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Several months ago I was invited to speak about catering at the global franchise convention for Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. It was an eye opening experience; not only is the culture of this organization unique but in fact, the off-premise catering opportunity might just be the largest growth opportunity that the scoop shops have.

I learned an incredible amount about the "scoop shop" business and many insights flooded my thoughts specific to the catering opportunity that exists within the segment of frozen and non-frozen treats.

The treat segment, both frozen and non-frozen, has it's own specific opportunity when it comes to catering to America's boardrooms and other catering venues. Unlike the demand for catering breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails, the treat segment stands on its own.

Here are a few reasons that come to mind:

1. There is a substantial catering opportunity that lies ahead for treats on the boardroom table. Restaurateurs that have a strong "snack" business have a real opportunity to complement the services of existing catering day-parts. Bringing a frozen treat service into the office in the middle of the day is a real opportunity to celebrate something special in the workplace. The selling proposition for these services is completely different than trying to fill the demand for a traditional catering daypart. Consumers will purchase these services for different reasons.

2. As consumers consider their options for feeding groups where they live, work and play, there is an opportunity to meet their requirements with foregoing a major meal and just treating their guests to a "treat or snack." Consumers experience a reduced spend, in this case, but still meet their objectives of taking care of their guests. The message is similar as regular catering, but the budget is smaller. That's a win for restaurateurs with a strong snack service.

3. For those restaurateurs that have a proprietary "treat or snack" profile, there is an opportunity to wholesale services out to all the other restaurant brands and institutional caterers that are focused on major dayparts. Imagine a day where a well know brand brings in a well known ice cream brand as they negotiate a contract. This wholesale catering opportunity is unique to the treat segment. Imagine that other food purveyors can sell your catering services into the client for you!

4. Catering treats allows for further market segmentation as it relates to off-premise sales. Because the products in the treat segment are so focused and specific, programs can be developed for community events, private parties and office functions. In each case, menu and service will drive the differentiation. Because of the proprietary nature of the products, you can really focus on a simple, repeatable and scalable execution process.

5. As consumers consider their catering options, bringing in a treat for guests telegraphs a positive message. It's clearly tied to a celebration and guests will always leave feeling great about being treated. Think about how you felt when your mom and dad took you to the local scoop shop for an ice cream! This kind of consumption dynamic leads to high emotional connection with guests and as such, the cycle of repeat business and referrals will be higher than normal daypart catering.

6. Catering treats and snacks is complementary to feeding guests breakfast, lunch and dinner. It complements the swells of meal times and therefore, if your product and service is proprietary, your company can charge a premium for a great experience, sometimes in between meals.

For brands such as Dairy Queen, Ben & Jerry's, Menchie's, Yougurtland, Marble Slab Creamery and Cold Stone Creamery, developing a catering and off-premise consumer experience is a wonderful opportunity to help smooth out the typical seasonality that lives deep in their operational DNA.

No doubt, there are many more insights that we can discuss as a community. Let's chat about it over a scoop of Cherry Garcia!

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Karina Sinclair
    29035340
    How might a small start-up artisan ice cream company approach this?
  • Erle Dardick
    28920909
    Hi Karina: I think you may want to begin by immersing your self in the restaurant catering community. I'd recommend this group on LinkedIn as a good starting point. http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Get-Catering-Grow-Sales-76699?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr
  • Karina Sinclair
    28907380
    Thanks for the link. I've joined the group...can't wait to learn more!
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Erle's Catering Corner

Latest posts by Erle Dardick
Erle Dardick
Erle Dardick is a 15-year catering veteran, business turn-around expert and author, and is best known for helping multi-unit restaurant executives create successful catering revenue channels. Erle founded MonkeyMedia Software to provide catering solutions to multi-unit restaurant operators. He also is the author of “Get Catering and Grow Sales! One Monkey’s Perspective: Catering Defined for the Multi-Unit Restaurant Executive.”
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