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3 Takeaways from Catersource 2019

Last week, the Nowsta team was lucky enough to attend our third Catersource conference together as a company. In addition to being the premier conference for caterers and industry-adjacent businesses, Catersource has been a crucial part of Nowsta’s growth thus far -- we launched our product to the catering world two years ago at Catersource 2017, and then grew our customer base substantially after announcing several new features at last year’s Catersource.

This year, we traveled to New Orleans for Catersource 2019 as a more established company, but no less excited than we have been in previous years. After all, more growth means more customers to meet in person, right? Not only that, but as a company dedicated to bringing new staffing solutions to the catering world, we need to know the trends, issues, and people shaping the industry -- nowhere offers a more complete view of those things than Catersource. Below, we’re going to break down three of our biggest takeaways from this year’s conference.

Automation is changing everything

It feels like every year, new technology providers enter the catering space with the ability to help companies save some combination of time, money, and effort on one discrete part of their business. Caterers can now use:

  • Caterease and Total Party Planner for event booking

  • Nowsta for staff scheduling, time tracking, and labor costing

  • Monkey Media to run a delivery business

  • Galley for food purchasing

  • A fleet of non-catering specific tools for digital marketing, online reputation management, social media optimization, and other crucial customer acquisition functions.

With so many software products coming onto the market at lower and lower prices, it feels like we’ve reached a tipping point for caterers. These tools are no longer just nice to have for mere convenience -- they’re becoming necessary to remain competitive. We’ve seen this first-hand in markets where Nowsta has particularly deep penetration. Caterers will come to us and sign up because they can no longer reliably schedule staff over email -- they’ll try, but then find everyone’s been booked by a competing caterer on Nowsta.

That’s obviously an extreme example, but it illustrates an important point: When a tool becomes ubiquitous enough, it goes from competitive edge to table stakes. In the coming years, we believe the most successful caterers will be the ones who can truly master these new technologies and use them together in concert -- via integration or otherwise -- to automate more of the manual processes around bringing in new customers and delivering the best possible event experience.

Our customers are geniuses

It’s always a thrill to travel to a conference, head to the main stage, then look up and say, “Hey! I know her -- she uses our product!” And as our footprint grows, it’s an experience we get to have more and more. This year, Nowsta users led several workshops and speaking sessions:

  • Anthony Lambatos, CEO of Footers Catering & Events, gave talks on culture and leadership in catering, while COO April Lambatos held a session on leading as a woman in hospitality.

  • Jeremy and Renee Miner of Empyrean Events discussed how to build a culture of creativity in a business where trends are always changing.

  • Michael Stavros of M Culinary Concepts talked about how to foster collaboration and cohesiveness between culinary staff and event designers.  

  • Steve Sanchez of The JDK Group delivered a four-part deep dive on catering sales methods.

  • Heidi Brice of Puff n’ Stuff laid out her philosophy on translating values into action while running a business.

And that’s just a few of the highlights! We’re honored to have some of the industry’s most respected, knowledgeable leaders as our customers -- this year’s Catersource really hammered that home for us.

People like free money (especially when they can get it fast!)

If you chanced by the Nowsta booth this past Catersource, you may have noticed a small crowd gathered around a big, spinning wheel. That was the Nowsta Prize Wheel! Conference attendees were invited to walk up, give it a spin, and win either Nowsta gear or a cash prize ranging from $5 to $100.

Unsurprisingly, the chance to win cash was a big hit -- we were spinning that wheel practically all day! But believe it or not, we didn’t set up the prize wheel to test whether or not people would be interested in free money. We did it to show off NowstaPay.

NowstaPay is a new offering of ours that lets Nowsta users pay staff each shift’s wages as soon as the work day is over. Instead of waiting around two weeks for a paycheck, employees with NowstaPay can push their daily earnings into their bank account instantly as soon as their boss approves their hours on Nowsta. We launched NowstaPay with a few customers last year, and they’ve seen huge benefits in recruiting and retention -- some say they’ve more than doubled job applications and reduced turnover by over 40%!

It’s not hard to see why NowstaPay is such a hit with staff though. Nearly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 40% say they’d have no plan for handling a $400 unplanned expense. The traditional two-week pay cycle gives workers too little flexibility in regards to finances, forcing them toward shady solutions like payday loans when disaster strikes. And even those whose financial situations aren’t so dire would rather get their money faster -- especially temporary staff who work jobs for multiple employers each month, as is common in the catering world. If you were a waiter deciding between two events to work on a Saturday night, which would you choose -- the one that’ll put money in your bank account the next day or the one that’ll send you a check in two weeks?

We couldn’t think of a better way to spread the word about NowstaPay this Catersource than to let people experience it for themselves. Everyone who spun the Nowsta Prize Wheel and won cash received an email within 24 hours with a link to cash out their prize instantly on NowstaPay, as if they’d just worked a shift for a company on our platform. If you’d like to learn more about NowstaPay or see it for yourself, you can always sign up for a demo on our homepage.

Until next year!

Catersource is a must-attend for anyone who wants to know where the catering industry is going and hear directly from the best operators out there. How could you miss it? We’ve already booked our tickets for Catersource 2020 in Las Vegas, and can’t wait to see you there.

Henry heads up marketing at Nowsta: the easiest way to schedule, manage, and pay hourly staff.

Helping you become a better manager.