With competition and market penetration at an all-time high, restaurants are reaching beyond their dining-in options to increase revenue and bring in business. More than ever before, new options such as takeout, delivery, and catering are becoming increasingly common in the restaurant industry.
As new trends arise every other day, one thing is for sure: catering is taking the restaurant industry by storm and creating quite an impact on overall profit. Restauranteurs are realizing the financial benefits of running a successful catering program, causing many independent restaurants and chains to launch or expand on their catering services. Catering has currently been identified as one of the leading growth vehicles for restaurants and food service.
According to Technomic, business owners and operators are targeting catering as a long-term growth strategy: “Recent growth in the catering industry has been aided by recovery in consumer spending and corporate profit; therefore, households and businesses are expanding their budgets and hosting more catered events, helping the industry to grow at an annualized rate of 6.4% to $58.1 billion in 2018.”
There are two different types of restaurant catering:
Restaurants with additional space, private dining rooms, or banquet halls can boost sales by offering on-premise catering- which involves consumers gathering at the restaurant itself for a private party or special function.
If utilizing extra space for catering opportunities isn’t an option for your restaurant, off-premise catering might be beneficial- which is when the restaurant delivers food to the customer, either in their home or at another location for a special type of event.
Typically, the most popular events for catering include:
- Bridal/Baby Showers
- Anniversary Parties
- Business Meetings or Conferences
- Holiday Parties
- Birthday Parties
- Special Event Luncheons/Dinners
- Charity/Fundraiser Events
Technomic research further shows that “64% of catering revenue occurs from off-premise catering dollars spent at QSR and full table service operations.” Some stores have deployed new enhancements and designs to boos their catering initiatives. Chipotle Mexican Grill has added back of the house flat screen digital monitors that project images of the ingredients themselves, as opposed to ingredients spelled out in word format. The visual projection allows staff and team members to work quicker as they build catering, call-ahead and takeout orders. The Famous Dave’s brand intents to launch a “ghost” storefront with 800 square feet solely dedicated to catering and delivery.
Other chains such as Einstein Brothers Bagels, and McDonald’s are testing new bundled catering services focused on breakfast, by expanding their current breakfast selections. Consumer feedback and data analytics from customer loyalty programs show that guests love breakfast!
So how do you incorporate catering into your restaurant?
Here are some simple ways to build interest and market your new or expanding catering services.
Host tasting events
In our current digital world, most marketing initiatives take place on social platforms, however hosting a tasting event, or offering private tastings to those who book your catering services can be an effective way to spread the word and build clientele.
Hosting a tasting event is the perfect way to build relationships with potential catering clients and network in person, allowing them to see your presentation skills and taste your delicious menu dishes.
The first step of hosting a tasting is to create a list of potential catering leads. Gather your staff and run a fun contest where whoever submits the most referrals wins a prize to get them engaged. Target business owners, engaged couples, and ask family and friends what special events that may have coming up soon on the calendar.
Start by designed a fun email and social media posts that share the details of your upcoming tasting. Once guests they arrive, you can give them an introduction of your catering services, then describe each dish as it’s served.
Remember to have printed copies of your catering menu, brochures, and business cards scattered all around the room, or at each individual seat. To get the most out of your tasting, you can even offer a discount for the first event they book with your catering company.
Be strategic with the dates you choose for your tastings. The holiday season is a great time of year to recruit new catering customers as well!
Most often, consumers who book catering services will also need additional services for their event. Reach out to local or nearby florists, photographers, DJ’s, limo rentals, bartenders, servers, and event planners and pitch a cross-marketing plan.
Develop a mutual-referral program to create a dynamic sales force for your restaurant. Provide them all with your catering menu, and your brochures. Consider offering consumers a discount if they select services from one of your partners. Presenting your restaurant as a “full service” offering will deepen the appeal.
Cross-promote each local vendor and get everyone to include your logo and a link to your website on their website, then do the same for them.
Reward customers who refer others to your business
While repeat business is great, acquiring new catering clients will help grow your business and build your brand. One great way to do this is to leverage your current customers with a referral program. Offers rewards or discounts if guests refer a friend.
After a catering event, email or call every customer after their catering order is delivered to see how everything went and how they enjoyed it. When you reach out to them, ask them to send you a referral if they were pleased with your services.
Another idea is to create a page on your website dedicated to your referral program. This is a foolproof way for consumers to submit a referral. Your reward doesn’t have to be expensive to make an impact. A simple $25 VISA gift card for every catering referral that’s submitted, then turns into a catering order can create quite a buzz.
Be sure to develop the strategy that works for your specific restaurant. Target your services to your chosen demographic based on your consumer’s buying behaviors. Test dishes on staff, or friends and family before adding them to your catering menu and feeding the masses. Value any and all feedback.