The rhythm of running a catering business is completely different from running a restaurant. While there are similarities, the work done prior to opening the doors for lunch and or dinner in a restaurant is much different than preparing for a catering event. The restaurant is a fixed environment where they set tables, set up the bar, prep the line in the kitchen for service, and reservations confirmed. The catering business is like opening and closing a restaurant in the same day.
The key factor for having a successful catering business is having great service in all aspects–great front of the house service, food and consistency on a daily basis first. The key word here is consistency. Earn your customers’ confidence with predictable and reliable services every time and you’ve got a successful brand. Get your restaurant running like a well-oiled machine first before you even consider adding catering.
Using the menu in the restaurant for your catering menu is a good idea. Don’t complicate matters with another menu. Most likely you’ll prepare food out of your restaurant kitchen, unless you have the funds to have a separate kitchen, which would be ideal, but pricey. A must is hiring a separate catering manager to deal with your catered events. There’s a different tempo to catering that needs to be handled by a knowledgeable, friendly and professional team.
Separate offices outside the restaurant are a necessity for the serious caterer. Consider hiring experienced team members who know the subtleties of catering services such as rentals, photographers and florists, bartending services, DJ’s, wait staff and kitchen staff. Odds are, your staff is busy working in the restaurant so it’s important to build an outside team to have available on call.
Keep your income and spending for catering separate from the restaurant so you can see clearly if it’s worth running two business simultaneously. This also keeps things easier for the person who manages your acounts.
Always follow up a few days later after each catering job with a call from your catering manager. An email is fine, but there’s something about that personal phone call. It heaps up points big time, increasing your chance for repeat business. It also increases the chances that customer will recommend you to their friends.
Asking specific questions about their experience will give you invaluable feedback, You will be better able to determine any part of the event that is not be working, giving you the opportunity to improve your business for the next gig. Ask your client if they are happy with their evening. Immediate feedback is the big bonus of running a hospitality business.
Send hand-written thank you notes. In today’s world of computers and ecards, sending a handwritten note will set you apart. Make sure you keep it personal and specific so it does not look mass-produced.
If a customer has a negative experience, make sure you thank them for letting you know. Acknowledge that you appreciate it, accept responsibility and then make it right. You can offer a lunch on you for two in the restaurant or give them 10 percent off the next catered event.