A Change Log Your Chef Will Love!
They say that nothing in life is certain but death and taxes. But if you ask a hotel catering manager they will add one other thing to life's list of certainties: BEO changes!
I could (and will one day) write a whole other article on great ways to prevent those last minute BEO changes made by clients, but even the world’s best catering managers end up with BEO changes that need to be communicated out to the operations teams.
So how best to communicate those changes? The old-school way was always to print a fresh copy of the BEO (often on colored paper - and why pink?!), stamp it "Revised" and then distribute it.
There are a few things that I don't like about this method of communicating changes. First of all, it is a terrible waste of paper. Secondly it is a very labor intensive way of communicating. But what I hate most about this method is that it becomes way too easy for the operations teams to not fully acknowledge the actual changes that were made.
You see, what happens is that when the operations teams receive the revised BEO more often than not they just pull the old BEO out of the binder and replace it with the revised one. Yes it certainly is true that a good Chef of Banquet Manager will go through the BEO and read the changes but not all are so fastidious. Even if you circle, highlight, star etc the actual changes, nothing can really force them to read actual change.
Many a time I have had a chef complain at the last minute that they didn't know that I had switched out pastries for donuts for the continental breakfast, even though it was on the revised BEO. Yes this was their fault, but surely this is conflict best avoided...
So I prefer using a change log.
All good computerized sales and catering systems come with a BEO change log report that can easily be distributed daily to the ops teams. From a catering standpoint it is easy. As you make a change to the BEO you then just manually type a summary of the change onto the change log. The change log is then distributed once or twice a day to the kitchen, AV, Banquets etc. The receiving departments then read the report and handwrite the changes that relate to them on their own copies of the BEO.
I love this method as for the following reasons:
1. It actually forces the departments to read the changes at the time you are communicating them.
2. The departments may not want a new copy of the BEO as they may already have their own notes written on the original BEO.
3. It is easy to see how many changes each catering manager is making each day, which in turn may help identify learning opportunities for catering managers to prevent so many changes.
4. There is a paper trail of all the changes and when they were made (CYA).
5. It cuts down time and paper.
Now I am well aware that many of you reading this have tried to move to a change log in the past but have faced push-back from some of the departments. I don't seek to point fingers, but yes that push-back is usually from the kitchen. This may surprise you but I totally get their opposition to the change log. They hate the change log as they waste a lot of time having to read about change that have nothing to do with them. Why should a chef have to know that you have added two extra flip charts to the meeting room?
So here is how I win over the kitchen!
My compromise on the change log is to start each entry on the change log by typing in CAPS the abbreviation of the section of the BEO that the change relates to. For example when I replace the danishes with donuts I type the change as follows:
"FOOD - replace danishes with donuts"
By starting out my change with the section of the BEO it means that the Chef (or other departments) can just quickly scan through the BEO and stop to read just the changes that relate to them. Not having to read through a whole paragraph about flip charts only to find that it has nothing to do with food will surely appease the Chef somewhat!
One final point on the change log - be consistent with the time that you distribute it, especially if sending it via email. If the operational departments know that the change log comes out promptly at 4pm each day then they are not wasting time going back and forth to their computer to see if it has arrived. This also means that you should send an email notification at the same time if there were no changes for that day, so they are not left wondering if they didn't get the change log.
Perhaps it's true that the operational departments will never be completely happy unless there are no changes at all - but at least with these little tips in mind then the relationship between catering and operations might be just that little bit more harmonious!
I think it’s fairly safe to say that typing up Banquet Event Orders is probably the single most time consuming task for any Catering Sales Manager, Convention Services Manager etc. After years of doing the job, many of us have our little routine and believe that we are fast as possible in doing the BEO’s, but I think it’s worth revisiting processes every now and then to see if there really is an easier way…
Are you copying old BEO’s as much as you could?
We all love repeat bookings because (among many other sales reasons) they offer the opportunity to copy last time’s BEO’s. Crafty meeting planners often suggest copying last year’s BEO’s because they know that there is an increased chance that when we do this that we will forget to change the menu prices on the BEO – which probably have gone up since last year’s event! So a little piece of advice – ALWAYS print up a copy of any BEO you are sending to your client and look it over before you email it out. You are far more likely to catch any errors that way. I personally prefer the method of having a buddy in the office that you swap BEO’s with before sending to your clients as it’s much easier to catch other people’s mistakes. Its one thing to leave the flip chart off of the BEO, but it’s another thing altogether to charge last year’s prices for the coffee!
Ok, so repeat bookings are the obvious chance for saving time through copying BEO’s. But have you ever considered creating template bookings in your system with template BEO’s purely for the purpose of copying to new events?
Think about how many of your events end up looking so similar to each other. Consider weddings. A wedding BEO is probably the most detailed BEO that is prepared, yet most wedding BEOs contain pretty much the same information. I suggest creating a template Wedding booking, with a template Wedding BEO. Spend quite a lot of time putting this template wedding BEO together as its going to become your standard for all future weddings. So put insert all your standard setup information, and include items like ‘Flowers being provided by:…’ and ‘Napkin Fold:..’ – leaving space to fill in the blanks when you are working on a specific wedding. From this point forward, for every new wedding you work with the first thing you will do is copy over the template BEO and from then just filling in all the blank spaces.
Once you have copied over the template BEO to the wedding you are working on you can print it up and take it to your meetings/tastings with the Bride so that it’s a pretty easy worksheet/checklist. Never again will you leave your menu tasting and realize that you forgot to ask the bride which color table linens she wants!
The other advantage for using a template BEO for weddings is that it creates consistency for all future weddings. Obviously consistency makes it much easier for the Banquets team.
Now think about what other events you could create template BEOs for. If you do a lot of day meetings that are set u-shape, with a projector, water station, AM and PM breaks etc – then go ahead and create a template BEO for day meetings. Same would apply for Bar mitzvahs, Breakout meetings, Holiday Parties – any area that you see a trend.
So let’s be clear – a template BEO:
· Saves time
· Creates consistency
· Decreases the likelihood that you will forget something
· Makes it easier to provide more detail
Seems like a no-brainer right?!