Welcome to the Catering Feed! The Catering Growth Podcast. A show about growing your catering business and restaurant industry trends. Powered by ezCater. Hi Catering Feed listeners! This is Genevieve Babineau, your host, and we have a total treat for you today. My dear friend, Chaz Patrick, is with us in the podcast studio, from Birmingham, Alabama. Hi Chaz, how you doing? I’m great Genevieve. How are you? I’m doing so well, so happy that you’re here. Chaz and I have known each other for almost a decade. We met both very early on in our restaurant operations careers. And Chaz has been an incredible leader in operations, training, hospitality. He was with me at CPK for a good portion of time, and now he’s gone on to become a leader at Jim’n’ Nicks as the director of training. So, Chaz, I would love for you to share some insights with the listeners on what your career has been like. Sure! well like you said I’ve been blessed to be in the restaurant industry for, you know, 12-13 years now. And came up in the operation side of restaurants working as a bartender, server, and a manager. eventually. I was always infatuated with training and got the opportunity early in my career to get involved with the training team and do some travel, open some restaurants, and, you know, really kind of learn what it is to teach others and share with others knowledge. And I just kind of fell in love with that. As you mentioned, I most recently join the Jim’n’Nicks barbecue team out of Birmingham, Alabama, and working with their training team now which has just been a blast. Great company, awesome food. And you guys are really beasts in the catering world. How much catering is the average Jim N Nicks doing? Yeah Well, I mean barbecue is obviously a food that’s great for get-togethers, family get-togethers, reunions. And especially our barbecue, when it’s done right, it’s just unbeatable. And we have restaurants that are doing 20-30 % of the revenue just through catering. You know, and restaurants that some weeks are doing you know upwards of $50,000 in just catering. That’s awesome! And as always before we dig in today we would love to start off with some really cool relevant news. One of the things that we’ve been hearing a lot about, Chaz, are restaurant brands who are really trying to embrace technology, virtual reality, and incorporating this into their training process and procedures. So one of the cool things coming out was KFC doing a virtual reality escape room to teach people how to bread their chicken. And then we’ve got Honey Grow who has really made some advancements in their training. So what’s your take on this? Like, I know for a fact that you use a lot of mediums when getting your team’s engaged but what’s your thought on this type of new age approach? Well, like you said, I think you got to be able to use a lot of mediums. I think people learn differently. And especially the younger millennial crowd, you know, tends to be more hands-on, loves visuals. So I applaud, you know, companies like KFC and Honey Grow for thinking outside the box and getting more current with their training materials. I had the opportunity to watch a few videos with you. And you know, I think it’s just a balance, right? I think you you don’t ever want to completely replace the human element in food service. You know, if if the right way to bread chicken is by hand and a person’s showing you that, you can’t replace that by watching a video for sure. But I also think you want to think outside the box and give learners different avenues to learn the information. And if you can get someone engaged with cool technology, something they can do on their phone, or a virtual reality headset that they can wear to learn. You know, I think it definitely gives you an advantage over the next person and helps you to engage your audience a little better and probably helps you with retention and training and things like that on the back end as well. And it’s the brands who really find that to be a compliment versus trying to replace it. That is also really attractive, right? So if you’re joining a brand and you see that they’re invested in technology, and you know, they’re doing things that are cutting-edge and cool versus just paper and pen. Or, you know, printing out materials, to me that’s attractive for, you know, someone wanting to join a brand. I think it gives you a lot of confidence that the investment level and they’re, you know, passionate around training. It shows that they’re invested in that and it would make me excited if I was going through learning about a brand, learning how to do a job, and to see that they were willing to invest at that level. I think it’s really a perfect segue into our topic today which is talking about this evolution of hospitality in the catering industry. And you are such a firm believer in the power to, you know, hire the right person, and train them right, and then really set them up for success. So in today’s world of fast-moving technology, where is that space for hospitality in the catering industry? Well, I always like to frame this question from sort of a chicken or an egg problem. You know, who came first: chicken or the egg? And I think that too often we look at the training material, the program, the technology. We don’t look enough at the way we hire and the people we’re hiring. And I think that you can hire a really good person and not have great training materials and there’s still a really good person. On the flip side, if your hire is bad, you know, you don’t find the right person, personality, someone that you know has a heart for service that loves people — you can give them the best training in the world, and you can’t change those core things. So to me, it’s a balance first and foremost. And it’s very easy, again, to forget that people piece. But I’ve always been one that says, let’s start with the person. If we find a really good person who’s passionate about the