This article is part of a series called “Getting Off-Premises”, which examines how to build an off-premises business.
By Jim Rand, catering practice leader
Catering practice leader Jim Rand visits Arthur “Sandy” McElfresh, Vice President of Catering at P.F. Chang’s. Sandy gives a quick lesson on the differences between sales and marketing efforts in the catering business.
Jim Rand: You’ve had the opportunity to work in a very small franchise organization [and move] all the way up to a large international company now that you work for [P.F. Chang’s]. What’s one kind of key takeaway that, when you think about what you should do at an individual restaurant level all the way up to a company level?
Sandy McElfresh: Well, I think the most important thing, Jim, is somebody has got to own it [the catering business]. There has to be one person who is driving proactively the catering business—not just reactively, not someone who just answers the phone when it comes, but someone who is going out into the community, whether it be physically, or through the phone calls, or through emails, or any kind of marketing efforts. [Someone who] totally owns it and is driving those results—
Jim Rand: Along with the communication internally, and the follow-up in making sure every customer gets the experience that you want them to have.
Sandy McElfresh: Of course. Right.
Jim Rand: I’ve spoken to a lot of people about catering sales and catering sales teams. And it seems to me that there’s a confusion between selling and marketing. How do you define the differences between those two things, and why is it important?
Sandy McElfresh: Basically, marketing is about getting the message out, building a brand. Sales is about bringing the business in. It’s about taking that message that’s been developed. Being able to not only communicate it but turn it into action so that sales are actually happening. So, you’re actually getting a client to say “yes.” I think that’s the primary difference. And what ends up happening, especially in catering sales is—this is such a relational business. It’s about building relationships. Most of the time that salespeople are talking to a catering client, it’s not about closing a deal. It’s about remaining front of mind so that when the time comes that they want to buy, we are the ones that they think of.
Jim Rand: Right, it’s a long-term relationship. Whereas when you do marketing it’s somewhat more transactional: “Can I get him in the door once?” Marketing stops, I think, there. And then the relationship is developed once they get in the restaurant. But with salespeople, right, they keep developing that relationship as it goes.
Sandy McElfresh: And that’s what I try to tell salespeople, is, “Stop thinking that you’re in charge of marketing. And don’t be afraid of sales. Think of yourselves in business development, right? You’re out there developing relationships based on trust, based on a mutual interest, and mutual needs, and good communication.
Here are four marketing lessons to drive growth for your catering business.