Restaurant Catering Series: Part 2 — Infrastructure Concerns

In our last post, we introduced the benefits and considerations of establishing a catering business. Now we will discuss infrastructure considerations. Having the right infrastructure is essential to creating the best experience for your customers. A catering business requires planning, organization, and an established kitchen flow.

How will your customers be able to place an order? Many restaurants use their website as a starting point for customers to place orders. Customers may go online where there is contact information including a phone number and email address so that customer catering orders are centralized. They should be able to easily discuss catering with a general manager or catering specialist in the restaurant as well.

What will be the level of catering services you will provide? There is a line where take out ends and catering begins. This line may start with the minimum number of people to serve per order or the minimum dollar amount. For larger parties, the catering may involve off-site preparation and set up. Smaller orders may only be delivered with minimal to no set up or simply picked up by the customer.

Establish expectations with customers. It is important to have a contract prepared between you and the customer; put in writing what the customer is expecting and how the order will be paid (check or credit card). For example, restaurants may require customers to put down a deposit. This will help your cash flow since food will need to be ordered ahead of time to prepare. Pricing, delivery services, and timing should all be defined in your contracts.

Organization is vital. The work flow and use of existing kitchen staff is essential in creating efficiencies for catering. Establish a timeline in which the catering starts with the customer contract through the preparation process to the delivery. For example, paper products and labeling can be done a day or so ahead of the event. Preparing for the next day’s catering should be a part of closing procedures for the restaurant. Also, let’s face it, customers change their minds! Your catering infrastructure should allow for flexibility as well. Many restaurants prepare lunch and dinner catering orders prior to when the lunch and dinner rushes occur in the restaurant. There should be employees for each shift from front of the house and back of the house that are in charge of catering. The use of existing kitchen staff will also provide increased margins and efficiencies.

Franchisee considerations. The guess work has probably been done for you! Most franchisors have catering policies in place as they know what works in their restaurants. Consult with your franchisor or other franchisees.

By having proper infrastructure in place, it will allow for your catering operations to be efficient for both you and the customer. It will also give the customer a more positive experience with your brand.