I've spoken a lot over the years about the significance of layering incremental catering sales as a business strategy on top of your existing restaurant assets and operations. Catering out of restaurants is different from other sales channels such as in-store dining, drive-thru, and take-out delivery and pickup services. The entire consumer demand curve and internal workflow is different.
When it comes to purchasing your catering products and services, your brand loyalists are making a different buying decision than when they purchase your other goods and services. When it comes to fulfilling catering transactions, your operations team is challenged with different business logic, decision-making and standards.
This subtlety in restaurant operations when it comes to catering out of restaurants requires a sturdy organizational foundation committed to solid catering leadership and enterprise-level catering alignment for the people to move toward a common goal. No business can advance without clear leadership, financial accountability and a vision for future growth.
As I have stated, the culture of catering must become part of your organization's identity, part of your brand. To increase sales, catering will need to have share of mind internally as well as proper budgetary support from every department within your organization. To achieve this kind of organizational adjustment, a company-wide cultural shift must take place throughout all key departments so that departmental staff can work together toward a common goal. Your team has to know where it is going in order to get there.
As part of this strategic alignment exercise you must include everyone in the catering service chain including restaurant unit managers and their community teams. If employees at the restaurant level are not trained around your designed catering culture, that culture will cease to exist and your catering program will fail.
Here are 4 characteristics of organizational catering alignment that should be agreed upon and communicated to the rest of your organization:
1. Sales Goals: A clear and concise sales goal must be posted publicly and promoted visibly within all areas of the organization. Growing catering sales takes a full team commitment to selling. The monetary opportunity must become a visible opportunity throughout the organization, from the CEO to the delivery driver.
2. Financial Investment and Resources: Restaurant Catering represents a high margin sales opportunity. A few small investments in the right places will yield incremental sales with few incremental costs. These investments need to be well defined, qualified, quantified and committed to.
3. A Commitment To Training & Standardization: People development is a key aspect to succeeding in your restaurant catering division. It takes ongoing people development to solve catering problems.
4. Coordinated Action Through Conscious Leadership: Results in an aligned customer service action throughout every department of your organization. Catering team ambassadors in every department all working together for seamless execution of catering, while maintaining existing business operations.
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.”