If you look at a restaurant’s website or even menu, chances are you’ll see something like this in small print: “catering and event services available, please inquire”. Many restaurants offer catering services for parties, weddings, or events as a way to buffer sales and create more business to make use of their commercial kitchen during off-hours. But is catering the right step for your restaurant?
Here, we’ll discuss what it entails to offer catering at your restaurant, discussing the pros, cons, and basic considerations that you’ll have to take in mind before starting. By taking the time to consider these things, you can make an educated decision about whether or not catering is well-suited to your restaurant and business.
What is catering? What exactly is catering, you ask? Well, it’s a good question, because it can actually include a wide variety of services.
In the most basic sense, catering is a business centered around providing food service at a remote site (for example, wedding venues, private homes, or event spaces).
But what catering entails from a service provider’s standpoint can vary. Sometimes, a restaurant will simply prepare the food in large batches, sort of like a bulk takeaway order. In other situations, a restaurant catering service will basically bring the entire party to the event space, including silverware, linens, and serving dishes, sometimes even providing uniformed servers to present and serve the food and drinks. These days, catering has evolved even further to become an artisanal, party planning sort of affair, creating a space and setting that will delight the senses of guests.
Should your restaurant offer catering? Before you decide on whether or not you’re going to expand your restaurant to offer catering, consider these eight points.
Do you have space for it? This is a pretty straightforward question to ask yourself before you consider offering catering from your restaurant kitchen. Is your kitchen large enough to accommodate catering orders? Do you have sufficient refrigeration space to store orders before delivery or pickup? Consider the size of space and how much food you could comfortably make for catering orders. Create a catering menu and order limits which reflect your restaurant’s capabilities.
Do you have enough resources? Catering requires a lot of food, a lot of time, and a lot man hours, from the chefs who prepare the food to the delivery person and servers, as well as uniforms or aprons for the servers. Do you have the resources to allot such a large amount of supplies and man-hours to catering?
Be sure to consider toll on time and inventory which catering will cost you. It will become even more important to monitor employee hours / billing and food inventory if you offer catering services.
Can you deliver? The ability to deliver catering orders is often a huge asset, particularly to larger events such as weddings or corporate events. Do you have a van or a vehicle which can accommodate such orders? If not, your catering service might have a strike against it from the get-go.
What services can you offer? Many people look for one-stop shopping with their catering, and want to take care of party rentals, such as tablecloths, linens, silverware and glassware, all from the same place. Are you able to offer such services, and if not, are you able to partner with someone else who does? Catering is not just about food, and it’s best to be proactive with a solution to the other questions so that you can give your customers the best and most appropriate service possible.
Do you have time for it? Catering can potentially make great use of your kitchen during off-hours and slower, lower income times of year, so even when your restaurant is closed for business, it can still be making you money. But consider how catering orders will fit into business as usual. If your restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it may be hard to find time (and space) for catering. Be honest with yourself: are there enough hours in the day to offer catering in your restaurant?
Can you create an organized catering system? Catering will require that you have systems in place, including creating a catering-specific menu, contracts, billing setup, and cancellation policies. Are you organized enough to come up with a catering plan, which is almost like a separate business model?
Don’t be laissez-faire about this part: if contracts and systems are not your strong point, enlist the help of a catering expert to help you create a plan. You’ll be glad you did.
Can you price your services so that you make money? In general, the markup on catering is pretty good–in terms of the cost of raw materials. But when you consider the time and energy that goes into it, you need to price your catering services so that your resources are being covered. This post offers some really fantastic tips for how to set catering prices. Be sure to very carefully consider the prices at which you offer catering services, because it can be difficult to change them later on.
Do you want to offer catering? This is perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself. Do you actually want to offer catering? It’s a whole different sector of food service, and for some restaurateurs, it’s a huge headache. Does the idea of offering catering and dealing with potential bridezillas put you in a cold panic? If so, you may want to evaluate whether catering is right for you. A solution could be to hire someone full time to handle catering and special events.
Conclusion: Catering can be a huge way to expand your restaurant business. However, it also has the potential to be a huge headache if you don’t go about things correctly. Before you decide to offer catering, strongly consider the points in this post to determine whether or not it is an appropriate direction for the growth of your business.
Does your restaurant offer catering?