Food Tastings...your Opinions

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by justa chef, Aug 5, 2017.

  1. justa chef

    justa chef

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    I can understand the reasoning behind "food tastings" for a major event or to sell an event at the Banquet Facility, but just for the sake of doing them? Let me explain.... Here's my current situation that I've run into many a time and about to go through again. Sales booked a buffet for a wedding. The event is sold and booked for months now, menu has been set for weeks if not longer, in fact pretty the entire event is pretty much paid for in full. I get a BEO to do a tasting for said event in 4 days for a the function that's 11 days away. WHY??
    I was under the impression that "tastings" were to taste several different options to select from when setting up the menu, not to cook the entire final menu for 2 people to taste thinking they are getting a free dinner out of it. Other bizzare things I've run into is....It's a tasting not a 5 course meal you've invited you're entire wedding party to try out! Then they are upset that it's in all actuality not FULL plates but Small plates to taste! Do any of you Banquet Chefs have policies in place at your venue regarding food Tastings? Just wondering
     
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  2. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    I hear you...most likely in this situation the B&G were talking to someone/anyone maybe a complete stranger and while describing the upcoming event the third party said something like "What do you mean you did not have a tasting? The cost is built into the price and you should be suspicious that they did not do this for you!"

    A recent phenomena that (IMO) has grown out of the "absolute need" for an event (wedding) planner who will walk them thru every tiny piece of minutia.... talking them into ridiculously expensive party "must haves" and then take their cut (" finder's fee") from the vendors.
    Yes they will want a full meal....just be grateful it was late in the planning stage or they would expect full portions of the entire menu.
    I have had couples who thought they were going to get an entire 6/8 inch version of the complete cake...to scale...handmade flowers and string piping as well.
    I would provide 3 two bite samples of my choice along with condiment cups containing some fillings and buttercreams.
    Some wanted a hunk of fondant as well.
    My SOP was to package in a pretty box and hand it over for the lovely couple to enjoy in the privacy of their own space.

    Yeah.
    Now I remember why I retired.

    mimi
     
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  3. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    What I'd be doing if I were to still be pursuing the banquet market would be to keep extensive photo and blog posts about your own food. You can take all the photos you want of your food, your display etc that focus on you, not the client. Having a consistent history of work helps a lot in my opinion. I have photos of my work, of my set up, prep, whatever. If you want a taste? You gotta pay. Period. Feel free to have as many tastings as you like, but you pay for it all.
    I think my restaurant rule applies here as well as elsewhere..
    Trust is earned....but loyalty is bought and paid for.
     
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  4. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    I think you just need to tell em that "tastings" are a marketing tool,
    to help convince a client your product is what they truly want.
    And since they already contracted you based on... presentation, references,
    word of mouth, what have you, conducting a tasting became superfluous.
    And that your slightly reduced price to them has already reflected the tasting
    having been waived.
     
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  5. cronker

    cronker

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    Used to happen to me all the time.
    We used to get bridal couples wanting their tasting with both sets of parents, the bridesmaids and groomsmen and they would complain when everyone didn't get a full serve of each dish. And can we have a few bottles of the wines? And a private room? Saturday night about 7 for 7.30? What do you mean "we can't spend three hours walking around our function space because there is a other function in there?"
    Surely our wedding in three months is more important!
    We didn't really like any of the meals at the tasting, although we chose all of them, so we'll just come back next week on Saturday at 7.30 to try some more, and, oh, there will be another 6 people coming, so we'll need a bigger private room and more wine.

    Ummm - NO!
    Our rule was - bridal couple is complimentary, and receive one of each dish to try. Any other guests who require their own meal must pay. Tastings are held at a time that suits the chef, all wine is paid for except for a small tasting glass of each. Tastings are held wherever is most convenient for the venue and your theming needs can be discussed at a time when your space is empty.
    A LOT of wedding couples see the tasting process as a free night out with their friends - it isn't.

    In your case, I would simply refuse. It's a buffet, you aren't going to make a tasting version of every item on it. Buffets, in any case, are usually the cheapest option and therefore a tasting shouldn't be included. Every guest can choose what food they prefer from the various options, so I can't see any need for a tasting session, except to give your clients a free dinner. Tell them to head to the local soup kitchen for that.
     
