To cater or not cater? No question about it

Sept. 14, 2011 | by Marla Topliff
To cater or not cater? No question about it

Michael Attias, owner of Corky's Bar-B-Q restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee, and a nationally recognized catering consultant says, "There's really no easier way to convert people to patrons than catering, it's better than free advertising. There's just always someone catering something" If that's not enough to convince you to cater, then maybe the fact that you can increase your bottom line by as much as 20% will.

Setting your menu

Catering is easy; it starts by putting together a catering menu. Begin with your existing store menu. Decide which items to keep and which to delete. Make sure you have recipe, portioning, and food cost information for all menu items. One tip when making this decision is to think about what you have on hand so as to cut down on special ordering and thus increased costs. Also, you may want to check competitors' menus to see what you're up against.

Portion control

.The No. 1 rule to profitable catering is measuring. There are two ways to portion out a catering menu: Ala Carte and Bundling. Neither method is better nor worse; moreover, it will simply be a matter of trying each method to determine which works better for you. When putting together bundled offers, keep in mind that packages should include multiple food items, which means adjusting portions to accommodate for the number of people and the amount per item.

Order taking

In many cases, a catering experience is your first introduction to a new customer and you want to make a good impression. Be friendly and positive, and remember that the person calling may not know anything about your menu, so be patient and accommodating.

Extra tips

The hat trick is great food, excellent prices and amazing service. Some critical keys to catering management are:

  • Checking new catering orders every Sunday and list any extra items you may need to order
  • Doing your prep one to two days before the event
  • Checking your staff schedule in advance to have enough help to get the catering done AND still maintain your daily business.
  • Making sure you have drivers available and designated specifically for the catering orders.
  • Having the order there on time. If you are going to be late, make sure to call the customer and let them know… BUT DON’T BE LATE!
  • Sending plenty of menus and coupons.

Is there such a thing as too much business?

Yes! Not getting enough catering business is bad, but did you know that too much can be even worse? Don't create a performance nightmare. Taking too many orders for one date or time is a recipe for disaster, schedule your orders wisely.

Recognize and reward

There is a famous old fable that makes this point nicely. A guy rows his little boat to the middle of the lake for a relaxing day of fishing. Up over the side comes a huge green snake, with a half-swallowed frog sticking out of its mouth. Feeling for the frog, the guy whacks the snake with the oar, the snake spits out the frog, and the frog's life is saved. This makes the guy feel good; however, knowing that he has just deprived the snake of his dinner also makes him feel bad. Having no food with him, he gives the snake a swig out of his bottle of Bourbon, and the snake swims away and the guy is happy again. Two minutes later the snake swims back with two frogs in his mouth.

When we recognize and reward, we inspire more of the same. When you get a referral from a customer, the smartest thing you can do is to make a big, big deal out of it. Call with a thanks or send a personal note with a nice bounce back offer. Turn one order into many or one customer into two and how much you increase your business is strictly up to you!

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Operations Management

Marla Topliff
Marla Topliff, president of Rosati’s Pizza, has helped grow the Chicago franchise from 60 stores in 1999 to the 170 national brand that it is today. She supervises all aspects of marketing, customer service, store communications and vendor relationships. wwwView Marla Topliff's profile on LinkedIn

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