Corporate Caterers Serves Up Special Services with Mobility Solution
The AT&T solution has and will continue to set us apart from others in the market."
- Dennis McGinley, Partner, Corporate Caterers
Better track and manage catering personnel as they deliver and set up food for corporate clients
Xora GPS TimeTrack from AT&T running on the AT&T wireless network for food delivery management; AT&T Business Messaging for urgent communications with catering personnel
Improved productivity on the road; lower fuel costs; enhanced food presentation training; increased customer confidence and trust
Catering services for corporate clients
About Corporate Caterers
For 15 years, Corporate Caterers has provided catering services for its corporate clients throughout Florida. The company serves approximately 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies. With locations in Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Myers, and Naples, Florida, Corporate Caterers has approximately 15 employees who prepare fresh breakfasts and lunches every morning and 35 catering personnel who deliver and set up events at client locations. Nine franchises are currently in operation with more planned.
Corporate Caterers wanted to ensure on-time service by finding a better way to track its catering personnel when delivering food to corporate client locations. With gasoline nearing four dollars per gallon, the company needed to track the mileage of catering associates for accurate reimbursements. Great care must be taken when setting-up food for a successful catering event. Therefore, Corporate Caterers needed a way to “see” how food was being presented for continuous improvement.
Corporate Caterers’ catering personnel are now equipped with Xora GPS TimeTrack™ from AT&T – mobile workforce management software that is loaded on their Samsung Rugby® cell phones and running over the AT&T wireless network. They can now record mileage for accurate reimbursement of fuel costs and take a photo of each food presentation to confirm on-time services for clients. The photos also help Corporate Caterers train catering personnel about preferred presentation techniques. AT&T Business Messaging gets urgent messages to the catering personnel for unexpected client needs.
Delivering Something Special
In 1997, Dennis McGinley and Jim Gass joined to form Corporate Caterers in Miami, Florida. Since then, the company has expanded its reach to other south Florida metropolitan areas. Nine franchises are currently in operation in Florida, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas with more on the way.
Both McGinley and Gass were once general managers for a restaurant chain, yet catered together as a side business. They had observed that corporations were catering more and more breakfasts and lunches for their clients and employees. So when the restaurant chain went out of business, the part-time partners realized they had a full-time opportunity in corporate catering.
Rather than meeting in a restaurant, many companies now host clients in the convenience of their offices, making product demonstrations and other resources easily accessible. McGinley, the partner heading operations, explained, “Corporations need great food to make office-bound meetings positive experiences for clients.
Equally important for them is an appealing presentation and highly reliable service. Our customers must trust that we will be there when we say we will – on-time, every time.”
And when it comes to catering for employees, the requirements are just as strict. While corporate-provided food may seem like a practice from the past, McGinley advised the trend indicates the opposite is true. “In 2008, corporations did cut back in catering services, but we are experiencing a rebound. In 2011, we equaled our best year in 15 years; and in this year’s first quarter, we’re 23 percent ahead of last year.”
McGinley believes this growth is due to its major benefits for companies. “When employees go out, a 30-minute lunch can turn into 45 minutes if they don’t get served quickly or get caught in traffic. With catered breakfasts and lunches, companies give and get back: they offer a perk for their employees, and can increase productivity. When served in the office, employees can enjoy their meals, form closer relationships, and even get work done – planned or unexpected.”
From working as a dishwasher while attending college to his present-day executive responsibilities, McGinley has always worked in the fast-paced foodservice industry. “Being successful in this industry requires a lot more than just knowing how to cook. It’s about providing customers with service and reliability and building trust. It’s about making every catered event something special.”
What appears as a straightforward business model is actually quite challenging. Long hours, perishable food and the need for meticulous timing have made even the best cooks fail in the catering business.
Corporate Caterers starts its mornings at 4:00 a.m. when the kitchen gets the first delivery of fresh produce, poultry and meat for the day’s meals. The catering personnel arrive between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. to make breakfast deliveries. Then all employees turn their attention to making and delivering lunches. McGinley shared, “Even though few mistakes happened over the years, it always bothered me that once the catering personnel left the kitchen, I really had no control over what happened next.”
McGinley wanted to be able to track his catering personnel to be sure deliveries were taking place on-time, every time. He also needed to track their mileage to better control fuel costs. “We reimburse our catering associates for their mileage, which was always based on the honor system. When we started the business, gas was about a dollar per gallon. We would fill up tanks each morning regardless the number of miles driven for actual deliveries. We obviously had to change with gas at almost four dollars a gallon.”
