Budgets….Its OK we all have them!

Sometimes I get the feeling when I ask customers for their catering budget they are almost afraid to share them or I crossed a line by asking.  Like if maybe they just tell me all their wants and desires that they’ll score a better deal if they don’t disclose what they are willing to spend.  Well unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case….
Lets just pretend you’re shopping for a house for a moment.  Your realtor asks you for a pre- qualification letter and/or your budget.  Thinking this is a pretty standard question the realtor is a little shocked by the response …’Um I kinda want YOU to come up with your best price”.  The conversation might continue with a few more questions about size or bedroom quantity, but eventually would end up back to price again.  You continue to dodge the pricing question until finally the realtor gives up and you are now back on your own looking for a house.  Or lets say you walk into a car lot that offers anything from $2000 used rental returns up to high end luxury vehicles,  The salesman asks for a budget and you just tell him “show me what ya got.”  Can you imagine the amount of time you’d spend looking at cars you either hated because they were too cheap and basic, or cars you LOVED but couldn’t afford?   I have a feeling it would be more of the ladder..but still what a waste of time …right?!
This is basically the scenario a customer creates for a caterer when they are not willing to disclose a budget.  Keep in mind our services are designed to be mobile.  Most caterers have HUGE menus and have done just about everything and anything when it comes to food.  We have no desire to sell you something you cannot afford, but understand we offer catering service from $10 per head up to $100.  A range, a starting point, a max budget, and idea…ANTHING is better than “Show me what ya got”.  We publish pricing online so our customers can get a feel for our standard pricing.  I’ll be happy to send you there but still…we all know you have some number in your head.
Look, catering is very similar to a restaurant experience.  Some restaurants require ties and are priced accordingly.  Others are happy to see you in flip flops and shorts with menu pricing to match that vibe as well. All Caterers fall into a niche’ market and price range…just like restaurants.  Our services are not for everyone, we understand that and embrace it! Perhaps the catering you are doing does not require the type of set up we normally provide.  Perhaps you’d prefer something so laid back that it simply doesn’t match our standard protocol.  Other times clients want something so high end that our standards and pricing simply don’t match their needs.   All of these scenarios are OK!
We ask only three things when it comes time to requesting custom bidding for your next Soiree.
1.  Be honest with us about your budget.
Some parties are not a fit for a caterer.  I often tell customers ” with something as small as you are doing my platter pricing simply doesn’t make sense.  You might be better off picking up a few small things from AJ’s.”  Spreading the cost of a Banquet captain over 8 people really adds up fast.  if you are in that financial position and really want to enjoy your gathering vs. play host or hostess all night…awesome!  We’d love to help.  If not…you won’t offend me.  In fact…shoot me an email or call me..i’ll give you some great tips on some easy DIY stuff that will impress the heck out of your guests.  Every gathering is different, from hot dogs and hamburgers Popcorn-and-ice-cream-barto prime rib, I can help you….and really I WANT to help you.  However, understand just like anything service related…you can always do it cheaper yourself.  So be honest with what you are will4f27d8b7-bb56-48be-9c7b-a35510df2907~rs_2001.480.fiting to spend …we promise we can take it :).  If it doesn’t make sense for us to work together at least let me get you the information you need to make the event an success.
2.  Be realistic with your wants and desires vs. what you are willing to spend.
Many new customers or couples think that larger number of guests should equal smaller per person costs.  This is the case when you reach numbers of 500 or more.  However, it costs us the same per person to feed 200 guests as it does to feed 20.  The food costs are simply the same.  Groups that you may consider large (ie 100 – 250) are honestly the group sizes we serve on a daily basis.  So please don’t think that a budget of $1500 is going to effectively feed 250 people within normal service standards,  Other expenses such as service staff and/or china rentals can really drive price per head up and for lager groups service staff is a necessity(with catering you are paying for WAAAAAAY MORE than just food).  Be aware for simple services most caterers need to price items in the $15 per person range.  More complicated service usually ranges from $25- $55 per person.   This can be sticker shocking to people that have never ordered catering before.  Believe me we understand how fast this can add up and are there to ensure you get the best value for the money you spend.  Special Moments wouldn’t have a 97% customer satisfaction rating if we didn’t.  We simply won’t sell you something that won’t meet or exceed your expectations, in our eyes that is just bad business.
3.  Don’t be insulted if we tell you our services are not a match for your budget.
As much as we’d love to work with everyone (believe me..sales people need SALES!) there are times when budgets and expectations simply don’t match our product & service line.  Its a painful thing for a sales person to respectfully decline.  We have ZERO desire to tell you to seek someone else’s help.  However, please don’t take it personal.  Its simply a matter of us not wanting to waste your time.  We really appreciate the fact that you would trust us with your special day, we really do.  We know whats on the line.  For that reason if we can’t effectively serve you within your budget we would rather see you find someone that will than set you up for disappointment. We love you and thank you for asking…it simply won’t work.
I want to thank each and every customer that has ever placed an order with us in the last 30 years.  YOU are why this company exists.  Please don’t take this Blog post as anything other than education and a simple explanation of why our sales people are trained to ask for you budget before sending you an estimate. We truly want to make every single transaction a pleasant one and hope to be asking this same question in another 30 years :).  May you all have a blessed 2016!
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The People Behind the Scenes

