Thursday, April 26, 2012

Exclusive Catering Contracts, an exploration begins...

Battleship NJ, once exclusive, now semi-exclusive. Contact me for details
The concept of exclusive catering contracts is a topic I have planned on writing about since I began this blog last June. It is a very interesting subject, the pros and cons are numerous and the consequence of exclusivity can make or break a catering company. My personal feelings and analysis of exclusivity has evolved over the years, and I will mostly withhold my own thoughts until I have covered the topic a bit more thoroughly. I would like you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions.

Sigma Sound Studios, an iconic Philly venue, exclusive to Feastivities
I would like nothing more than lively, spirited feedback on this and I will include good comments in the coming posts on this topic. This one will be short and sweet with only a brief exploration of the topic. I have a very busy day culminating in a very exciting dinner in DC with the Creative Coalition.

Why do public and private special event facilities seek exclusive catering partners? There are a number of reasons and here are some of the most relevant.

Revenue. Many institutions feel that the amount of receipts they can collect from their special event business will be greater if they bid out the exclusive contract and balance the selection decision with the best operator that has the best financial offer. Since an exclusive building essentially becomes a mini-monopoly, if a client needs to have their event in that facility, the caterer is not concerned with bidding against a competitor and will almost always charge more than they would if they were bidding on an event against others. Because of this, caterers will typically offer a higher percentage commission to the venue when they prepare their bids to become exclusive.
Electric Factory. Not exclusive, but a preferred list. Contact me for booking.

Facility protection. Museums especially, often prefer to deal with one food service operator when there are concerns about damage to their building from the wear and tear of frequent events. If you have a week where there are three events and three different caterers and damage is not discovered until a week later then it is very difficult to figure out who did the damage. Also, the exclusive caterer takes ownership of the venue and is usually more careful and respectful of the building and its contents.

Restaurant requirement. Many cultural institutions have in house restaurants and these are very often difficult situations for an operator to be profitable. By requiring the caterer to also operate the restaurant(s), the profits from events can be justified to offset the potential loss for the restaurant. Another rationale is that multiple operators in the same facility cause operational headaches, especially due to many venues having precious little space devoted to back of the house area for food service.
The new Barnes Museum, an exclusive venue opening Mid-May.

What can you add to this discussion? Comment on the blog, email or Facebook message me. I really want to hear what you have to say, especially if you are a planner of major events. The next post on this topic will explore some of the arrangements that are not exclusive, short lists, open sites, and everything in between.

Have a wonderful day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coming Soon!

For all your venue and catering sourcing needs. 
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Do the right thing.

This blog post has been brewing in my brain for years. When I decided to go to business school and focus on the hospitality industry for my career, a very big part of my motivation was not financial but humanitarian. I had been out of high school for 5 years, had a few interesting jobs, a few crappy jobs, went to three different colleges for one semester each, ski-bummed for two winters, and felt I was beginning to learn enough about the world to decide on a path.

Being a child of the '60s I had always wanted to do something to make the world a better place. As an adolescent, civil rights/poverty and the environment were the big issues for me. At one point I contemplated law, another thought was marine biology another was solar energy engineer. Then as I watched the world and learned more about how it worked it seemed to me the people who had the most potential influence both good and bad were the entrepreneurs. So I returned to school at CU Boulder, got my business degree (magna cum laude by the way) and had planned to join my father's business, make money and do charitable projects. Well those who know me, know that path was severely altered and eventually (15 years later) I ended up in the wonderful world of catering and special events which I now love.

Along the way I realized if you did not have gobs of money to give to charity, there were still many things an entrepreneur could do to make the world a better place. One thing I realized is very important is providing a good living for your employees and creating an environment where people like to get up in the morning (or evening in our biz) and go to work. Another important aspect is being a good corporate citizen in all matters surrounding your external environment. A third key principal is doing what you can for worthwhile causes, even if it's not cash but goods and services, influence, marketing and PR, etc. So here I am in 2012, working my rear off to reestablish my presence and financial solvency and all of a sudden this week comes along and forces me to write this diatribe before I can get any of my real work done. The brain just has to be purged.

So what led me to this point? My Facebook friends probably know already. The Five alarm fire in Kensington that occurred on Monday night was just three blocks from my apartment. As most know two firemen were killed in the aftermath of the blaze, and as I took a walk that morning I looked into the faces of at least a dozen firefighters who had just found out the tragic news. I cried. I got mad. Really mad. I took my anger to Facebook and tried to spread the word as best as I could. Then Tuesday and Wednesday I had to get back to work.

