Working on your restaurant holiday catering plan as early as now is a great way to prepare your business during the holidays. It is almost time for the holiday season. With this season comes tremendous growth opportunities for your restaurant.
Additional services often bring additional revenue. By offering this type of service to your customers, you’re giving them more options on how they can support your restaurant.
This is also considered a wise and strategic move for restaurants. Just think about it, during this season everyone’s cramming to finish their work to have a work-free holiday, no one has enough time to prepare meals for the festivities.
The holiday season allows you to increase your sales. Whether it’s the office parties or the reunions of families, most of the time the cooking is handled by outside vendors, and restaurants benefit from that.
There is potential for growth beyond your dining area. If you want to continue expanding your services, like food delivery and takeaways, catering could be a great step forward.
Holiday Catering for Restaurants
Home-cooked meals are considered a staple for the holidays. Following almost two years with little to no dining out, consumers have developed a craving for their favorite dish at their local restaurant.
Even during the holidays last year, twenty percent of modern diners claimed that they are willing to spend more on takeaway and delivery from their favorite local restaurant. The right time to take advantage of this demand is now when our indoor socializing activities are limited to the minimum.
What is Restaurant Catering?
Catering is an act of offering food services to a group of people at a designated time, place, and fee. For restaurants, this service can be categorized by location or by the type of event you are hosting.
For location-based catering, you have on-premise and off-premise catering. For on-premise, the event will be done on your restaurant’s premises. It could be a function hall or just a small private room.
On the other hand, you will be responsible for delivering food to the customers for off-premise catering. The location could be a different event hall, hotel, the customer’s home, or any location that doesn’t offer food service.
For event-based catering, services can be categorized into the most common social events namely wedding, corporate, and concession catering. Aside from the menu, the type of food service will be the distinct difference for this category.
For instance, wedding catering events typically deploy food service for sit-down dinner, buffet style, cocktail receptions, and family-style dinners. While luncheons, trade shows, conferences, conventions, and launch parties are the events under corporate catering.
Meanwhile, concession catering events typically include concerts, major sports events, and seasonal exhibitions. Speed of service is essential for this type of catering event.
What are the Essential Elements for Catering?
Although a regular dining service and catering service share almost the same requirements like food, equipment, and staff, if you’re going to look closely they are still quite different. After all, it’s a different type of food service delivery.
Here’s a quick list of restaurant catering elements you should be aware of when you are planning to carry out this kind of work.
Tools and Equipment
If you’ll be offering an on-premise catering service, this should not be much of a concern for you. You have easy access to your freezers and other important storage units, unlike for off-premise service where the storage of raw ingredients (and even the cooked meals) are crucial.
In essence, you will use the same kitchen with the same set of tools and equipment when you’re going for on-premise service. Even though your restaurant is open for regular dining service, your kitchen can still cater to the needs of your catering service.
But, it’s a different story for off-premise catering. You’ll be delivering the food to a different location, away from the comforts of your complete kitchen setup. In short words, you have to create a stand-alone kitchen where you can prepare the meals.
Keep in mind that not every off-premise location offers their kitchen or has a kitchen space to use. Most of the time, you have to set up your kitchen and preparation area. From the stoves to the trays and storage equipment, everything is expected to be provided by you.
If you’re going to offer catering services in your restaurant, make sure that you’ll create different types of the menu for different types of service. Remember that every event and food service type has distinct menu requirements.
To keep up, you should try out one of the most helpful restaurant catering tips; which is to create a flexible menu. Allow your customers to customize how they want their menu to be.
Consider including the dishes that will meet the requirements of a catering service arrangement. Offer a wide variety of dishes but limit to what’s workable. Make sure that the price will still meet the break-even point so that you can generate income.
Transportation plays an important role in off-premise catering. You have to ensure that the vehicle type you’ll deploy can transport all your equipment and tools without causing any problems.
Bringing in your staff to the location should be discussed as well. How do you expect your employees to reach the location? Talk to them and come to an arrangement that will be beneficial for everyone.
In this situation, it’s best to gather all your employees to a single meeting point before going to the event location. Through this system, you can be certain that every staff member is present before you reach the location.
Aside from waiters and cooks, catering service requires you to employ an account manager that’s responsible for overseeing the entire event. You can’t expect yourself, as the owner, to manage a restaurant and a catering event at the same time. It’ll be chaotic.
Your account manager will serve as the restaurant manager for your catering service. They will be the contact person of your client should there be issues concerning the said service.
Additionally, you also need to hire additional utilities for the transport of the kitchen tools and equipment. Drivers for your trucks, and even captain waiters for added management of your staff.
You have to be careful when adding a fee for your catering service. Clients are very particular when it comes to the total amount that they should pay. You have to be transparent to gain their trust.
Before you close a catering deal, make sure to account for everything that needs to be accounted for. While we understand that you want to please your clients, this is still a business that you’re trying to run. Generating income should always be one of your goals.
If the location is a bit out of town, it’s just reasonable to ask for an out-of-town fee. The longer driving hours plus the gas expense is not something that you can simply put off. Make sure your fees are as clear-cut as possible, so if a customer questions them, you can answer them truthfully.
Tips on How to Prepare Your Restaurant Catering Service for Holidays
Adding a catering service to your restaurant has the potential to boost your income and improve your customer base. If you’re having doubts and thinking you can’t deal with the additional demands that this service brings, take a deep breath and relax.
Consider how much your customers already love your restaurant. Take a look at how much they love your food and service. Why not capitalize a bit more on it knowing you already have an audience for it?
