Catering Menus – What’s the Occasion?

Hotel Banquet & Catering departments are experts and leaders when it comes to capitalizing on the benefits of occasion-based marketing. Well, maybe. If we’re talking about just one occasion: weddings.

Other occasions? It seems that “one size fits all” is pervasive. And by the way, that size is XXXL.

Let’s begin with the obvious. There are two primary banquet categories. Each is very broad. Group business driven by guestroom bookings, and social events driven by the event itself (wedding, fundraiser, recognition dinner, etc.).

So, is your banquet menu “one size fits all”? Do groups and social bookers (other than prospective brides) get the same menu? Makes sense – IF their needs are the same.

But are they?   

What does a group’s representative want in a menu? When it comes time for selection, the guestrooms and meetings have long since booked. Now it’s time to select the menu. Your meeting planner is looking for ease of ordering, selections within their budget, and confidence in your ability to deliver. Their job may depend on it. In short, this menu must first be functional and appeal to the intellect. Menu selection is a business decision.

Social bookers typically don’t represent the banquet client – they are the banquet client. Social clients vary widely but the events often involve the celebration of an event, an organization, specific person(s) or specific achievement. In short, the menu must satisfy the client’s emotional needs. It should help you develop a relationship with the client.

For example: Tell a story: about the Chef, about the ingredients, about the history of the hotel, about the staff, special local touches and support the story with photos. Personalize the menu if you can. Create for the client your 5-page menu, your packages, your pricing as opposed to “our generic 30-page menu with price sheet”. This may require changes in your current processes, asking and assessing different types of question than you do now.

How are hotels handling the multi-occasion markets? A cursory look at five major hotels (each a different brand) in the Atlanta market shows that only one clearly delineates between Group/Meetings and Social by offering separate menus for each. Another hotel is transitioning in this direction – they show the categories but the menus are “coming soon”. Two other hotels offer a single menu for all occasions (except weddings). And one hotel – I’m not making this up – asks you to call them if you would like to see their menus. Hmmnnn.

Once you have separate menus – and selling strategies – for the two main categories (three, including weddings), you may wish to “drill down”, identify occasions within the occasion, and create additional menus accordingly. Sub-occasion? What?

Well, suppose the occasion is “weddings”. Perhaps you are a resort. Would “second weddings” be a “sub-occasion”? Are there enough elements unique to “second weddings” that a targeted menu could – and should – differentiate its content?

Those are my thoughts, please share yours…

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