On the 27th of May earlier this year, I proposed to Kay.
We were in her favourite place in the UK, Holkham Bay on the North Norfolk Coast. Josie and I planned the whole event together and when we asked the question, it was from us, rather than just me.
The only thing that was missing was a ring. Now, before you start writing me emails of dismay, hear me out. Recently, two friends of mine have proposed to their partners and on both occasions presented a ring. The trouble is there is a difference between what they thought a good ring was and what their partner thought a good ring was.
Several weeks after the proposal was accepted their fiancee’s had to be brave enough to suggest that the ring should be amended because neither of them liked the design.
I came up with a cunning plan to create a surprise but also give Kay the ring she wanted and would feel comfortable wearing forever.
I approached Mitch, who owns a jewellery shop in Basingstoke, She is also a friend and a long-serving EC member. We spent months secretly exchanging messages and calls with me sending Mitch photos of stuff Kay likes and Mitch proposing design ideas.
When the day came I was able to present Kay with a box that had the journey of the design in it. All the photos and initial ideas, along with an invitation to a champagne design experience.
There was also a piece of gold my mum donated for the ring that used to be her grandmothers and a diamond on “loan” from Mitch.
It worked like a dream. Kay thankfully said yes to Josie and I and off we went to Mitch’s to have the design finalised together and the ring made.
Happy ending and so it should be.
You see Mitch has really thought about what’s going on in the heads of a couple getting engaged. She truly understands the emotional drivers and my desire to get the moment “right”.
She’s thought clearly about each step in the process from our perspective. Not what’s right or easiest for her.
The ease with which I was able to talk to her, to reserving a car park space with our names on. She dealt so patiently with Kay, understand how vital it was to her and was prepared to meet me before 8 am on a Monday morning to pass the ring to me
Everything was done with her customer in mind and because of this, created a faultless experience. An experience that we will both treasure as much as the rest of the wedding journey we’re going on.
Fast forward a few weeks. We’ve started planning.
We’ve sourced the Marquee (thank you, Mark) and the photographer. But clearly, the thing to get right is the catering. Everything flows from this. The order of the day, the atmosphere, everything.
Get this right and we’ll have a great day, get it wrong and well….
Now the wedding industry is massive. Approximately 250,000 couples get married in the UK each year spending about £10 billion.
The catering alone is worth £1 billion with more than 6,500 businesses competing for a share of that pot.
So that’s about 38 weddings a year for each catering company with an average spend of £4000.
With such a massive market you’d think caterers would be working hard to grab a share of that pot. It’s worth about £152,000 in revenue per business if the market was shared equally across the board.
Now, if you’ve been in business for any period of time you’ll know that things don’t work like that.
It’s a truth that in any industry the Pareto rule will apply its leverage. Application of the rule means that 20% of these caterers are grabbing 80% of the market. This means 1300 caterers get £800,000,000 of the revenue with the remaining £200,000,000 being split by the remaining 5200. Or, the top 20% each have a £615,000 business and the 80% have £38,000 businesses. Quite a difference.
I know these figures are approximate and there will be a gradient of businesses in between but it does make you wonder how the disparity exists.
Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve figured it out if our recent experience is anything to go by.
Now, you might expect that I’ve been exposed to a number of catering companies in the last several years, and you’d be right. So my first port of call was always going to be companies run by people I’ve respected and admired for some time.
Unfortunately, one has one wedding booked for next June and it happens to be our date and for her god-daughter.
The other didn’t initially come back to me – we’ll come back to them later.
We were also given two recommendations by local people for local caterers who sounded perfect. So far, so good. No trawling through Google and we’re three up already.
To be sure of options we did have a look through T’internet and managed to find another five that looked like they’d do the job for us.
So, we put in our five online enquiry forms and called the two recommendations.
Then we sat back and waited for the phone to ring with caterers scrabbling over the opportunity to feed and manage about 120 people next June.
How many of the five firms that we filled in enquiry forms for, came back to us?
A measly two, less than half. We managed to have calls with both of these and ended up with quotes from both. Success? you say?
Well, no. One was, how shall I put it? Dull. The other was a single line via an email, which simply said: “Catering for 120 people on June 15th 2019 £7,000. That was it.
Not really what we wanted.
Thankfully, both of the local recommendations came back to us and arranged meetings.
One turned up, the other cancelled and then ignored our calls to reschedule.
The person who did turn up was great. We had a great chat and she provided us with a fine, detailed quote and some lovely options. Bingo.
We’re still, as I write this, three months on waiting for the rest of the firms to reply to our enquiry.
Now, remember the friend who didn’t come back to me from earlier in the tale?
Out of the blue, I get a message apologising for the madness of summer and would we be interested in her doing a quote.
Yes, please. You see, I know this person very well.
Importantly she is also well respected by someone else I respect so there are connection and familiarity in place. And she delivered us a fabulous quote which although more expensive than the other we had, was more comprehensive.
So, nine firms. We spoke to four that gave us quotes of which two were usable. We’re still waiting to hear from three, one ran away and one wasn’t available.
Now, you may think this is fine and I’d be happy. And, I am.
However what frustrates me is that there are four firms that simply didn’t show up and two that although gave us quotes – didn’t listen to us. That’s an unacceptable way to do business.
The contrast between the majority of the catering firms and Mitch our jeweller could not be wider. One is clearly playing in Pareto’s 20%, the others in the 80.
Six of the companies have been given the opportunity to deliver a wedding to 120 people and didn’t bother in one way or another to show up.
How does any business survive with that sort of attitude and lack of systems?
It may be they didn’t want the work. That they’re already booked out for next year. I’ll never know but I do know that I wouldn’t recommend any of them.
That alone is costing them thousands, not picking up the phone or replying to emails, even more.
Interestingly, all the successful caterers did was to communicate with us. To truly listen and deliver based on that listening.
Think about your customer first, really listen and please- answer the bloody phone.