same things our brand is passionate about, is passionate about the people that they’re going to be serving, then we can give them hopefully really engaging materials. You know, technology forward, immersive training. And the end result is going to be very powerful. We’ve been so focused all these years in the industry on creating the experience inside the four walls. And I think it’s really a shift, especially as you look at that catering customer decision maker — they have a different unique set of needs. We were talking to one of our top customers, Christina, on the last episode of the podcast, and she kept talking about when a brand goes “above and beyond”. And yet the thing that she kept saying is if things are going wrong, they call me and give a heads up. They get there on time. They show up with everything that they need. Like to me when I used to coach and train, that’s not above and beyond. That’s really the basic expectation of restaurant 101 and yet there are a lot of brands that aren’t always offering that hospitable experience off-premises. And so I think everything you are talking about when you hire that right engaging personality and then you really set them up for success with incredible training — now suddenly you truly are going above and beyond for that catering customer. Well, and I and I think if I could back you up a second, you started that with the word experience. And I think when you think restaurants in general, yes, we sell food, but it’s really the experience that separates us from just you know eating in your own kitchen, or cooking your food. And I think with catering it’s the same thing. You’re not just selling a product. You are selling an experience. And specifically with catering, the experience is I’m trying to make things faster, easier, you know, I’m catering to your life. And again, what we can forget with that is the human and the hospitality aspect there. And you know, too often, catering can feel very transactional. You know, I do an online order. I get an e-mailed invoice. I get a text when the food’s on the way. When the food gets there, it’s kind of dropped off and I’ve already paid so I don’t really have to talk to anyone. And before long, you lose that experience. And I think the brands that are winning right now are the ones that are figuring it out. Yes, let’s offer all that because it is conducive, people love it, that technology is great. But let’s partner with really good hospitality. Let’s send a great person to deliver the food. They’re gonna have a smile on their face. They’re gonna represent the brand in a really good way. They’re gonna stick around and ask if they can serve or do anything else for you. And again, it’s creating a relationship that, unfortunately, is sometimes lost with all the technology. And if you can do both, then I think you’re setting yourself up to win. And honestly, with all the competition out there with catering and everybody offering catering services, it’s the services often that sets you apart. It’s not just the food. And there’s a lot of great restaurants that serve good food but can they cater and deliver it with a high level of service and hospitality that can set them apart from their competitors. And consistently. Absolutely. When you think about guest recovery inside the four walls, you know, from the moment that that guest walks in the door, they could have a bad moment at the host stand, they could have a bad moment being sat. I mean, they’re probably, what, 15 to 20 various phases of that dine-in experience. Versus with catering, there’s potentially an online transaction, or a digital interaction with the menu. They might be placing an order through your brand or a third party. Suddenly you have far less human touch points to really wow that guest. And so you start relying on technology, on automation. You know all the way then to when you’re delivering. That might not even be one of your people who’s delivering. So, how do you infuse that off-premises situation with hospitality? What are the conversations you’re having with your people to still make that feel really real. Whether someone’s inside the four walls at a Jim N Nicks or out in the world. Yeah, great question. I think, again, it just goes back to remembering it starts with the person and stressing that even though we’ve put touch points in that are easy, online ordering, you know, transactions that happen in the cloud, an e-mailed invoice, you know, we’re doing this because it’s conducive to the guests life. That’s what the guests are asking for, but there are still touch points. And you know, you mentioned a dining room. You have an advantage in a dining room that you can generally fix something as it comes up. You see someone with a sour face, or you see food taking too long, or a drink gets spilled, and if you’re you know proactive, or at least really quick, reactive you can fix it for someone. Catering, unfortunately, you kind of get one shot at it. And also sometimes the standard is higher because if you think about a menu online — I can look at a picture of anything I want to order. And by the way, that picture is usually perfect. And, you know, done in the studio and it’s shot perfectly. So you see that picture and you’re expecting it to look just like that. The expectation is really high. And so, really, from guest services and hospitality point of view you have to really be more on your game when it comes to catering. And I think building in touch points, you know, some things that we love doing at Jim’N’Nicks is something we call a comfort call. Which is, you know, generally 24 hours before I deliver a catering order I want to reach out to you in some way. Could be over the phone, at the very least I’m gonna email you, and I just want to check in to make sure we’re on the same page. I know what food I’m bringing. I know what your needs are. Are there any weird other things that we haven’t talked about that I can