From providing sandwich trays for office lunch meetings to serving steak and lobster for a party of 1000, catering is one of the fastest growing segments of the foodservice industry.
According to a study conducted by the consulting firm Technomic, the restaurant industry has a $33.3 billion opportunity to grow consumer catering sales.
Although the recession has taken a toll on catering to business customers for corporate lunches or meetings, catering to the growing number of consumers choosing to entertain at home is a largely under-served sales opportunity for restaurants.
Chains that have invested resources in developing the catering side of their business have experienced double-digit sales growth, Technomic found.
Here are some tips for capitalizing on the catering boom and making the most of the holiday party season…
- Offer a customized menu specifically designed for large events.
- Your ability to market and promote catering services to your customers daily begins at the tables in your dining room. Each meal you deliver is an edible brochure for a catering event.
- Table tents and check inserts are a perfect way to announce your catering services. Let everyone in your restaurant know that they can inquire for more information.
- Add a page to your web site announcing catering. Make sure there is a form for a customer to fill out if they have a catering inquiry. Answer the inquiries within 24 hours.
- Invite guests to join you as you unveil your new seasonal catering menu.
- Transportation considerations: Not only do you have to move many delicate objects from point A to point B without breaking them, you also have to maintain their temperature to keep food safe. (Perishable food must be kept out of the “danger zone” (40-140F) where dangerous bacteria can grow.) Consider using insulated carriersand reusable ice.
- Create an hourly timeline for the catering event for when each course will be served, when toasts will be made and be sure to communicate any delays to your staff.
- Strategically placed plants, food stations and lounge style seating arrangements can cozy up a cavernous space.
- Going with butler service/passed drinks gives you better control over consumption. Having a drink or water passed when guests arrive also relieves pressure on the bartenders to serve everyone at once.
- If alcohol is going to be poured at an event, make sure everyone involved has the necessary licenses, training and insurance. If anything happens (and it could) everyone is going to be held liable. Make sure bartenders know what the approved pour amount is and empower them to say no when someone asks for a double or has had too much to drink.
- It is critical to incorporate and notify your catering manager about any special requests and needs that your guests may have, including food allergies, religious requirements or dietary restrictions.
- Know your guest profile and preferences such as their professional level, the frequency your they attend similar events and the age group, as older groups may prefer a milder menu.
- The presentation of the meal should make your guests want to eat it! This means table linens and decorations that complement the theme of the meal. If it doesn’t look good and smell good, your guests will not be happy.
- Consider whether you are serving plated meals or buffet style – this helps make decision about the length of the meal and prep time.