Caterease may be the most mature product on the market, but since it is $1295 for the "Light" version of the desktop product, and $3495 for the professional version, It is a bit pricey for my tastes. The aforementioned Quickbooks interface is an additional $500, and other features that I feel should be included such as contact management, are pay add-ons as well.
Their "On demand" pricing is slightly more compelling, but not too much.
Cateredge is based on filemaker (a very old version last I checked), is feature rich for the price, but also has you paying per user. No online version is available as far as I know.
Total Party Planner is also worth taking a look at.
All and all, if you are looking at a lot of business, and need something that works, $5000 per year may be worth it. Myself, I have an aversion to having my data hosted off-site, especially with a company I pay monthly.
If anyone is interested in helping create an open source community based catering solution, I have been beating the bushes for a while on this, and the time may just be right.
There are some good foundations to start from on sourceforge.org, good, mature CRM software that's open source - also a number of good recipe programs. It shouldn't take a lot of work to build on those existing frameworks and cobble something together that would make sense for catering. If anyone's interested in starting up a "wishlist" of features, we might be able to prototype something pretty fast.
My interest is in a web-based solution to handle contracts, CRM and event planning. Maybe others are interested only in desktop.The reason I'm wanting to focus on a web-based solution is that it would be easier to distribute useability as well as data over multiple system architectures with a common interface. But, I'm open to ideas. Let's see if we can do this!!!
Post your ideas and thoughts and let's get started with planning something reasonable and doable in a relatively short time frame!
For a CRM check out Vtiger. It is a PHP MYSQL based open source, and a fully operational enterprise level package. You only pay for support (if you need it), or if you hire someone to customize it. This is currently where I am leaning.
It also has reasonable invoicing/inventory system, although the Quickbooks interface is currently Vaporware.
Crafty Syntax is also open source, and allows you to offer live chat support services from your web page. This handy little tool will even trigger a sound when someone goes to your page, and report how they got there. I find it useful to know that a person typed "folding chair rental san francisco" on a Safari browser, before I decide to push a chat window at them.
Catering has aspects of a manufacturing business, a service business, and a retail business, all rolled into one. For us software made for for any, or all of these industries share one major deficit, there is no VENUE file. In most cases the SHIPPING address is specific to a particular contact, and therefore must be reentered for each client.
Staffmate has a fantastic way of dealing with an on-call crew, and charges $550 a year for up to 50 active staff members. Sadly it is only available as "On Demand" and I want to be able to host my own data.
We currently use Caterease, but we'd really like a CRM. As far as I know, Caterease has no plans to automate processes the way that a cloud-based CRM like Salesforce does. We want to do things like send automatic emails (surveys after events, confirmation emails the day before events).
On the other hand, it would take a lot of customization (if it's even possible) to duplicate the menu, beo, etc functionality in Salesforce that currently exists in Caterease.
Does anyone have any opinion on this? Or has anyone found a good solution?
Thanks for the suggestion of vtigerCRM - I checked it out, installed it and we've been using it for over a month now. It doesn't have everything I'd like, but wow - it sure filled an immediate need for us. The quotes/invoicing and scheduling is pretty decent for an open source program. We're still fiddling with the concept of using the "product" inventory for menus - but what the heck - it works! The customer maintenance aspect is really well thought out. Quotes and invoices can be created quickly, saved or printed in PDF, or even automagically emailed in PDF format to your customer.
For dealing with the menu pricing, I've set up RecipeDB for our crew - unfortunately they haven't bought into the concept yet, but I'm not sure anything I would put up would get them to work with a system effectively - even if I spent the money on a full blown supported system. So, that's more of an internal issue with our company.
Vtiger also has an app for the iphone. I've downloaded it and am not impressed - but there's a "helper" routine downloadable from the vtiger support site that works well with almost any type of PDA or phone - I've been using that and although it's not everything I'd like - it sure comes in handy getting customer information and pricing while on the road.
Just one other thought regarding CRM's. SugarCRM apparently has quite a following. I haven't been able to take the time to fully evaluate that yet, but when I get a little more free time I will. If you have any experience with it I'd appreciate your input.
Are you still in search for a good catering software? I've been running my small catering service business for a couple of years now and I have to say that technology has been of great help to me. With good advice from people I know who had been on the same business ahead of me and the right business approach, i am positive that I could branch out in few more years. This business software is not totally a cook book software or organizer but it can even do more than that. This had been one of my best business partners since I started out, I hope this too can help you like it did to me. See you around.
Thanks for the link. I have had my eye on shop n cook as it is a "filemaker" based system. Unfortunately despite the fact that filemaker is cross platform, shop n cook is platform specific to MAC. Besides an "On demand" or web browser based system is what most of us need.
