5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Catering

Catering and delivery are typically part and parcel of successful restaurant operations. But are they producing as much revenue as possible in your restaurant? RTS Partner Deb Jones, who has been working with the Catering Institute for the past year, believes that by fine-tuning both of these revenue streams operators can improve business. Here, the foodservice veteran offers tips for doing just that.

Operators desiring to boost revenue should understand the basic business practices that drive off-premise sales. (Image courtesy of the Catering Institute)

Leadership. As the first key requirement, catering business leadership is crucial to scaling and sustaining a healthy catering revenue channel. Once the business leader understands the logic behind catering as its own business, they then need to sell the vision internally and externally within the four walls of their brand. It’s a top-down thing. As in any business, there needs to be a key person driving the passion and vision of the services being offered to the consumer.

Centralized Services. The second element required is a cultural shift in the company’s DNA to service the off-premise catering channel properly. Because of the complexity that this new revenue channel will bring to your organization, centralized services such as sales, marketing, order entry, accounting and IT need to be in place. By having central points of contact and control on these elements, a restaurant operator will reduce the transactional pressure at the restaurant level. Centralizing these tasks will relieve the transaction pressure faced by your individual restaurants so that they can focus on better order execution from prep, cooking, assembly and distribution. Think of these centralized services as the bridge between your catering business, your restaurants and your customers.

Sales/Marketing. These are two very different plans. Sales people execute sales plans. Hard numbers. Knocking on doors. Telephone calls. Onsite meetings. Presentations. Marketing plans, on the other hand, position products and services. Your sales team will use your marketing assets to sell. Think about product variations, packaging and how you use your four walls to market this new business. Once you have the four walls considered, move on to the outside walls. Then think of the marketing plan for the next four blocks, and four miles. The plan needs to focus on the buyer segments for the off-premise service channel and occasion based feeding opportunities.

Operations. Active training of all your restaurant and catering employees plays a large role in your catering and off-premise business success. People are still the most important asset you have when looking to grow this revenue channel. The language you use in your company to differentiate services both inside and out will become very important as you scale these services. Your menus need to be considered, costs looked at, manufacturing lines studied and the entire sale to cash cycle is completely different than your in-restaurant business that you currently excel at. Expect the off-premise strategy to change the unit economics of your restaurant in a good way. So, get ready.

Delivery. Delivery adds a dynamic into the daily transaction cycle that increases stress, complexity and speed of service. Delivery of your product to catering customers will make or break your catering program. Invest in safe and reliable vehicles. Invest in showcasing your brand on those vehicles and purchase catering-specific equipment where you need to. Furthermore, for professional deliveries you have to consider packaging, hold times, signage, extra supplies and of course, driver recruiting. You only have two points of contact with the off-premise catering transaction: one at the point of order entry and one at the point of delivery. Don’t cut corners on either!

Deb Jones is an award-winning operations expert who brings over 34 years of restaurant experience developing and executing solutions that improve restaurant performance and sales growth.