My partners and I have been working on the 2010 AllBusiness AllStar Franchises rankings (you’ll see it soon), and as we researched the quick-service restaurant category, I noticed a growing trend: More and more of them are focusing on catering as a way to diversify their franchisees’ income in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
This is a smart move: According to a study conducted earlier this year by food-service consulting firm Technomic, catering offers huge market potential to the quick-service sector.
The study, reported in QSR Magazine, found that over 40 percent of consumers are buying platters of prepared foods for holidays and events. At least one-third of respondents said they are socializing at home more often than in previous years. Meanwhile, catering is one of the fastest-growing segments in the entire food-service industry.
Plenty of quick-serve franchisors already offer takeout options—but there’s a big difference between a customer running by your franchise to pick up a big order of sandwiches or platters, and offering full-on catering.
QSR talked to some franchisors about the challenges and opportunities of adding catering programs. Tom Piper, director of marketing for Bruegger’s Bakery Caf?, says the two most important catering issues are ordering and delivery. “[It’s] a more complicated order that is going to require a more personal touch and more hand-holding than your basic in-store pickup,” Piper says. “And [then there’s] the delivery and set-up to consider. Those are skill sets and processes that don’t necessarily exist in the day-to-day operation of the store.”
To get into the catering business, your employees will need to be trained, and you’ll have to develop systems. At Jersey Mike’s Subs, the company decided to train a person at each store to serve as its catering director so that someone has ownership of the project and can develop personal relationships with catering customers.
Aside from its direct financial benefits, adding catering has marketing benefits as well. It gets your product in front of a large group of people who may never have tried it before, and allows them to sample it in an enjoyable setting.
Is catering worth it for your franchise? This is a question that only you can answer, and requires some extensive analysis of where you are now and where the opportunities lie. But the reality is that in an ever-more competitive landscape, food-service franchises will have to offer more diverse ways of reaching customers to stay ahead of the pack.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva on Twitter @Rieva. Visit SmallBizDaily.com to read more of Rieva’s insights on small business and to buy her newest book, Startup 101: Quick Tips for Starting a Business.