: First of all, we have created a simple brochure, which is available through our national accounts department, that lays out many of the resources we can bring to the table – or should I say – bar. Our national accounts team is available for specific recommendations.

DB: Based on the results of your catering studies can you tease us with a few examples?

Beam Global ProductsDF: The study clearly shows that training and education are extremely important. Beam Global can bring resources to the catering team that will cover everything from operations to wait staff service and server motivational programs. We are available to sit down and review a customer’s catering program and provide feedback as to how Beam Global can help improve their sales.

other recommendations are:

• use a master mixologist to develop a basic drink database
• Create signature drinks around an individual event and make sure the bartenders are trained on how to make and present the drinks
• Consider pre-batch drink recipes using different quantities based on size of group
• Have signature drink stations
• Consider infusions

A simple theme bar is a great opportunity to create an EXPERIENCE rather than simply having a bar set-up. Beam Global can help with trend data and review drink menus and even assist as a wedding specialist.

DB: Thank you for your time, Donna…this is valuable information and I am pleased to share it with our readers.

Beam Global has offered to share the Combined Hotel Catering Study (the overview version).

For a copy of the “Your Beverage Resource” brochure, catering beverage managers should contact Beam Global directly either through Donna, at Donna.frederick@beamglobal.com, or one of the other national accounts team members. You can also visit www.virtualspirit.org

Note: iMi Agency participated in the third survey, “Hotel Catering Employee Study.”logos