As you walk into the Special Moments kitchen you see the high-rise ceilings and the plate of desserts that catch your eye.IMG_0104

You could be a loyal customer, but seldom do you ever get to see the people that are behind the hours of prep-work, cooking and cleaning that it takes to get your meal from the kitchen to your event.

For this week’s blog, I went into the kitchen and learned more about what it takes to plan for multiple events and the people behind the scenes.IMG_0109

I came around noon, when they would be working on prep work. I did not want to be in the way of when food was heading out to customers.

As I walked around I could see mounds of prep work piling together. There were desserts, there was salsa, there was chicken, empanadas and cheese. I wish I ate before I came here.

The aromas of the food poked my shoulder and begged for my attention.IMG_0102

I had the opportunity to speak with April Davis, one of the chefs that have worked at Special Moments for eight years.

Davis said that her favorite food to make is Italian food.

“There are so much fresh herbs and fresh vegetables that go into making different sauces. It’s fun to make it and eat it,” she said.

Davis, who is one of many people who are behind the organization of running the kitchen over the years discussed the immense amount of work that goes into cooking for multiple events that includes hundreds of different people each.

“It’s important to be organized and knowing how much food to prep, how many pans and oven space you will need. It’s all about rotation and timing and making everything sent out as fresh as possIMG_0103ible. Having a good staff that knows what they’re doing and having a good food knowledge- knowing how long certain foods can hold is also important,” she said.

Davis stressed that one of the most important elements of cooking is the presentation of food.

“People eat with their eyes first,” she said.

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What’s In Store for Weddings this Year

Hopefully by now you are all big fans of our blog! I know you all don’t know me as a Taylor, but I definitely feel like part of the family! My name is Mimi and I am Special Moments’ newest addition to the wedding side of the business. I love weddings and worked almost every one we have catered for since I started working here. Your wedding is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, right? YES!  I have made it my personal mission to make that happen!  I’ve found that Special Moments is a great company to work for because this family of “Who’s” takes in their clients as friends. They know that ALL of our clients, whether they are brides or corporate clients, are special in some way!4f27d8b7-bb56-48be-9c7b-a35510df2907~rs_2001.480.fit

If you take a look at our website, you will see that we have been working to make it more of a resource for brides.  I added our newest page this month featuring our Décor Set-Ups that we can do for you. If you haven’t seen the lovely pictures yet click here! I also put up our newest wedding package for this year which you can view by clicking here.  I try and improve our website on a weekly basis; we always have new ideas coming out!

