To Cater or Not to Cater? That is the Holiday Question

Catering can be a great way to increase your sales during the holiday season. You already have the commercial kitchen, staff, customer base, and the economy of scale for bulk ordering so the cost of entry into catering should be relatively low. 

But before you dive in, understand that catering takes a great amount of planning and strategy. It’s vital that the challenges that come with feeding large numbers of people at ever-changing venues does not negatively impact your current business, customers, and employees. 

If you are considering expanding your business by dabbling in holiday catering, read on to learn the six most important tips for success in the catering business. 

Promote, Promote, Promote

 You can’t kick off a successful catering business if your customers aren’t aware of this new offering. Be sure that you post signs in your restaurant that you will be offering catering during the holiday season. Add it to your website and all of your social media channels. Have your staff mention it when delivering the check to current patrons. Add a flyer in to-go and delivery orders.  The more you talk about it, the more your odds will increase of getting orders. 


Start Small

While you may feel a huge rush about the thought of catering five parties on Friday night, the reality is that you may be biting off more than you can chew. Successfully catering two events is way better than messing up five and ruining your reputation. If you can dazzle two clients and not sacrifice the quality of your in-store service, then try three events next weekend. Customers would much rather be told that you are too busy to cater their event than have you agree and mess it up for their guests.

Ask Lots of Questions

The main challenge when taking on catering, is that it is difficult to plan ahead when your venues and guest counts change for every event. Be sure to ask each client exactly what their expectations are. Follow up by asking to see the venue in advance so you can have an idea of how the food and drinks will be set up before you arrive.  It will make the set-up run smoothly and reduce the stress on you and your staff. 


Go With What You Know

This is not the time to test out new menu items. Offering your most popular and most profitable options on a slimmed down menu is the safest option while testing out the catering business. However, feel free to dress up the options if the occasion calls for it! Add candied pecans to your salad or avocado to your chicken wraps, just be sure that the pricing reflects the additions. 

Get Super Organized

Say your crew gets to the catering location and has the wrong order or perhaps forgotten the serving utensils.  You will have to send another employee out to deliver the missing items.  If you are not staffed correctly, this could impact the guests that are dining in your restaurant.  The best way to deal with missing or incorrect items is to avoid them.  Be sure that every order is carefully packed correctly before it leaves the restaurant. Also, require that the employee overseeing catering uses a check list of items that accompany an order, such as chafing dishes, serving utensils, flatware, napkins, ice, etc.


Do the Math

A common mistake that restaurant’s make in catering is that they are not evaluating their profitability enough to determine if it is worth it. Unlike your menu items, catered dishes involve extra costs such as additional labor, utensils, packaging, gas, clean up, and sometimes décor. While $10 makes sense for soup and sandwiches in your restaurant, you may actually be losing money at a third-party location. 

Whether you plan to cater full time or just want some additional revenue during the holidays, catering does not have to be complicated, and should never have a negative impact on your current clientele. Start small and be smart about how you use your current resources, and you just may find that catering is the side business you’ve been looking for.