Why Your Restaurant Should Cater
If there’s one thing we’ve learned since the financial crisis began in 2008, it’s that more potential guests than ever are willing to stay home. This is even true for people hosting get-togethers and special occasions. The trend is for people to open up their homes to host events, reducing the need for transportation and keeping costs down.
A standard way for many restaurants to adjust to this trend is to start low-cost, high-reward catering services that meet guests in their own homes. Catering takes the company brand outside of your four walls, delivering high-quality food and your typically exceptional service. It helps to cement established guests and win over new ones by diversifying your product line, all while doing what you already do.
For many restaurants around the country, adopting catering services has been a homerun at a much needed time. It may be time for your business to take the same step.
Keep it Simple
The best restaurant catering services find a way to combine simplicity and quality. This means scaling down the menu to the items a restaurant handles best. These items typically involve low-cost proteins, fresh ingredients, quality finger foods and sterno-fueled chafing dishes. They’re served on inexpensive but high-quality serving plates by staff members who care enough to make sure the endeavor is executed properly.
A scaled-down menu at an off-site location can achieve great results when it is well executed. Kitchens should concentrate on what they do best and work closely with vendors to get high volume at a reasonable price. While this is easier said than done, it’s a great model to follow, and one that many restaurants have turned into success.
How to Start
Restaurants can do well to market to their current customer base when starting a catering off-shoot. Email blasts, discounts, and social network marketing all can jump start a catering service. In addition, word-of-mouth carries a lot of weight when a well-known or high-quality business is starting a new service.
It’s a good idea to start small to iron out the initial kinks. Consider catering for a friend or offering discounts to begin with, to ensure that the quality is where it needs to be and to let the staff get into a routine.
Also, catering community events can quickly get the word out that your business is turning over a new leaf. Church functions, charitable auctions, and awards banquets are a great way to get started, while cementing your brand within the community. Since there are often more of these events around the holidays, the fall is a great time of year to start off-site operations.
Utilize Your Staff
A good way to start a catering service is on the wings of your strongest asset—your staff. Let the people who are passionate about food and who express an interest in working off-site provide the energy your catering service needs. Letting a few employees form a catering team allows them to develop a rapport that can be necessary when putting in long hours on location and working for deadline.
Many money-making catering services start with employees who use personal equipment and transportation, low-cost ingredients from a helpful distributor, and a restaurant brand name. Many great, cost-efficient catering services are designed to start from humble origins and grow from there.
Know Your Goals
You may just want to get your name out and break even. Or, you might have loftier goals for taking the business to the next level. In either case, it’s worth it to write down your goals and expected timeline. Goals can include buying a catering truck, buying new equipment, hiring a full-time staff and finding year-round business. Regardless of your goals, be patient and don’t forget the long-term picture when starting your catering service.