do for you to make the experience better? And again, even though most of the transaction might have been online, or over the phone, or even through an email, it creates a relationship touch point. You know the name of your driver that’s coming. You know who’s delivering the food, what time, who they are. Those kinds of things. And then creates a moment when I get to the delivery to introduce myself. Hey, I’m Chaz. We talked on the phone yesterday. I’ve got you set up here. Here’s something I thought about based off the conversation that might be great for you, a little surprise and delight. And again, you’re just looking for ways to separate yourself from your competitors by just being over-the-top nice. You know, delivering a hospitality experience that, quite honestly, most people aren’t delivering these days. And then, you know, the last piece that I think is really important is, you know, with catering sometimes we think we drop the food off – we get the money, and the transactions over. And you think about in the restaurant that last moment at the hosting where you tell someone thank you and appreciate your business, and please come back and see us. You know, how do we do that with catering? Is it good marketing materials that we leave there? Absolutely! Is it the tech forward stuff like emails and things we can do with apps and all that fun stuff? Absolutely! But it’s hard to replace just that follow-up phone call or text that could be as simple as “Hey, how was the order? Was it perfect? Can we learn anything?”. You know, people I think fail to realize how big of a deal that is to people that you cared enough to call me back just to make sure sure everything was okay. I didn’t complain, I didn’t call you, you called me, and you gave me a chance to sort of tell you what I would have done differently or what I could have done differently. There’s so much less likely to just go on some review site or trash your brand if there’s one bad experience, but come back to you and say hey, you know, this was less than perfect. Or can we have another opportunity to to give this a shot? And I love that comfort call. I think it, you know, I can imagine in the hours before an event or that day before that’s when your mind starts racing thinking oh god, is everything okay? Or did I order enough food? And that’s exactly what it is. It just creates a real sense of trust that the process is going to be great the next day. Because the next day they don’t have time to be worrying, and at that point you’re distracting from building that brand out. Yeah, you use the word trust and I think that’s perfect. You know, typically a catering order is for a bunch of people but one person owned it. They put the menu together. They planned it. And so they’re naturally nervous that they’re feeding 200, 300, thousand people. And that thousand people have trusted them to get the food right. And now they have to turn that trust over to you at your restaurant. And so building that level of trust and being able to tell someone “I got you, don’t worry about it. I got you. Here’s how” is a big deal. And I think the other cool thing about catering is, you know, not only does a thousand people get to try my wonderful barbecue, learn about my concept through someone else if you will, but generally people that order catering order a lot of catering. It’s not one time thing. They’re ordering it weekly or at the least monthly. And even if it is like a family thing, a wedding, or a reunion, there’s some 25 other people that are planning the same thing within the next year. And so building that level of trust to me is one of the biggest deals as far as you know, keeping your guests and you know, building repeat business with those guests. How do you create that excitement around — I think it’s about the details, right — how do you drive that excitement and interest in your employees to say I care about the spread looking beautiful. I care about food knowledge. I care to be able to really paint a picture for this customer and why this catering is creating this nostalgic experience for them. Well again, I think it starts with the person you hire has to be passionate about restaurants and people and the food. And you know, we’re really fortunate, we’re able to give our catering managers training very similar to what we would give a restaurant manager. They’re gonna learn the food and learn the processes. And the reason that’s important is in a kitchen like ours where we’re again no microwaves, no freezers. You’re making food from scratch every day. And to develop an appreciation like that. you know, you’ve got to get your hands dirty. You’ve got to make the mac & cheese. You’ve got to, know how, to crush the potatoes for the potato salad, those kind of things. And that appreciation then translates to when you’re out in the field and a guest is trying that potato salad. You’re able to say well, let me tell you why it’s so good because you know we make that every day. And I actually got to make it, you know, and hopefully they’re not sharing our recipes. But it’s it’s definitely a passion that you can only build through putting the right time and the right training. And I think that any brand that wants their catering team to be successful needs to focus just as much on the food and the relationship building as they do on the sales training. Because sales training tends to be where we want to focus the most. Like, how do I build sales? And we’re putting them through, you know, Dale Carnegie classes or whatever we’re putting them through. But I think something that I’m really proud about at Jim’N’Nick is how how focused we are on building the culture and the food passion first. And knowing that if you can get that stuff, right, you know, we can teach someone how to sell the barbecue on the back end. How important is it for your team members to be cross-trained so they can hop in? I mean you and I both would maybe be in a