It’s that time of year. In the Midwest, when we feel that first nip in the air, generally our foodie minds turn to homemade soups and chili and baked apple goodness. However, when you are a seasoned veteran of the catering industry like me, my foodie mind turns to holiday parties!
What can we do as foodservice professionals to bring in more business during this very busy time of year? If you’re a restaurant owner, you can consider seasonal specials, or perhaps opening your restaurant to groups for a new day part in which you are normally closed. Group business is good for business especially when you control the menu, production and staff required. Offering the corporate customer a way to bring in a group for a special breakfast, lunch or even cocktail hour celebration in addition to dinner business is a win-win for you and your customers.
Catering is another great option for the holidays. Your customers are busy this time of year and will appreciate the opportunity to order some of their favorite items from their favorite restaurants. If your kitchen can handle the prep in the off-peak hours, and you’ve got enough refrigeration and space to assemble, why not consider putting together a limited catering menu for pick-up and/or delivery? If you can offer curbside pick-up, it’s even more appealing to the customer.
Here’s what you need to think about in the short run. Peruse your menu and pick a few items you know can be prepared a bit in advance, and which will transport and hold well. Instead of preparing individual portions as you would for carry-out, prepare larger quantities of these items to share and offer your specialties by the tray and platter. Figure out how many each will serve and price accordingly. Ask your vendors what they have available for packaging and see what your options are. Include warming and serving suggestions with every order. Keep the menu small. Stick to your specialties that will heat, hold and travel well.
Promote catering within your operation via table tents, menus or server suggestions. Promote it in email marketing, social media and on your website. If it works well for the holidays, think about how you can turn catering into a more permanent revenue stream year round. If you do it well, catering will help you to build your relationships within the community and will drive more business into your restaurant.