McGinley also found his early morning meetings for all catering personnel didn’t work well to communicate important reminders and news. Some had deliveries while others just didn’t make the meetings for other reasons. “A good example of a reminder for our catering personnel is on Good Friday. Every year, we have to make sure they pick-up our equipment like chafing dishes from clients’ businesses before they close early that day. If we don’t get there, we have equipment issues the following Monday.”
Saving Time and Fuel
While switching to AT&T network services McGinley consulted with his AT&T account team about his desire for visibility and control. Now the Xora GPS TimeTrack from AT&T along with the company’s 35 Samsung Rugby cell phones running on the AT&T wireless network accurately track catering personnel and their mileage.
When they pick up their deliveries every morning, catering personnel log into the Xora GPS TimeTrack application and input their mileage. At each stop, they continue these inputs and complete confirmation forms using the Xora solution. “Our catering personnel appreciate Xora, because it helps them easily track their mileage at each delivery,” said McGinley. “They no longer need to remember to write their miles on a piece of paper, or estimate their total miles at the end of the day.”
Based on actual mileage captured via the Xora GPS TimeTrack application, McGinley estimates the company is saving $1,500 per month in mileage reimbursement costs.
And if equipment needs to be picked up, McGinley quickly locates the nearest catering associate by using the Xora application and its GPS functionality. Emergency situations can be handled as well. “The other day, one of our catering associates had an accident,” said McGinley. “It wasn’t a bad one, but Xora helped us get to him quickly by providing all the information we needed to report the exact location of the accident – detailed information that we didn’t have before.”
Another part of the AT&T solution: Reminder messages are now sent to catering personnel using AT&T Business Messaging. Even if they miss early morning meetings, catering personnel get immediate text messages, giving them all the information needed to take action.
Picturing the Presentation
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the AT&T solution was not planned. “As each catering associate sets up the food, he or she takes a photo of the presentation via the Xora application on the phone,” said McGinley. “In this business, presentation is critical. Clients eat what looks familiar and appealing.”
Before, Corporate Caterers didn’t have records of the food set-up times and quality of the presentations. Now it has both and can show its clients.
McGinley explained, “Many of our clients are not physically at their catered meals and functions. For example, a client in New York may hire us for catering services in her company’s Miami office. With the AT&T solution, we can now send that New York client a photo of the food presentation, demonstrating how beautiful and impressive it looked. This goes a long way to building their trust.”
The photos also help confirm set-up times. “If a client says we were late setting up their catered lunch at 12:30 p.m. when the scheduled time was 12:15, I can now pull the photo, check the time stamp and provide the client with the actual time. It helps us clear up any misunderstandings, which is invaluable for client relationships.”
Another major benefit is the use of the photos as training tools. McGinley observed that some catering associates are naturally more creative than others. Using the photos, he can show exceptional, preferred presentations to new catering personnel and those in need of development. “In the past, I tried describing what presentations we really liked,” said McGinley. “Now I can show them, pointing out what’s good and what needs improvement.”
With the enhanced training, food may even taste better. Many times, new catering personnel don’t position the food far enough down into the chafing dish, which means it doesn’t stay hot. “With the photos, I can show all catering associates exactly how the food should be presented and set up to be appealing and tasty.”
Driving More Enhancements
McGinley advised using mobile applications to get there on time and improve food presentations has given Corporate Caterers a competitive advantage. Fuel cost savings are another big “plus” since gasoline prices may not return to lower levels anytime soon. At the same time, the company continues to utilize the capabilities of the AT&T solution.
Corporate Caterers with help from AT&T is developing an interface between its catering software and Xora application to automate the scheduling process. When the head office creates the day’s schedules for catering personnel, the individual schedules will be transmitted to each catering associate’s cell phone before he/she gets to the office for food pick-up. “This will help them better plan and be more prepared for any deviations in their typical schedules,” said McGinley.
Another enhancement will provide huge client benefits. McGinley continued, “When the food presentation photo is taken, it will automatically download into the Xora software, but then attach to the customer’s invoice. The customer can then see the presentation photo with the date and time of set-up. They will be reminded of what they are paying for – the food, presentation and reliable service. Now that is powerful. The AT&T solution has and will continue to set us apart from others in the market.”
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