Catering companies with mobile set-ups come with their own unique set of event planning needs. And for Cascadia Pizza, a full-service food truck and catering business, those planning needs are even more niche. Cascadia Pizza prioritizes customer experience, offering its clients everything from customizable wood-fired pizzas to waitstaff, bartenders, event rentals, and more. However, with so many customized events, there are a lot of details to keep up with. Shannon Robles, catering director at Cascadia Pizza, doesn’t have any problems keeping it together with her catering software of choice.
With the help of Planning Pod, a cloud-based event management and catering software that is completely customizable to fit the evolving needs of a growing small business, Shannon is a mighty team of one, managing more than 200 events and four food trucks in a single year.
“When I think back to the catering system we had before, it was nothing like it is today,” says Shannon. “Being able to use Planning Pod for everything has helped us double our volume from last year—and I’ve been doing it pretty much solo, too! There’s no way I could have done all of these events on my own with our old system.”
In this article, we’ll outline Shannon’s favorite Planning Pod features and how she has customized the software with the help of our support staff to create a catering management system that works exactly the way she needs it.
Sharing event details with clients, staff, and vendors using customized Banquet Event Orders (BEOs)
One of the most popular items Shannon shares with her vendors is a custom banquet event order (BEO). The integration between BEOs and other event tools allows Shannon to easily consolidate all the important event details into one document and outline exactly what her vendors need to know to prepare for the event. Items on an average BEO may include general event information like the name, date, on-site location, and headcount, as well as other specifics, such as floor plans, set-up and tear-down instructions, food & beverage packages, original invoices and proposals, and electronic signatures.
With four food trucks operating seven days a week and 200+ events on the calendar, many taking place over the summer, this feature has saved Shannon hundreds of hours, enabling her to continue to scale the business without having to hire additional employees.
Creating custom food & beverage packages in minutes
Cascadia Pizza allows catering customers to completely customize what they want—from pizza toppings to table service to linen rentals. Shannon loves that she gets to help her clients fill in the gaps where ever they need it and essentially design their custom package.
“We take care of as much as possible,” says Shannon. “Basically, the couples just need to show up with flowers and some decor.”
However, that can lead to extra work for her when it comes to food, beverage, and equipment order management.
Because they are a mobile catering business, Shannon not only has to account for the menu items that will be needed for the event, but she also has to include food equipment, such as plates, platters, silverware, cups, and beverage containers. Since the food trucks can’t simply run to grab more equipment, even the smallest oversight could cause big issues on the day of the event.
“When you’re making a list manually each time, you might overlook something,” says Shannon. “For example, I might add beverages to the list, then look back and realize I forgot to add the beverage equipment—like what are they going to serve water in?”
Planning Pod’s menu management tools, complete with food & beverage package templates, remove the need for Shannon to worry about overlooking important line items or details. All she has to do is import the template and go through the list to adjust pricing, numbers and remove items that may not be necessary.
“We have equipment packages that are specific to the food service and items provided,” explains Shannon. “In general, our food trucks require a little bit more equipment than other ones do when we send them out. Having everything there and then just removing items from the list or adjusting the quantities is amazing.”
Automating the onboarding process for new clients with customized forms
Before Planning Pod, Shannon had to spend lengthy conversations with prospective clients to explain the available catering services, determine their needs, and get their event set up, only to stumble upon issues the day of the event – like the food truck not fitting the space or the venue having specific requirements that weren’t included on the invoice. Now, Shannon sends each of her new clients a series of custom forms to collect all of the information she needs to properly plan an on-site event and remedy any issues well before the day of the event.
“The Forms Builder feature is phenomenal,” says Shannon. “We utilize the living heck out of it! We have four main forms we send out when the client inquires. First, we send and gather a ton of information for them. Then, we send them a second email with a form customized for their event. We call this form our pre-proposal checklist.”
In the pre-proposal checklist, the client can carefully go through each item, like length requirements for food trucks, whether they want full-service or just the pizza, and more. Other forms may also include required services based on their venue as well as additional event and food service details. With these forms, the clients can review and input information on their own time. They can also sign off on the items, helping avoid discrepancies or misunderstandings as the event nears.
The forms builder tool is also incredibly easy to use and has saved Shannon hundreds of phone calls.
“It’s super quick. I have a very broad list of things, so I just go through it and whittle it down to each customer and change a few things here and there, and it’s perfect,” says Shannon. “Sending these out has been incredibly helpful, especially over this last summer, because taking 200 phone calls would have been a nightmare!”
Tracking conversations, sharing updates with the team, and eliminating hundreds of unnecessary phone calls with centralized communication tools
There’s a lot of information exchanged in event catering. This is especially true for Cascadia Pizza, which not only offers amazing wood-fired pizzas but also provides services such as waitstaff, bartenders, event rentals, and more.
With Planning Pod’s communication hub, emails between clients, vendors, and employees are automatically tracked and recorded within the platform. This way, Shannon never has to guess what a client said or scour her inbox to find an email to confirm a change, request, or important task. It all exists in the customer relationship management tool, and individual messages can be attached to the client’s event itself.
“We do a lot of all-inclusive weddings as far as catering goes, and being able to organize that with Planning Pod and have all my vendors in one place where they can view things like our BEO instead of having to go back in my emails and try and find a correspondence that may or may not have happened is extremely helpful,” says Shannon.
Shannon loves this tool because it keeps her organized. She can also share access to the information with her vendors, so they can simply log on and see everything they need to complete their job without having to contact Shannon or the guest.