So now I get to the point I am trying to make. The absentee owners of that building did NOT do the right thing at all in their management of their ownership of that building. When I say "do the right thing" you could say that is totally subjective. Yes, but in most instances I believe that presented with evidence an overwhelming majority will agree on what is right and what is wrong. Is firing someone two weeks before their wife is about to give birth doing the right thing? No. Is firing someone during the holidays for reasons other than illegal doings doing the right thing? No. Is letting a building deteriorate to the point that the Thomas Buck Hosiery Building did before the fire doing the right thing? No. Just this week I found out a former business associate did not pay me a mutually agreed upon amount for a executive recruitment project. Is that doing the right thing? No. Lying, cheating, stealing, misrepresentation, are they the hallmarks of a righteous businessperson? NO!!!

So. What can be done? Many have said to me "Harry, that's the way things are always done in Philly" My response is so what, we have to do better. In my youth Philly was a boring, barren decaying city. Look at what we are now. Completely revitalized and exciting with much better things on the horizon. So what can we all do to improve things? Here are two suggestions.

Do the right thing. Don't cheat people to make a little extra money. Recycle. Be aware that you are sharing this planet with many others and that the Golden Rule goes a long way. Work together with your competitors to make your industry better. Smile. Let merging cars in. Don't be rude, Philadelphians are infamous for this. Don't fire people without truly giving them chance. Be true to your word, not just contracts. That's just a few suggestions.

Second suggestion. Maybe more powerful. Try to do business with those companies and people that do the right thing. Seek out vendors and collaborators that win awards for best employer or most environmentally conscious. Do they cheat to get ahead? How active are they in charity support? Is it for PR or for real substantial support? Ask around, Google them, read their Facebook and Twitter posts. Find the best, because economic Darwinism works faster than biological Darwinism.

One of my favorite questions in life is this: do they ends justify the means? Many justifications for horrible acts are based on the ends justifying the means. My personal take is no, the ends never justify the means. Why? You never get to the end, that's why, because the end is death. There was a bumper sticker/t-shirt a few years back that said: "the one who dies with the most toys wins". I could not disagree more. The one who dies with the most people saying the nicest things about them is the winner because that person's children and children's children will be forever proud of them.

No pictures today, I wanted the words to stand on their own. Hope you got something out of them.

Peace & Love,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Meeting Metropolis Part 2

Innovative Catering Concepts, a high capacity mobile food experience
Here are some images of my catering clients from the event today. Above is Innovative's mobile food trailer which differs from most food trucks you see as they can feed up to 1000 people per hour where most trucks max out at around 100 per hour. It's a real kitchen on wheels and can be wrapped in a client's logo if desired.
ICA Caterer of the year, Feastivities Events
The folks from Feastivities are promoting two of their exclusive venues, Sigma Sound Stage, the iconic studio where some of Philly's best music was recorded and the Stotesbury Mansion, a classic venue on Rittenhouse Square.
Yours Truly promoting my new website:
The new website will be up soon for all your venue needs. Look for my venue video on You Tube in the next few days.

Feast Your Eyes served Fresh made Honey Lavendar Ice Cream, YUM!!!
Front and Palmer is Feast Your Eye's home base and a really cool venue, if you have not been there yet, you should go take a tour.

The Pennsylvania Marketplace Trade Show was a very well produced event and I was extremely impressed with the effort and expense all of the exhibitors went through to help promote Philadelphia. Very proud of our city and our hospitality and event community today. Thanks to all who made this happen.


Meeting Metropolis at The PA Convention Center

LOVE was in the air last night!
I'm packing all my brochures, books, and nick-nacks, stocking my event emergency kit and preparing to hobble off to the Pennsylvania Marketplace Tradeshow. This is one of the signature events that is part of the three day Philly LOVEfest called Meeting Metropolis. An incredibly talented group of event planners, PCVB, PACC, and GPTMC staff are hosting this three day Grand Opening of the Convention Center expansion. There was a phenomenal opening reception last night with great food, diverse entertainment and Major League networking. I am very lucky to have been invited.

I will try to post again later today, let's start the day with some more love: All you need is love. Click it, enjoy it.