Thursday, October 7, 2010

Catersource Magazine Article :: "Selling Big"


Smaller companies win major events with strategy
It’s no surprise when big catering companies win the contracts for big events. They’ve got the staff, the resources and the experience to do everything from put together impressive proposals to serving up food to thousands of attendees.

But not every big event goes to a catering company with hundreds of employees. Two recent events—one in Los Angeles and one in Chicago—went to companies with about 20 full-time employees each. The two, Erhart’s Catering and Behind the Scenes Catering, used different tactics to sell themselves.

Relying on expertise and local experience
Erhart’s Catering in Los Angeles was competing not just against other U.S. catering companies, but against international companies when it bid on the catering contract for the X Games, extreme sports contests held July 29 through August 1. The company hadn’t really thought about bidding on something so big. “What it boiled down to was that we have worked with the director of food and beverage at the Los Angeles Coliseum (the venue for many of the X Games contests) in the past,” says Alan Scott, general manager.

Erhart’s is launching a tailgating division and the company had been talking to the staff at the Coliseum about tailgating there. The director of food and beverage called Erhart’s and asked if the company was interested in bidding on the X Games contract. “We didn’t even know what it was,” Scott says.

The relationship with the Coliseum let Erhart’s get its foot in the door and then, “We put together a great proposal,” Scott says. One of Erhart’s advantages was that its smaller size meant a more personal touch. “Things don’t have to go to a corporate office somewhere,” he says. “We were able to make decisions on the spot.”

The contract included catering meals for all of the corporate suites and meals for 50-300 staff, special guests, VIPs, the media and 50-200 athletes (depending on the day). Scott says this contract alone will be responsible for 15 to 18 percent of Erhart’s catering income for the year—and just before the event, he was hoping to get it to 20 percent.

The X Games is the biggest event Scott has worked on since coming to Erhart’s eight years ago. “We are what we call a boutique caterer,” he says. “Events like this don’t come along every week; they don’t come along every year.”


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