Cater Your Way to Incremental Profits

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Platter of assorted fresh fruit and cheese

Onsite sales are the bread and butter of most foodservice operations. Catering presents a significant secondary revenue stream—the $60 billion industry is growing 6 percent year over year (50 percent faster than the rest of the restaurant industry)—yet 41 percent of restaurant operators haven’t invested in it.1

With a well-executed, well-marketed catering program, you can let guests know via your menu, website and phone app that you’re equipped to cater banquets, weddings, parties and business gatherings. In fact, half of operators that offer catering do so because it’s what customers say they want.2 Chipotle, which struck up a delivery deal with DoorDash, uses the company for both catering and delivery. The fast casual chain’s digital sales, which encompasses catering, delivery and pickup platforms, accounted for 18.2 percent ($262 million) of overall sales in Q2 2019.3

If you plan to add catering, be sure the values and quality of your on-premises operations extend offsite by adopting these best practices.

Make It Safe

Even if you have strict onsite food safety protocols that address time, temperature and equipment, safety can be neglected once the food leaves your property. This may lead to an operational decision to deliver in your own temperature-controlled vans and/or prepare the food in a separate environment-controlled production facility.4

If you choose to use third-party delivery companies, develop food safety requirements and draw up a contract to hold the delivery company responsible for any complications. Set standards for liability insurance levels, food temperature at the time of pickup, delivery company handling requirements, maximum food transit times and packaging requirements.4

Finally, evaluate the menu through a food-safety lens and eliminate from your catering menu items that are particularly susceptible to time and temperature abuse or degradation.

Adjust for Diets

Customers know and choose restaurants that adhere to their dietary preferences and restrictions, such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or keto-friendly. Catering programs must also include a diversity of offerings to satisfy event attendees with these requirements.

Develop a survey for the event sponsor to fill out to learn of dietary expectations and restrictions.5 Also, provide a variety of menu options from which the sponsor can choose and give them the ability to customize options.

Choose Proteins Carefully

Your catering menu will likely be much smaller than your on-premises menu, so make sure that the proteins you offer are premium quality. Premium can be reflected not only in the brand, source and cut of meat you serve, but also in the protein’s sustainable qualities, such as no antibiotics ever and humanely raised. Be sure to communicate these qualities on the menu and on labels.

If you plan to limit center-of-the-plate proteins on your catering menu, choose those most widely accepted by consumers and applications fit for delivery and events. The delivery menu should be a subset of the main menu for the best ability to meet consumer expectations. Nine in 10 consumers purchase chicken regularly, according to a recent survey commissioned by the National Chicken Council.6 What’s more, 40 percent of consumers are eating more chicken than they did last year.7

In addition to being economical, chicken is widely perceived as healthier than other proteins. Some 59 percent of surveyed consumers consider chicken to be healthy, compared to 24 percent who said the same of beef and 57 percent who said the same of fish.7

Package Properly

Any packaged food you include with your catering serves several purposes. Tamper resistance is a food safety best practice. Listing ingredients is also essential, not only for health reasons but because it allows you to showcase your use of premium ingredients.

Use compostable containers, which signal to consumers that your operation supports the sustainability cause. Compostable containers and service-ware also reinforce your position.5

Consider catering as your next avenue to grow profits and spread your brand beyond your four walls. With a well-executed program and delicious menu, you could even attract new customers who attend one of your catered events to your establishment.

Content courtesy of Perdue Foodservice

1Lalley, Heather, “6 Easy Ways to Jump-start a Catering Program,” Restaurant Business, May 6, 2019

2Datassential Pulse, 2018

3Luna, Nancy, “Brian Niccol on Chipotle sales gains: ‘This Is Just the Beginning,’” Nation’s Restaurant News, July 24, 2019

4Liddle, Alan J., “5 Food Safety Best Practices,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Nov. 18, 2017

5Hamstra, Mark, “6 Smart Tips to Deliver a Successful Catering Program,” Nation’s Restaurant News, May 15, 2019

6Taylor, Natalie, “Poultry Reigns as the Most Popular Protein,” Grocery Business, Nov. 8, 2018

7Mintel, Poultry—US—December 2018

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