A growing number of Quick Serve Restaurants (QSR) are launching catering services to reach more customers and boost their bottom line. If executed well, this extra revenue stream can help owners expand their business tremendously. And they may have most of what they need to get started. Think of catering as large-scale delivery. With some planning and marketing, an owner can drum up new, ongoing business by tapping into office holiday parties, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, graduations, and more.
If you’re ready to grow your business beyond the walls of your restaurant, here are 5 tips for successfully launching your QSR’s catering business.
1. Develop a smart menu.
Limit the items you offer for special parties. Include your signature items, but keep the list of offerings manageable. This will help you streamline your catering operations and ensure that the quality of your product is top notch. Because customers remember the food served at parties, this is imperative for generating repeat business. Only pick menu items that travel well and are party-friendly. If food needs to be driven 30 minutes across town, you’ll want to ensure that the food will keep. And choose items suitable for big parties such as finger foods and shareable items that can be easily dished up.
2. Streamline operations.
Make sure catering work doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day restaurant operations. Require advanced orders so you can fulfill them without messing up your inventory and staffing plans. Another unique advantage: you can plan to get advanced orders out the door before busy hours, like lunchtime. This is just another way you can boost revenue earned during the off-hours. You’ll also want to dedicate a separate part of the kitchen to catering fulfillment and customer pick up. This will keep traffic flowing smoothly. And don’t forget to get the appropriate packaging for delivery. You’ll need disposable utensils, plates and napkins for the eaters. You may need to invest in containers that allow you to transport food at the right temperature. By streamlining operations, you’ll create a seamless experience from the moment an order is placed until the moment it’s enjoyed by your customer.
3. Harness technology.
Use technology to make the online ordering experience as easy and hassle free for your customers. If your ordering system works equally as well on a phone, tablet or computer, if the steps to placing an order are minimal, and if the interface is clean, you’ll be well-positioned to process orders quickly and attract repeat business.
4. Know your customer.
Catering sales are growing across the industry, according to the National Restaurant Association. There’s no longer a stigma from ordering platters from a quick-serve restaurant, and it’s often a welcome surprise when guests find their favorite restaurant’s food at a party. Tap into this growing market by understanding who your customers are and what they’re looking for, so that you can tailor your catering offerings accordingly. Are they families looking for a holiday fixings? Do local businesses need food for their office parties? Research your region and build a database of current and potential clients. From there, build relationships with people who want this service. These can include administrators at local corporations, nonprofits, religious organizations and schools, as well as event planners and frequent customers at your establishment. For VIPs, go the extra mile and host private events just for them, enticing them to come back for more.
5. Be strategic.
Continue to engage with your customers through strategic marketing. First, let your customers know that you offer catering. Feature this prominently on your website, in the restaurant, and on your social media. Throughout the year, adapt with the seasons. Plan your marketing ahead of major holidays and events, such as Fourth of July or the Oscars, so that customers know they can count on you to cater their parties. Encourage customers to post pictures of their parties—with your catering in the shots—on social media with your restaurant’s hashtag. Through pictures, marketing and consistent good service, your catering business may just become the life of the party.
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