For those using drupal for their web site, there is a "recipe" module that does conversion, storage, and imports from many popular programs. This is great for having online access to your recipes, but alas no costing. They are looking into integrating it to the USDA database so that each recipe you write will include nutritional information.
There is a program called PHPrecipe or somthin that works too, but still no costing or inventory control.
Then again implementing a recipe program with costing may not be cost effective for most caterers or restaurants.
STORY: Back in 1988 or so, I found a program called "Recipe Writer Pro." At the time, it was the most powerful recipe costing program I had seen for the "IBM Compatible." I quickly fell in love with it, contacted "At your Service Software" in Yonkers NY, and set myself up as a vendor. I sold just one copy to the Balboa Yacht Club, (I think that was there name), even though it rocked! The reason became obvious after I delivered my sales pitch to a chef over the phone. I had just finished touting the software's ability to track ingredients, cost and convert recipes, when he barked, "That is what I do!"
CONCLUSION: Few working chefs will use a recipe costing program because they are busy, well.. working. Some may even view it as a threat.
We started out with cater ease(sleaze). Found the soft ware to be far to complicated for the average staff person to pick up quickly. The company was more than happy to sell us multiple training sessions for large amounts of money. As long as you are spending they are willing to help, as soon as the outflow of cash stops, you are on your own.
We now use total party planner. Great software, easy to use, easy to train the staff on. Free web training sessions. They have web based and desk top systems. Wish we had found them before we wasted so much money on cater ease.
I'm a new member here, but I wanted to comment that I've just sent out a request for input on doing some software development in the food service market. I won't repeat everything I wrote, you can view it in the thread I posted on if you'd like. Basically, I'm just looking for feedback on creating something for your market. I'd much rather try and make something useful that suits your needs, rather than pretend I know what you'd want or use.
Thanks for picking up the topic again. I don't have any conclusive answers because I, myself, just came here to find out what others had to say. I have had Caterease for the past three-four years but am fed up with their prices. Most of all, I resent the fact that they charge an extra $700-800 for yearly support. You really only need it at the beginning, when you are still learning it. After that, it's once in a while. But if you haven't paid for it, you don't get much from them on the phone.
Also, like someone mentioned above, they charge you for everything you want to add on.
I like the look of Total Party Planner. I've scheduled a demonstration for tomorrow. So far, it sounds good.
The fact is that the majority of caterers are small businesses and can't afford to pay $5000 a year for software service. TPP just gives the impression of being "one of the guys".
I personally use Total Party Planner. I look very hard at Caterease but settled with TTP about this time last year. The support is the best. It was very affordable for my business and has everything I need to allow me better control over my business.
Folks the TTP support is great. I've used it for a year now. I pay monthly and they give me support as needed. In the last year they have updated the program 4 or 5 times with no extra fees or increase monthly charge. For me it the best bang for the buck I could find out there.
Yep, ran through the demo w/ Brandi @ TTP. She was very nice and had a good grasp of the product with a hospitality back round and good support. I had the impression that it was more large event center/ hotel experience.
It still feels like we are trying to force our systems into someone else's box.
Overall the pricing seems better than C/ease or C/edge. But with the additional user fee's; $120 base & 25 per add would still run $200+ per month. That's pretty much the buy in for Cater E or Edge over 2 years.
We are giving BetterCater a trial run, cost is in line but it seems a bit basic.
Our business model includes corporate/casual catering, home meal delivery & retail sales with two separate storefronts.
We currently print a single Word document to detail Daily & Weekly menu production / scheduling, in store pick up and home/corporate deliveries. We use use Quickbooks for accounting and a Word table for tracking daily costs and revenue.
What would be ideal for us is some type of FileMaker program for contact information that is event invoiced / archived to the individual and can be email / FB linked for tailored or general social marketing.
A Calendar that is collapsable from year to month, to week to day. The printable, "daily", large enough to encompass both catering/home delivery schedule and production of menu with a delineation for retail pick up activity. The calendar should microscope down for "event specific" detailing of packing, staffing and special instructions. Also individually printable.
An employee staffing / scheduling database, that can be segmented to account for part time catering event staff and full time production personnel that is email and perhaps FB linked. That can be event staff costed.
An Excel program that downloads current vendor pricing and costs inividual items and complete package menu. That program should tie into sales staff proposals that allows custom price quotes. With line item costs for delivery, tax, rental request and incidentals.
The program should be cloud based, accessible/editable through "Drop Box" or a similar network program to several users, at no additional cost, and have secure "In House" as well as server back up.