different part of the country, we’d be in Texas together and I would be there coaching marketing and sales, you’d be there coaching operations and training. But man, if things hit the fan, we were suddenly all hands on deck and hitting the ground running. So how important is that ability? Yeah well, I think cross-training in restaurants is incredibly important. I think, traditionally, we’ve always thought of cross-training in the kitchen as the main focus. And, you know, can I train the same chef to operate in two different places? So in slow times or down times I can get coverage but also keep an eye on my labor cost? Unfortunately, when you get outside of the kitchen, sometimes we lose focus on cross-training. And, you know, too often there’s servers that just serve, or a host that only know how to host. And I think it’s important to have people that are comfortable working different areas in your restaurant and even outside your restaurant. Because again, if you’ve got a great server who knows all about the food, is passionate, people-focused, great smile, they’re probably going to be a pretty good caterer if you offer them the spot. And if finding ways to cross-train, especially as you’re developing your business, maybe you’re not to the point where you can devote a full time position to catering yet, but maybe you’ve got a great bartender working 20-30 hours that wants to pick up an extra ten, and they’ve got the personality, they’ve got the food knowledge — why not cross-train and let them help you build that catering position and as you grow it maybe cross-training is less of a need because you can offer a full-time position but it always gives you flexibility. And look, in the restaurant space turnover and, you know, people graduating college and moving on to other careers, is a big part of what we deal with day-to-day. And cross-training really helps you alleviate some of the pains that come with that. One of the big trends that continuously comes up as the rising concern over labor and minimum wage. And how this is going to affect the industry? When you’re thinking with your training operations mindset, how do you see catering complimenting or offsetting concerns around labor? Yeah labor is, you know, always one of the big three you know, cost aspects of any restaurant. You know, I think that the first thing I always say from a training perspective when it comes to labor is a lot of times we look at it the wrong way. We’re worried about how much it costs to train someone. We’re worried about the level of investment, and how much money we have to spend to get Genevieve ready to take a catering order. And look, it’s not saying that you shouldn’t focus on that. You should be efficient and be smart. But the better question is what is the cost of not doing those things for Genevieve? What does it cost you from a guest perspective? What does it cost you from a repeat business perspective? And by the way, when Genevieve is unhappy in six months and she leaves for another restaurant, and you now have to hire another Genevieve — not to say there are two Genevieves out there — but that’s the real cost. And I think that from a catering perspective, look, the wins are, typically, I can produce catering food in the mornings and it doesn’t always add a ton of new labor to build a lot of new sales. And there’s some wins there. But from a training perspective, I think it’s important to know you can’t cut costs when it comes to catering training. And also from a labor perspective, going back to what we said, I think you have to be willing to invest some labor if you really want to get catering right. Because a guest can tell if you’re trying to sort of cut the edges out. Not offer the level of service. And you know, if you’re not investing in enough delivery drivers and your deliveries are late, or you’re having to say no to deliveries, you know, it can really cost you a lot more on the back end. Preach! I couldn’t agree with you more and I think, you know, one of the things you also didn’t mention was that investment in the training. What about the investment you would have to make to recover that guest at that lack of training results in a horrible scenario? And I think, you know, it’s really powerful when you can see how investment in catering training programs also starts to have an impact on sales and guest count traffic inside the four walls. Yeah and nothing frustrates me more than finding out we saved, you know, $15 on not paying an extra cook or not bringing an extra caterer on, and we sacrificed a $1,500 order. You know, the guest is either unhappy enough that now we’re comping or discounting the order, or at the very least they’re not going to order from us again. You know, Chaz, we’ve identified what it can do for your business if you do it right but it takes a lot of work to get it to the place where it’s done right. And so it’s a big decision for a brand to decide whether or not they’re going to truly make that investment in their training program. So, you know, what are the crucial things that a brand should think about when they’re investing in those SOP training and making sure people are doing the right thing? Well, I I love that you mentioned the word SOP. To me, you know, when you’re when you’re in a training environment, knowing what the end in mind is and being able to kind of work backwards to develop the steps, the procedures that get you there, and then being willing to commit, you know, this is a big deal. In the barbecue business, you know, our recipes are, you know, 40,50, 60 years old in some cases. You know Jim’N’Nicks started in 1985 and some of the recipes haven’t changed since then. And there’s a right way to do it. You know, we use the phrase one best way. And I think that has to sort of frame your training ideas when you’re putting things together to say we’re going to commit to the right way to do things. We’re gonna add the details. Details are