How can I avoid double-booking catering gigs?

You can track catering proposals with CRM software or even a pen and paper. | Photo: Shutterstock


We rely on catering for extra revenue, especially in summer when a lot of our regulars are away. But we have limited staff and kitchen capacity (especially cold storage) so try to limit ourselves to one big party or two to three small parties weekly. I send out way more proposals than I get deposits for, so sometimes lose track of them. I recently booked a big party (bigger than usual for us) and then got a second booking for the same day on a proposal I sent months ago. Should I be putting a time limit on these proposals?

– Owner


Yes. It is a good practice to indicate a date by which the party needs to be confirmed for the proposal to be valid. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • Planning and managing capacity, as you are experiencing.
  • To help protect yourself from price fluctuations.
  • To apply light pressure on your client to make a prompt decision.

Your question touches on another issue too: tracking your proposals. It is a good idea to keep track of proposals that went out for each event date. Even with a low conversion rate, you might know that chances are a date will be booked before agreeing to send more proposals for a given date.

From a sales perspective, it is important that sending the proposal not end the conversation, but be a milestone to continue it. One practice I like is sending the proposal with a note that says something like, “Here is a proposal for your review. Please let me know some good times to meet or talk on the phone next week after you’ve had a chance to review it.”

If your client doesn’t respond with times, call anyway to ask if they have any questions about the proposal you sent. Even if you don’t book the event, it’s an opportunity to keep things moving, get feedback on why they didn’t go with your proposal and know that that date remains open for more revenue opportunities.

It's great that you have a mix of a la carte and catering revenue. Many operations get so focused on the day-to-day service that they don’t pay sufficient attention to these bigger opportunities, where one sale can make your week.

You can track your proposals with CRM software or even a pen and paper. Whatever you do, don’t send them out into world, expecting prompt follow-ups and deposits without being proactive.

More on the benefits of better managing your catering sales here.