(Blogger’s Note: This is the second in a three part series on developing a catering department in order to prepare for the holidays.)
Everything tends to go more smoothly with a plan.
“Plan? Who has time to plan? I am always putting out fires from the night before so my plan is always pushed aside.”
Nothing we have not said or heard before. That’s the foundation of the business. We walk into the restaurant in the morning with a vision for the day and suddenly the broken air conditioner, the escaped Freon in the beer cooler, the resigning sous chef or the vendor who won’t deliver distracts us from the day’s plan. The rest, and the plan, is history.
That can’t happen in catering. The plan initiated the day the department is created needs to be followed by the entire staff chosen to be on the “catering team.” (The only reason I call it a department is that it should start out with a separate profit and loss column. If it grows well it will become a separate division from your restaurant.)
The first step (after reviewing yesterday’s outline) is to choose your team. It should be presented to those you chose as a special opportunity that is not going out to everyone on the staff. The team that works catering will make extra money and should share in the revenues. Therefore, it is a position you earn. This will also make those who are not on the team work harder to obtain a catering team position.
Next you will need to discuss the types of menu items you are developing. This is probably the most important factor aside from getting your chef to assist in the food cost. Remember the staff is your first line of promotion. You need to get them completely enthused and behind the project so they will begin talking about “Your new catering division” to your customers.
Catering, although logistically more complicated than just running the restaurant, is not nuclear science. It is simply the art of preparing food en masse and serving it, magically, at one time.
That being said begin on a small scale. Introduce platters for six, prepared, plated and ready for the table. You would be surprised at how many people, who want to have a dinner party for their friends, during the holidays, pass on the idea because they do not have the time to prepare anything. A beef tenderloin platter, with oven roasted potatoes, a vegetable medley, salad, bread and dessert is the perfect pick-up meal. It isn’t something you would find at the local grocery store. If presented creatively the hostess will tell everyone where it came from – an advertising added value asset for you – and it is easily a $250.00 item, prepared, out the door. Your cost would be less than half that. In many instances the client wants a server to deliver the food, present and plate it and make sure everything is clean when they leave. This is another $125.00. The evening was a success for all those involved.
If you could sell four of these small events a weekend, from the beginning of November until New Year’s, the additional revenue would equal approximately $10,000.00.
However, that’s not exactly how it works. With a little special attention, Peter Rogers will pick up the beef tenderloin platter on a Friday night. The David and Cindy Pratt will be at his house, raving about the food.
The following week Peter will do it again, only this time he will need two platters and want a little extra salad, dessert and vegetables. He will also want it delivered. And, he will need a server.
At the same time, the Pratt’s are going to be entertaining and they will need a Stuffed Roasted Pork Loin for eight people. They will pick theirs up at 5:30. It is going to be a very busy Saturday night and before the evening started you have already added 14 covers to the bottom line. While you are working the kitchen, or the floor, or the door, Cindy Pratt is raving about your food to her guests and Peter Rogers is talking up what a great guy he is, because he planned the party.
If all goes well, Rogers will come by and plan his Christmas Hoedown party for 200 with you and the Pratt’s will tell their friends, Tom Redmond about the food. Your business will snowball.
You’ll go out and buy some silver roasting domes because you have some high-end off-premise catering clients who drink tea with their small finger extended.
All this happens very quickly. That’s why you need a plan.
Tomorrow: Marketing and execution