A catering business embedded in a restaurant operation can be a very profitable mission. However, the endeavor does need to be treated like an investment. It will need attention and to be supplied with the necessary resources to make a profit. When approached with the conscientiousness of every other aspect of a restaurant, the return on investment of a catering company can be great — sometimes greater than the restaurant's lunch and dinner operations. Here are some tips to help you be successful.
Keep Your Restaurant Separate
Treating your catering services just like your restaurant can be a big mistake. Instead, make your new operation unique to its demands. After all, preparing food for an event is a lot different than a la carte operations. Dinner in a busy restaurant may be a quick-fire routine, but catering takes a different type of organization. Orchestrated events often charge premium pricing, so the cost of food can be lower than it is at a restaurant. This not only equates to higher profit margins, but also higher expectations.
Use the Right Tools for the Job
In order to run a successful catering business, you're going to need the right equipment. You should be able to store, prepare, cook, and hold food efficiently and safely. Keep in mind that a catering kitchen is not the same as a gastropub or sports bar kitchen. Equipment solutions don't have to be costly, though. Start by figuring out how large your orders will likely be, and then invest in the necessary tools, appliances, and storage you'll need to get the job done.
Remember That Service Always Matters
Restaurant servers aren't quite the same as, say, banquet servers. Displaying and keeping large plates of food stocked is a different mission than running two or three plates from the kitchen to the patio, so hire properly. Service charges can help to offset labor cost, so invest in a hard-working crew that will take care of your guests. The right team can help you flawlessly execute your service, which can lead to repeat business and influence your customers to spread the word about your company to friends and family.
...And So Does Marketing
Aside from a well-crafted menu and list of services, you'll need a solid marketing plan for your catering business. Beyond food, you can market yourself for providing linens, delivery, beverage service, and even flowers. If you make things easier for your customers, they are more likely to pay for your services, regardless of the price point. Look to promote your business by getting involved in community events, while sporting a branded delivery vehicle or handing out items with your company logo. You should also set up social media pages for your business in order to market your services. You can post pictures of events you cater and invite customers to write positive reviews on your offerings.
When starting a catering business, think about which foods work well in your daily operation since that's where you'll be most successful. If you're known for classic Italian food or great pastries, why switch it up? Stick to the formula that led to your restaurant's success. Follow these tips, work hard, and before you know it, you'll have a profitable catering business.