“Being able to have a good system for our drivers, where they can easily find event information, whether it’s a BEO or just being able to go in and see what communication I’ve had with the client, helps to answer any questions they have without having to bother the bride and groom or whoever the contact is for us,” says Shannon.
Shannon also loves the call log feature. Because some of her clients still prefer the phone to email, she can easily track when she has talked to a client and leave notes from the call—a CRM feature that enables her and her team to quickly go back and see what was discussed.
Keeping up with 200+ events, various food trucks, and staff with shared team calendars
Before investing in a full-service catering software, Shannon and her team relied on Google Calendars to stay organized. The idea seemed great—you could access it from any device, share it with others, and view live updates from various team members. However, Shannon, like most business owners, quickly realized that working exclusively in Google Suite isn’t ideal.
With different people accessing the calendar, adding and editing event bookings, certain details would get lost, erased, or never even make their way onto the event calendar, creating a sense of panic.
“I know that I’ve accidentally swiped on something, and it’s just gone, and you think, ‘oh my god, what did I just remove from the calendar?’ It could have been a wedding, a simple food truck shipment, or a meeting notification. And you just have this panic attack,” says Shannon. “Luckily, we were always able to figure it out, but it was a nightmare. Planning Pod is a way easier way to communicate.”
Shannon and her team now have access to a cloud-based catering calendar designed specifically to fit the unique needs of caterers, event planners, and venue spaces. With this tool, Shannon can create a large team calendar where events are uploaded in real-time. She can even import event tasks to keep track of deadlines, color-code calendar items to make it easy to see what’s ahead, filter her view by calendar type, and add a personal sub-calendar for things like meetings, personal engagements, or other items that don’t need to be shared with others.
She can also adjust each user’s access rights, so everyone can get the information they need without too many cooks in the catering calendar.
Never forgetting an important task or deadline with Planning Pod’s task management solution
Like most event planners and caterers, managing and remembering details for every single event is an impossible task—this is where to-do lists come in. However, even with the best manual to-do list, it’s easy to miss something.
Shannon, a passionate list maker and organizer, uses the built-in to-do list feature to keep track of every detail and deadline for each event, so she never misses a detail! She can even assign tasks to her clients and vendors to keep workflows on track.
“At Cascadia Catering, we live off the to-do list feature,” says Shannon.
Shannon also recently discovered the option to import templated to-do lists, complete with deadlines based on the event date, so she can just go in, make a few tweaks, and move on, knowing that every necessary item is there. The to-do list also sends reminders when it’s time to complete a task, like ordering the food, sending a file, or collecting a payment (if the client isn’t already on automated credit card payments through the Planning Pod payment feature).
Shannon’s favorite thing about the to-do list tool, along with every other tool in Planning Pod, is that it is all completely customizable.
“My to-do list could be just a checklist, it could be more like a worksheet, or it could be whatever I need it to be. And it doesn’t have to be done the way I do it; it’s just that this is the way that works for me,” says Shannon.
Winning more clients with professional proposals and in-depth invoices that only take minutes to create
Cascadia Catering receives inquiries from event hosts throughout the state of Washington and clients who are out of state and even out of the country and are trying to plan an event from abroad. When clients are further away, Shannon feels it’s even more important to build trust and provide as many details as possible so that clients can feel confident in what they will receive the day of the event.
To do this, Shannon creates stunning proposals complete with photos and videos. Those proposals can also be converted into customized invoices at the click of a button, capturing each item that will be included in the client’s full-service catering order. The best part? It only takes her a few minutes to create and send them out.
Planning Pod’s proposal and invoice templates enable Shannon to create one really great proposal template and then simply log in, tweak it with a few custom details, and then send it directly to the client. Once the client is wowed by the proposal and decides to move ahead, they can provide a digital signature and electronic payment. They can even automate installment payments, which means no chasing down payments!
It’s a robust, easy-to-use catering software that grows with your business
Because Planning Pod offers such a wide array of features and flexibility, it’s a program that can continue to adapt to the unique needs of your event business, no matter how niche your business is or which direction you end up going!
Shannon and her team landed on Planning Pod because of this reason. With a little onboarding, practicing, and tweaking, they have created a management solution that is perfect for them.
“The beauty of Planning Pod is that you’re able to do whatever you need,” says Shannon. “You’re not held down to just one way to do something. There are probably about 10 different great ways to do the same thing, so you can find what works for you. The sky’s the limit with Planning Pod.”
And what happens when you get stuck? Just reach out to our dedicated support staff!
“Anytime I have a technical support issue, or something doesn’t seem to be working, or I forget how to do something, the support team replies almost immediately,” says Shannon. “I don’t have to wait days, just maybe a few hours, or, if it’s really late in the day, maybe the next morning, that’s about it. So I absolutely love that.”
Get started with Planning Pod
If you’re ready to streamline your catering event business and increase profitability, say goodbye to your spreadsheets. It’s time to invest in a catering management software solution that will help you get there. Planning Pod is a fully customizable event and venue management software that is designed to fit the needs of various event businesses, whether you own a venue, run a catering company, or plan weddings.
Though we are one of many catering software options available (others include Foodstorm, Flex Catering, Caterease, Curate, Total Party Planner, Better Cater, and CaterZen) Planning Pod truly aims to provide the best catering software possible to food service businesses of any kind.
Planning Pod has functionality for every aspect of your business, from sending proposals and collecting signatures to automated payment processing and tracking leads. Get started here to learn more about Planning Pod and how it can help you shave hours off your work week while increasing your sales.
“As far as a catering software goes, I don’t see any reason to even bother thinking of looking for something else after you try it,” says Shannon.