Even if you’re not offering additional service, during the holidays your restaurant will still need operational adjustments to maximize the potential of this season. As for catering, here are the most common and helpful operational tips you can use.
Implement a holiday operating strategy
Catering service in a low and slow season is way too different compared to peak and holiday season. As everyone’s trying to celebrate and hop on the festive season, you should expect more inquiries and more competition.
Also, there will be long working hours and shorter rest days. Your operations will collapse sooner if you keep using one strategy, as the demand and the exhaustion will just pile up. Thus the importance of developing a strategy that will help you deal with holiday issues.
Start by working on your brand presence. Yes, you may already have one for your regular restaurant service, but you must also aim to establish your brand as a reliable catering service provider. Your marketing strategy should target the right set of audiences for your campaigns.
Recruit part-time or seasonal employees
It’s always wise to hire an additional set of hands to keep up with the endless demands during this season. The demand for labor during the holidays is always higher compared to the regular season.
A strategy is not enough to keep your operations stable and functional. It should receive sufficient support from those who will carry out the strategy. It’s a simple application of the supply-demand formula on your operations.
To meet the current level of demand, you will need a sufficient supply. This applies to your food items and service providers. Imagine the horror of operating a catering service while being understaffed?
Overworking your team will not only affect their health, but the quality of your service will also degrade. This is where seasonal and part-time workers play their magic. They act as the additional foundation of your core team to keep their efficiency and productivity on point.
Some of the industry experts even consider that it’s preferable to be overstaffed during this time of year than to be understaffed. In regular restaurant management, both are considered not a good practice, but the holiday season is an exception.
Seasonal workers keep your operation running smoothly, delivering the quality of food and service that you want without a long commitment. It’s clear to them that they’ll just be employed during this season or a period while being paid on an hourly basis.
Launch a new catering menu for the holiday season
This is a special season of parties and celebrations, of course, your clients will be expecting something a little different and special from your end as well. For your catering menu items, make sure that the menu items will reflect the festive season.
Incorporating seasonal items that are only available for a limited time is an effective way to add a specialty to your menu. For instance, instead of your usual desserts, consider including traditional holiday desserts such as Yorkshire Pudding.
Aside from the menu items, change your menu itself into a more holiday-themed layout. There are plenty of ways you can add a holiday touch to your menu. Continue to seek unique ideas that will add additional holiday flavor to your menu.
Make sure your equipment is up to par
It may cost you a bit but investing in proper catering tools and equipment is a great way to start your service. The holiday demands won’t take a pause just because you don’t have enough hot plates or your stoves are not working properly.
Imagine the business that will slip right out of your hands because you can’t cater to an event just because you fail to check if your equipment is still in its best condition. One of the catering tips for restaurants is to buy more sets of utensils and silverware, as these small things make a huge difference.
Spend time working on your inventory management
Just what is a restaurant that doesn’t have ingredients for its menu items? Running a food business, you should know that your inventory and stocks are your lifelines. Inadequate inventory leads to loss of income, additional labor costs, and customer distrust.
Holiday season or not, effective inventory management is crucial for your restaurant. This process directly affects your operations as well as your revenue. Mismanagement of your inventory will leave you in a state of trouble and chaos.
The holiday rush is detrimental to inventory levels. Everyone’s trying to stock up from raw ingredients to other valuable supplies such as linens and even restroom supplies. Before the holiday season begins, make sure that your inventory management team has prepared months in advance of this important time.
Provide a restaurant catering program for your staff
Communicate well with your staff what are the operational and managerial adjustments that will be implemented. During these holidays, your employees will be tested to the fullest extent of their humanity, which is why they must be well trained and prepared.
Start with schedule management. Aside from your diner service, your catering service working hours will be longer as well. Make sure to create a schedule that will maximize the strengths of your team, at the same time, it will provide them enough rest days to recuperate.
Consider redistributing shifts, hiring holiday help, or implementing double shifts. It is important to plan if you want to transition smoothly into your holiday schedule, and ensure your employees are encouraged to submit schedule requests as early as possible.
During the holidays, employees may need time off unexpectedly; be sure to explain your expectations when it comes to employees shifting schedules. Create a process to prevent misunderstandings, and clearly outline the consequences of sudden call-offs.
Look for interesting ways to market your restaurant catering services. This season brings enormous opportunities to broaden your customer reach. Maximize the festive atmosphere by using targeted marketing campaigns to reach people who are most likely to be interested.
Take advantage of CRM
Through your CRM, you gain better insights into your customers. By doing this, you’ll know which ones are likely to host an office party, which ones might throw holiday parties, and which ones may host family-oriented celebrations.
There is plenty of customer information available at your disposal. You just have to be smart on how you’ll strategically call out to them and motivate them in trying out your catering services.
Organize a taste test event
What’s the other way to completely entice your clients rather than a free taste testing event? Catering service providers are known to conduct this type of test, especially if they have a new menu to introduce.
Since you’ll be introducing your holiday menu, consider hosting this type of event to attract prospects. Providing a preview not only gives them an idea about what their food will be like, but also helps in building trust and credibility for your catering brand.
Make use of your newsletter
Your newsletter is an extremely useful tool you can use to communicate with your customers. And during the holiday season, there are lots of things that your clients need to know.
Will you be conducting an open-house event for your new function hall? Will you roll out new special deals and promotions exclusively during the holidays? What are your new holiday menu items? These are just some of the important details that your clients can’t miss.
Announce your catering service using your newsletter. What’s good about email marketing campaigns is that your customers are already segmented. Target those who have the best potential of testing out your new services like corporate businesses, decision-makers in the family, and the like.