important and we’re going to teach someone sort of step by step how to do those details. And then we’re gonna put an SOP around it to say look, you may clean fifteen briskets a day, but you’re gonna clean them exact same way. We want you to season the ribs the same way every time. We want you to make the mac and cheese the same way every time. And we, as a brand, are committed to it enough that we’re gonna give you the steps, give you the procedures, and we’re just ask you to partner with us and commit to doing it the same way every time because it is the one best way. Consistency is so important. And you can serve a guest great barbecue ten times in a row and on the 11th you can change one little thing and, unfortunately, you lose all the ground that you built over those ten visits. Catering — the same thing. Maybe even more important because you’re influencing so many people that may or may not have ever tried your food before. All they’ve heard is how great your cheese biscuits are and they get an order that wasn’t made right for whatever reason. And then they go around and they tell people you know, I had those cheese biscuits and they weren’t what I thought they were gonna be. And it all goes back because we didn’t invest in the training, we didn’t have the material, or the technology, or whatever we didn’t commit to. We didn’t have the person that was willing to commit to it with us. Whatever it is, we messed up somewhere along the way and we, unfortunately, lost some money because of it. You just mentioned technology and I think training with technology is such a unique new experience for a lot of brands so what does that rollout process look like as you’re incorporating new technology that yes, that could enhance your ability to create a wonderful experience but also could really be deterrent. Yeah well, you know, I think the first important thing I would always encourage when people are looking to train technology, or add new technology to their business, is, first and foremost, be picky. You know, don’t add technology for the sake of adding technology. You see a lot of restaurants go into the digital host stands these days. And look, those things have a ton of cool functionality as far as you know, managing a wait list and taking guest information. But you can also argue at times that a good old-fashioned pen and paper wait list is really effective. And I just always encourage people to first really vet and make sure that they’re getting the right technology for the right reasons. And then the second piece is know your audience. And if you’re a restaurant that has not had a lot of technology — do it slow, you know, bring things in piecemeal and really justify the why to your team. And tell them look, we’re investing in this technology because we’re gonna make your lives easier. We’re gonna make something faster. We’re gonna make more money. Whatever it is, justify the whys and be ready to walk hand-in-hand with them. Oh and then just be open to feedback. You know, I think big things about technology sometimes is you think one thing, and six months later you’ve learned something. And we’re not willing to change because we invested all that money or we invested all that training. But remember when it comes to training, your audience is your team. They’re your guests. They’re the people you’re serving. And if they’re telling you they need something more, they need something different — you’ve got to be willing to listen to it. And if you embrace it correctly, it allows me to have that much more connection with the guests. But when done poorly you suddenly are creating that much more havoc for the guests. And so I think your absolute commitment to truly investing in the right technology program and then rolling it out really intentionally is a make-or-break. One of the final topics that I know you and I are both very passionate about is this concept of culture. And I think you can walk into a restaurant and pretty quickly feel whether or not there’s phenomenal culture in that environment. And I think that translates when you’re going off-premises. So what’s your perspective on how to build a really healthy passion and culture in the food service industry? Yeah, well, I completely agree with you. You can definitely feel in a restaurant or on a catering delivery. I couldn’t agree more. And I think that, without being too repetitive, starting with the person and hiring for culture. Hiring people that are naturally smiling, naturally nice. You know, things like yes ma’am, no ma’am. Those kinds of things that unfortunately, just not everybody is committed to doing. But I also think how you shape your training and how you shape, you know, the core beliefs of your brand. There’s plenty of brands that say “we put people first”. You know, that’s like a tagline, right? Unfortunately, we all know that not all brands do. And you could argue maybe most brands don’t, right? And I’ve always been under the feeling that if you put people first, your people, they will turn around and put your guests first. And those guests will then reward you with their money, with their business, you know, their loyalty. What’s the phrase that you use to talk about the right way with brisket, with your training? One best way. One best way. It’s the one best way to take care of your people. It’s the one best way to take care of your customer. And sometimes it’s the simple things and that leap of faith to make that investment in that thing that might not right away have that immediate return, but in the long term it’s good to create a sustainable and profitable business. And one that people are happy to be a part of. Chaz, I am so grateful that you came all the way from Alabama to do our podcast. So grateful for your time and your friendship over these years. So thanks for sharing your passion around hospitality with us. Thank you for having me. Thanks for listening to the Catering Feed. Powered by ezCater.