One of my favorite parts of my jobs is reaching out to our brides to make them aware that we are here for them and that they are being heard!  Any questions? I am here, if not by phone then at least by email.  We pride ourselves on being accommodating to everyone who gives us the honor of catering for them.  Working with this company, I have noticed some great things that we do for our clients.  I’m always so happy to be on site to help make sure that all of the big plans and dreams that our brides have shared with the sales team get transformed into reality on the big day!  I know that a few of my brides even have my cell number because I want them to know that I will be there for them if they need me. There’s so much to plan for in a wedding and so many things to worry about.  Your caterer should not be one of them!

We have a great opportunity coming up for future brides!  Beginning in March, we will have Open Houses monthly that will feature some samples of our food that we know you will enjoy! Please feel free to check out our wedding website here and book a consultation with me so that we can make you the happiest for your happy day!

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Don’t let a Cop Spoil your Event

“Rules, Rules and more rules.”  I believe that was a paraphrase of a recent client.  Events are a great way to fundraise because they provide an experience instead of just an object.  This means that consumers are willing to spend more money than they would if they were simply buying something. We at Special Moments deal with special events on a frequent basis and over the years have discovered that there are some misnomers out there.  The biggest issue we run into is when clients want to charge an entry fee and serve alcohol.  Here is the scoop…if you are charging an entry fee or asking for a donation and alcohol is being served, you most likely need a permit.

It breaks down like this.  Any time money is attached and you are serving alcohol, in the law’s eye you are “selling” alcohol.  If you have read any of our previous blogs you might know before I am retired from law enforcement.  As an owner of a catering company, my firsthand knowledge of these laws have helped many of our clients not make a big mistake.  Just think of how that fundraiser would flop if your CEO got a citation for 10393710_10153068391899222_4872330187324003126_nselling alcohol without a license!  But it isn’t as scary as it sounds.  I’ll admit it’s a bit of a painful process but once you take the steps necessary to make it all legal, you will have a very successful fundraising platform.  There are two parts to the process.  The first is to acquire the permit through the city and the second is to get your license from the state.

One of the major fallacies out there is that anyone can go and get a liquor license or that someone with a liquor license can supply alcohol for you.   Your company or group most likely does not qualify for a liquor license.  Liquor licenses are only for the premise they are housed in.  Therefore unless your event is in a licensed building, your food and beverage vendor cannot bring a license with them.  This includes both caterers and restaurants.  The only way for your group to get a liquor license is to hook up with a nonprofit charity.  It’s possible that your organization is a nonprofit and that will mean even bigger returns for you.  If not, find an organization that is and offer them a great opportunity to raise money with little to no effort on their part!

Here’s how it works.  The state liquor board has a special license they can issue to help nonprofits raise funds.  This license is limited to a certain number of events each year.  By joining forces with a nonprofit, you can have them draw the liquor license for your event.  What’s in it for them?  The nonprofit is required to receive 25% of the gross profit from any alcohol sales.  If the alcohol is included in your ticket price, a portion of the ticket would have to be assigned toward the alcohol (must be fair market value). It really offers a winning solution for both parties.  If your organization is not a nonprofit but you want to use alcohol as an incentive to raise your ticket price or as a way to enhance your event experience, this is the only legal way you can do it.  For the nonprofit, they earn 25% of your alcohol sales while doing very little work to get it! IMG00063-20101228-1737

My expertise lies in the City of Tempe, but most cities have a similar process.  Here’s my nutshell version of how to do this process.  In Tempe, you need to head on down to the city and apply for a permit.  You pay the fees, show your fencing plans to create a premise or the floor plan for a building and then attend a review process.  At the review you will be required to answer any questions each city department such as Police and Fire might have and make changes if needed to gain their approval.  After you receive city approval, you then must apply for a special liquor license through the state.  You bring your city approval and your application down to the state office and apply for the license.  Once approved, you pay their fees and walk away with your one day special event liquor license.

If that version sounds a little overwhelming, feel free to call us! We can get you through this process without you lifting a finger.  As challenging as it may sound, it is really not that bad!  And it will assure that no cops appear to spoil what should have been a great event!