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  6. someday

    someday

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    I mean, I say just do it. How many thousands of dollars are they spending to have a wedding at the facility? If you have to put up with the headache of doing a tasting for them to ensure their happiness, the happiness of their guests and their continued patronage at the place you work for, then so be it.

    I'm guessing your dealing with overzealous sales people who will "do anything" for the client to ensure their happiness and business. I'm also guessing that, as the chef, you are in a role that results in you having to deliver on said promises.

    I'm also guessing that to the sales people and the management it is worth it to have the chef be the one complaining and not the clients. They see the thousands of dollars in revenue, and I assume they expect you to tow the line.

    I've come to expect this stuff as a chef...I'm sure we all have to some degree. I know sometimes it sucks, but, hey, the life we chose.
     
  7. someday

    someday

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    I hear where you are coming from, but most banquet facilities and caterers are in the business of wooing clients...tasting for caterers are normal aren't they?

    If I, as a caterer, have to go to a clients house, set up, cook and clean an entire meal for them, so that they will (most likely) spend thousands of dollars to have me cater their events, I'm going to do it. If someone is going to come to my banquet hall and potentially spend $5,$10,$15k+ on a wedding, I'm not going to ask them to commit to that with some pictures and a blog post about my catering food.

    Weddings, bat/bar mitzvahs, big expensive parties, etc. are all anxiety minefields for the people who are hosting and spending money on it. Part of running a successful banquet hall and/or catering operation is SELLING the clients on services...one of the best ways to do that is to make them feel taken care of, at ease, and relieved. If they taste your food, and it is delicious, then that is one less thing for them to worry about. It will make them less stressed, and more inclined to do business and repeat business with you. Their rich friends will get recommendations about you. Your client list will grow.

    I thought this stuff was par for the course? Am I wrong?
     
  8. cronker

    cronker

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    Not wrong at all, in fact very correct.
    I'm more than happy to offer the tasting, and kick it out of the park to make sure the clients love everything possible.
    What annoys me is when you just know you are being taken for a ride. There is really no need for the couple to invite everyone and their dog to the tasting. I've been in a few rodeos and I know when they are looking for a free party for their mates. A tasting is just that- a chnce to sample your wares and decide what to serve their guests. Treat it as such, and we're fine.
    But when they see it as a free meal for themselves and their friends, I know I'm being played and I don't appreciate it.
    My venue has excellent word of mouth and we are always booked solid during wedding season.
    In the current financial climate, understandably everyone wants to get out of expensive weddings as cheaply as possible. I'm more than happy to work with my client to work out ways to provide their fairytale wedding without having the parents mortgage the house.
    But if they are just trying it on, well...
     
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  9. justa chef

    justa chef

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  10. justa chef

    justa chef

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    Thanks To everyone who responded. there is alot of good advice and alot of sensible advice. I actually have set up photo's of dishes and such for clients to look at and I also sit down with the clients and assist in planning their menus and upsetting the event as well.
    What I have been thinking alot about & what my intention of doing is to have a major event durin a slow time of the year and invite all the clients and potential clients to come to a grande event. I mean I hace 23,000 square feet to work with. I'd invite all sorts of venders, DJ.s Preformers and have all sorts of stations set up. Whether it be popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, Fried Dough...Pasta Stations, Asian Stations etc....etc.
    The Culinary staff will prepare one of everything on the menu buffet style. Front of house will have one of the rooms set up with every possible color combination. Like a pwesonal wedding expo. You of course chagr for each person and the fee is refunded back if they book with us. Thid way there is just one big tasting and everyone can see what the possibilities are.
    This is the only way I can think or satisfting both the clients needs and the operations needs....
     
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  11. cronker

    cronker

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    Yup, we do that every year - the wedding expo. Invite all your preferred vendors - DJs, photographer, photo booth, cake, theming, limousines, everything.
    We give a 20% discount off everything if you book on the day. We do all this in wedding off-season.
     
