The catering industry is worth $52.3 billion, and 64% of that goes to a restaurant catering. People are now spending more money on restaurants than groceries, so that figure will only increase in the coming years.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to add catering to your restaurant’s list of services.
Why Offer Catering Services?
Before you get overwhelmed by the idea of adding more services, complications and overhead to your business, let’s take a look at some of the most compelling reasons why restaurants that offer catering are bringing in higher profits.
Offering catering services will put your brand in front of a new audience, increasing your exposure in the process. Some of your restaurant customers will also become your catering customers, and vice versa. Someone may try your restaurant’s food at a party, love it, and become a regular at your restaurant. Regulars who love your food may use your restaurant exclusively when catering their parties.
Ultimately, offering this kind of services will expand your brand beyond just inside your restaurant, which opens the door for new business.
One major benefit to catering is that you have a much better idea of how much food you’ll need, especially if you require customers to give advance notice when hiring.
Many restaurants have catering menus that explicitly list the number of services or how much food is provided with each option. Knowing the amount of food you’ll need means that you can order perishable goods with much greater accuracy and have far less waste. Less waste means more money saved and less of an environmental impact.
Catering can increase your revenue, particularly during slow periods.
Requiring customers to put down a deposit or pay in full before you order inventory will ensure that you have strong cash flow.
Catering often doesn’t require the same level of operational costs as running a lunch or dinner service. Event planners take care of the logistics of the space, and in some cases, wait staff isn’t required.
Boost Employee Retention
Restaurants that do catering offer more opportunities to work and in a variety of settings, which can help improve employee retention. Staff will learn new skills that your restaurant cannot offer, such as adapting to a changing environment. Of course, the biggest draw will be having the opportunity to work more hours – which translates to a higher paycheck.
Expand Your Menu
Catering is the perfect opportunity to expand your menu. You can introduce new items or put a new twist on your current menu items. These are great opportunities to try out new food items before putting them on your restaurant menu.
How to Enter the Catering Market
One of the biggest challenges that restaurants face is figuring out how to enter the catering market. The logistics of it all can be confusing or overwhelming for many restaurant owners.
Figure Out Your Format
Catering can come in a variety of forms, from party platters to private parties, off-site foodservice, carryout and delivery. It’s important to figure out what type of catering services you want to offer.
When most restaurant owners think of catering, they think of parties or off-site service. Even these two categories can apply to a variety of settings. For example, you could offer your services for:
Selecting your format will require research, planning and a good marketing strategy. Private parties are a bit easier than full-service, off-site catering which requires a great deal more planning and coordination.
Create Your Menu
Once you’ve decided on a format, you can begin developing your menu. For some restaurants, this process will be easier than others. If you’re known for your wings and pizza, you can be certain that your customers will want these menu items on your catering menu. But ultimately, you’ll want to create a special menu. Think in terms of bulk to find the right foods for your catering customers.
Catered food should be just as flavorful and delicious as the items on your restaurant menu. Consider how you’ll transport the food to maintain its quality. Will the items be ready to eat, or will they have to be reheated?
Have a plan for preparing, cooking, delivering and, potentially, reheating.
Get Staff Up to Speed
Staff will have to be trained to handle and manage these orders. Many restaurants have a designated staff member who coordinates catering responsibilities, such as booking private parties and taking phone calls. You can also have your current staff prepare catered foods during off-peak hours.
Communication is key if you want your catering service to be a success. Staff must understand what’s expected of them and how to carry out these tasks to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Invest in Supporting Resources
There are many software programs available that can help you get started with catering, including planning, sales, marketing and booking. Many will even generate invoices, letters and quotes for you.
How to Market a Catering Business
Marketing will play an important role in the success of your business. There are restaurant catering systems that can help you get started and stay organized. There are also online catering systems that make it easy for customers to place orders from their smartphones or computers.
One of the simplest ways to start spreading the word about your new service is to advertise it in your restaurant and on your website. Update your table tents to introduce your new service. Be sure to include information on how to order or include your catering menu. If you offer take-away menus, you can also have separate catering menus right next to your standard ones to let guests know that you offer this service.
Signage inside and outside of your restaurant can be very effective at promoting your catering service.
Additionally, you’ll need to update your website to include your new service. Many restaurants use their social media accounts as a means of promotion.
It's okay to start off small with your marketing and promotion to test the waters. If your customers are pleased, word-of-mouth will be one of the most effective forms of marketing for your new service.
Dedicate a little time each day to catering marketing and sales, and you’ll soon find your new service growing.