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Backwards Planning

Having been in the event business for my entire adult life and most of my teens…hosting an event does not hold the typical anxiety for me that I hear so many people talk about.  It really has nothing to do with the fact that I have most elements of an event at my fingertips (although admittedly that does help)!  The lack of anxiety doesn’t necessarily come from years of practice either.  My ability to throw an event worry free comes from the simple philosophy of backwards planning.bp

I assure all of the readers out there that if you can master the art of backwards planning and stick to it, you will also be the host of many an event without much concern.  In fact, I believe you can take this concept and apply it to the simplest of tasks and cut down on stress.  Getting ready to go on vacation, having too many things to get done in a day, cooking dinner for your family… all of these can be simplified by backwards planning.

Here’s out it works in its simplest of forms.  Let’s say you are planning a party for your son’s birthday.  Twenty kids have been invited for an afternoon at the park starting at 1 pm.  Instead of thinking of all the things you need to get done before the party, you start with the party itself.  Let’s say you’ve decided you want the party to end at 3.  Start there.  You know that by 3 pm, you want to have fed the kids cake and ice cream, opened presents, broke the piñata and played your three party games.  Create a schedule with those goals in mind.  (Of course, it’s for kids and everything that can go wrong will go wrong…so don’t set this schedule in stone!)

Backwards Party Plan

3 pm – Parents arrive to pick up kids

2:30 pm – Piñata breaking, playground playing

2:00 pm – Gift opening

1:45 pm – Cake and Ice Cream

1:15 – Begin games

1 pm – Kids arrive/playground play

Now, you have a party planned!  But here is where backwards planning can really take the stress out of your day!  Consider from here what time you will need to arrive at the park to get the decorations up and the games set.  Perhaps it’s 12 pm.  Continue backwards from there.  How long does it take to get to the park?  When do you need to leave?  Let’s go with 11:45 am.  Do you need to run any errands beforehand?  Maybe a cake pickup?  Back up your time even further from there.  If you have times in mind it sets goals for you and it will help to take the rushing out of your day. In addition, you can use the model to set your own deadlines that will ensure stress free execution!  Decide what will fit into your schedule and set goals.  Have the cake ordered the week prior.  Research games and pickup prizes three days prior.  Every piece of your event that you can organize and plan ahead for will allow you to host your party with ease.

This process is especially helpful for large, important events.  For example, I’m currently in the middle of helping to plan my oldest daughter’s wedding.  We started with her wedding date and then backwards planned to set important deadlines.  We decided to send invites out two months prior, which meant that we need to have them ordered three months prior.  This meant that somewhere around four months prior to the wedding we needed to start gathering addresses, researching invite designs and putting an order in to the printer.  We used the same plan to set deadlines for booking the DJ, photographer and florist.  As the day approaches we will use the model to create a timeline for the wedding.  Beginning with the departure of the bride and groom, we will work backwards through the events that we want to have included in her big day and we will create a timeline.  We will use this to create individual deadlines and goals to help us accomplish the reception without stress and worry.

Consider how many times you can apply this concept.  It can be applied to all sorts of everyday events such as getting your kids out the door on time for soccer practice or getting the house cleaned for a big family gathering.  If you start with the conclusion of your event (or any activity) and plan backwards from there, you will be surprised at how much your anxiety can decrease!

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As a journalism student interested in the business community, I always look for untold, unusual stories in the business sector. However, I never think to look into my own family’s company. Why? Mostly because I can’t write about my family and turn it into a publication without bragging a little bit about them. But, some stories are too good to not get out there.IMG_1794

At Special Moments, the company and all those involved are looking toward success in ways that not just mimic a normal business plan. Instead, it is looking at ways to give back to the community by donating food, hosting events and even taking a step toward sustainability.

But how can a company be profitable by putting others first? Easily. Special Moments proves tiIMG_1793me and time again that being involved in the community can not only help those in need but also help the business.

Here’s a video to learn more about Special Moments sustainability efforts on a day-to-day basis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5g_A_B3nZo

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