  12. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    The OP was re was the 10 day out event that was booked and paid for.
    Seems there is a disconnect between sales and BOH and the tasting sessions are not being offered and booked.
    See how easy that is when you can direct the gunfire at another department?
    I have been to a few (semi) private in house events (both as a guest and vendor) and found this way to be the most efficient.
    By charging up front you weed out most of the lookie loos and opens up some time slots for everyone to get down to brass tacks and do some serious business.

    mimi
     
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  13. justa chef

    justa chef

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    yes...it was a tasting just for the sake of doing a tasting that's not a tasting atol...it's dinner..lol....Your are correct when you say there is a disconnect between the Sales Dept and BOH. It's the first operation I've worked in...in my 40 year career, where the chef didn't get involved in conversation with the client and upselling the event. ...But nevertheless, it is what it is. I've written new menus and we'll roll them out for the fall.....I guess I have a different perspective of a "Tasting" than they do.....but that's why you do the off season extravaganza...it solves all the problems of tastings and it sells itself
     
  14. neeraj rajak

    neeraj rajak

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    Hello chef
     
  15. cronker

    cronker

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    Often, the sales people are working under a very different set of rules than the folk who deliver the end result.
    I used to work with a woman who could sell ice to Eskimos, however she would continually oversell our function space. "No problem! We can seat 700 guests!" In a room that held 450.
    One hour turn around from a conference to a dinner? Easy.
    But her goals were always about meeting targets and worrying about logistics was left to me.
    In the OP's case, it sounds like the tasting was almost an oversight which was only realised late in the game.
    As counterproductive as it might sound, I always try to ensure that tasting sessions are NOT viewed as a free meal. I often try to schedule more than one tasting at the same time, giving chef a chance to get through a few at all one time, and also making sure that the client realises that it's not a free party.
     
  16. someday

    someday

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    Well, the problem really boils down to not being able to say no to someone who is spending thousands of dollars at your facility. If I client calls up the sales person and asks to taste the food, even at a date that is well past the accepted time for doing a tasting (i.e. during the sales process) it is hard to say no. Sales people are trained to bend over backwards to please the clients. Sometimes these things can be mitigated by non-refundable deposits, etc..so the client can't pull out last minute, but still.

    I get that it's hard to not feel taken advantage of, but at the end of the day it falls under the purview of the chef, and the business in general, to bend over backward for the client. Sometimes it sucks, but we all have a choice where we work.
     
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  17. cronker

    cronker

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    Agreed. We are all in the business of making people happy. It's when I see that goodwill being taken advantage of that I internally turn red. The tasting was less than a fortnight out from the event, surely that part of the process should have been put to bed far longer ago.
    It just looks like an opportunity to get a free meal out of the venue- and, yes, that cost is built in, but it makes more work for chef, and realistically there won't be any major changes to the menu so close to delivery date. Especially since it's a buffet style meal.
    We usually offer a tasting session once the deposit has been paid and the date secured. The bridal couple choose 3 or 4 dishes from our menu to try, every other person who wishes to be involved pays. I simply would not offer a tasting for a buffet. Buffets are a cheaper option in my world, and usually have multiple protein options, vego, sides and accouterments. Something for everyone.
     
  18. someday

    someday

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    I agree that in an ideal world that would be SOP. Unfortunately, that is often not reality. And a sales person can't realistically be expected to say no to a customer spending thousands of dollars. Compared to that, doing a tasting is small potatoes. Most businesses would rather have an annoyed chef than an annoyed client.

    And I bet if push came to shove you WOULD offer a tasting for a buffet. The headache and annoyance of doing one is, again, small potatoes compared to the potential amount of money they would spend.

    We all get annoyed at the absurdity of clients and customers. That's why there are places like this to come complain about it. :)
     
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  19. cronker

    cronker

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    I very much see your point, and agree wholeheartedly, except about the buffet tasting. Our venue is very highly rated, and the owners and chefs only do buffets under duress. Buffets are not part of the business model and we strongly disagree with clients who demand them. Unfortunately, we must supply buffets because of the demand. My chef hates them, because he can't control the quality of the offerings, and can't really supply lovely steak, fish or Vego dishes to his level. The last scrape of a beef dish in the chaffing pan isn't going to be anywhere near as good as the first.
    But that's the world we live in.
    I can happily show bridal couples how to skimp and save, but I always advise never to skimp on the meal.
    In Australia, we have a very large immigrant population. Italian and Greek weddings are bread and butter for us. There is no expense spared - if cousin Voula had six courses at her wedding, we'll have seven, and so on. But even then, the tasting is majorly important. I was held at gunpoint against a wall when my chef ran out of ravioli and had to substitute tortellini for ten dishes - not kidding!
     
  20. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    I agree...it is the food that will be remembered.
    Budget it FIRST and if things get tight drop the cigar roller.
    Maybe the belly dancer as well :(.

    mimi
     
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