A and E's We Mean Business- Glorified Janitors For Outback Catering

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By far my most popular posts have been my reviews of A & E's show We Mean Business. This week I saw their "makeover" for Outback Catering in Van Nuys, California. We learn owner Doug Noland has owned the business for 20 years. Events are roughly 30% of what they were when he started.We see he has collected a lot of props used during his events and, like many small business owners, just stored them in his offices.

Bill Ransic's team including HGTV's designer Peter Gurski and Katie Linendoll set the goals:
1) Bill is going to observe an event and "teach Doug how to sell."
2) Bill is going to get Doug's daughter involved in the business.
3) Peter is going to:
a)Put a sign out front
b) Make the front of the building stand out
c) Organize the office
d) Replace the old carpet
4) Katie, of course is going to add lots of sponsor Dell's gadgets


We see Bill goad Doug to shout, "I'm willing to fight for success" like a couple frat boys. Then Peter announces they have a dumpster and a truck - everything out to the walls. Peter says, "You need to throw out your past." We see Doug scowl and worry about his memorabilia that is being treated like soiled linens. Why?

Because Doug is told, "Your junk filled office is turning people away." OK, let's just stop here. I've used plenty of caterers over the years, I even worked for one during my college years but that's another story. Never have I gone to their offices, they have always come to my house.

We next hear Peter announcing that Doug is "throwing out some weird attitude at me." He tells the daughter she has to convince her father to change because, "I'm done." We then see him like a petulant boy drive off, the daughter try to tell her father what should be thrown out and then, ta-da, Peter returns.

Katie starts rattling off how all the computers and phones are so outdated with an implied "stupid- don't you get it?" She tells them she is really annoyed because they dared to not look at her with rapt attention because she is, we are to believe, the only one who is "serious about saving this business." As she outlines the changes, we see Doug getting more concerned. He says, "I'm really nervous about learning new software." Totally understandable for a guy in his fifties but that is never addressed.

We see Bill show up at one of Doug's events and proceed to see Doug pass out cards and say he needs to sell like this at his office. Not sure what that meant but Bill added nothing to Doug's sales abilities.

The reveal of course is a shock, white and pink gingham now adorn the front of the building. From the beginning I doubted how much drive-by traffic a caterer in an industrial complex in the heart of the San Fernando Valley was losing but OK.

In the followup clip, we see Doug say the changes were "All great," while wiping his brow. During the update he says the best part of the We Mean Business visit was "cleaning everything up."

My take on this episode? This was all focused as if this were a retailer where people were coming to you. The real job of a caterer is pitching the client in their home, upselling and adding on once they see the location. While DOS is an antiquated platform to run business, how does a whole new system really help him make money? Again, never addressed. Here are four of my recommendations:

  1. Look at your food costs and pricing. Are you making enough on the events? Probably not charging enough. A cursory Google check found local competitors charging anywhere from $3 to $7 more per plate.
  2. Invest in better paper goods. Cheap foam plates and bargain basement utensils do not look like a caterer but a buddy who's helping you out. They don't have to be logo'd, just present a better image.
  3. At your event, have a card people could fill out for a coming event with their name, email and event date for you to follow-up with. That proactively builds sales instead of passively giving out your card
  4. Film your events and post on YouTube. That way you can show what you do, include customer testimonials and attract new business.

Again, this show purports to change businesses. What it usually does is act like janitors, smug know-it-alls and interior designers. The tough work is left wanting.

You want to have your business cleaned and painted? Call these guys. You want to change your business? Look at your fundamentals and visit my site.