Here at the Catering Institute and MonkeyMedia Software, I am always dissecting new ways of doing things, and always looking at better ways that we can make catering work in restaurants. After all, a restaurant is a complex manufacturing plant and adding more revenue channels is complicated.
The single most important lesson I have learned throughout my career is that we need executive alignment to make catering work inside these complex operations. This is something I have written about before and requires a huge commitment. However, once executive alignment is achieved, the path will be set for catering sales growth.
So, here are five things to consider as look to grow catering sales.
1. Slow down. Take the time to understand the 360-degree strategy of takeout, delivery and catering. They are all closely related and are interdependent on each other to succeed. You must first understand the complexity of implementing these services prior to rolling out a sales and ordering platform.
2. Plan. We have to take the time to make a proper plan and then document that plan. We ALL need to do a better job at this because, let's be honest, planning is hard for everyone. The plan should include implementation timelines, the teams and locations you want to leverage, menu items and marketing campaigns all tied to the successful launch of your catering experience. Having a plan is crucial to the success of catering within your organization.
3. Menu differentiation. This is the arguably the single most biggest challenge to overcome as a restaurant operator. However, the market for these services is different from your current restaurant products and services. So, you need a catering menu-development program that is simple for your brand. This includes determining the types of menu items well suited to feed large groups of people and the right packaging to securely deliver those items to your customers.
4. Sales. We have to become very active in our selling process. It needs to become part of our culture at all touch points of our companies. What you create should be a reliable, predictable and scalable catering experience. Achieving these three things means you will impact your unit-level profits with startling success. You not only have to set the standards, you have to meet and exceed them.
5. Patience. All great things take time. Growing catering out of our restaurants is a major commitment and it will take investment and time. Executing catering profitably will continue to be a good use of idle capacity and will help maximize the return on the assets that you have already deployed and paid for in your existing infrastructure.
I am living and breathing this material all day long. But I fully believe that catering plays into the ability of all brands to provide services that continue to build loyalty within the communities you serve. This, in turn, will present and opportunity where multi-unit restaurant operators can really penetrate the buying influence of consumers. The organizations that we work with that have shown the level of commitment to what is expressed above, are experiencing rapid top-line sales lifts. Customer relationships with their brands are growing as more trust is built into the service category. These organizations are making their customers look good and those customers are coming back for more of everything.
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 Monkeys Perspective: Catering Defined for the Multi-Unit Restaurant Executive.