(Blogger’s Note: This is the first in a three part series on creating, marketing and successfully developing an in-house catering department.)
Believe it or not the Holiday Season is upon us. Now the parties and private catered events, along with business lunches and special celebration dinners begin to cross the desks of event planners and corporate assistants. This is an opportune time to begin marketing your catering department or developing one. Although the task may seem massive it isn’t. And, as soon as you develop a one page plan, create a menu, and print some promotional material, you will have opened a revenue stream that you have been missing out on.
Our catering department was created overnight. Will Sullivan, a regular customer and CEO of Sullivan Communications, stopped into our fledgling grocery store, The Crocus Hill Market in
Three nights later we delivered Duck a l’Orange, Fruited Wild Rice, Oven Roasted Potatoes, salad and dessert to Sullivan’s corporate headquarters on the top floor of The University Club. We brought the china, the silverware and the linens. We laid the table. We did buffet style service and after setting up the dining room we left. Sullivan was negotiating the sale of his company to Saatchi and Saatchi and the CEO and five other representatives, including the Saatchis dined on a meal that was prepared in a
Catering can be one of the most enjoyable and profitable aspects of any food operation. And, a catering company, or division of your restaurant, does not need to be a huge, flamboyant facility hosting mega events for corporations. Catering can be something as simple as a pick-up dinner party for six, an off-restaurant site buffet for twenty, or a private party in your restaurant on a night you are normally closed, for fifty. You are in charge of your destiny and can slowly create a catering division that will grow with time.
One of the first requirements of any catering operation is ownership commitment. Once you make the decision to begin a catering department you will need to be disciplined in organization, marketing and execution.
As previously stated, catering doesn’t take a lot of extra money, or work, or equipment or staff. Any restaurant that wants to expand their bottom line and increase the opportunity for profit can begin catering.
Here’s what you need to begin:
1). A commitment to the project.
2). A chef or sous chef who is in agreement to take on the extra work.
3). A few servers who are interested in earning extra money as on-site catering servers.
4). A creative menu, using the same ingredients as you have in-house but not necessarily the same entr?e, appetizer or dessert items. Make sure you include pick-up dinners for 4, 6, and 8 people. These are a creative way to get started.
5). A selection of entrees that compliment a buffet- Roast Pork, Cornish Game Hen, Stuffed Chicken Breast, Beef Tenderloin are all perfect buffet styled entrees. Add flair and creativity to these to make them more than just “Roast Pork”. Adding a different flair- Roast Pork stuffed with Basil and Strawberries will make them one of your signature dish.
6) A plan to market through the Internet, your customer email list, table tents and word of mouth.
7). A price sheet for china, silverware, and glassware in case you book a large event.
8). Food cost for catering is slightly different from menu food cost. If you sell a stuffed chicken breast on your menu for $16.95 you will need to increase the price for a catering menu. But, you can’t just increase the price without giving an equal value. Therefore, you need to change the dish slightly to allow for the increase. Add truffle oil, herbs, or anything else that creatively adds value. Also, remember break down vegetables and side dishes per person. Everything on a catering menu usually is ala carte unless specified.
9). Delivery is never charged in catering unless it is a pick-up meal or platter.
10). When figuring out your pricing, take you chef’s time and your waiter’s time into consideration. On premise charges are separate.
If you begin to develop your catering department now, by month’s end you could be ready to begin booking catering for the holidy season…
Tomorrow- The Plan