Three big answers to why your restaurant needs to start catering today, and how to push it online
People love to throw parties, but they don't want to do the cooking. They rather pay someone else to cook, while they glam up and play host. And that's not a bad thing!
That 'someone else' who gets paid good money? Might as well be you, my friend. And why the heck not? You already have the skills. You already have the recipes.
If you're not already offering catering... is it because you think it's out of your league? Too much co-ordination and admin work?
Hey, listen. Catering is now a $276 billion market, over half of which is restaurant catering.
Weddings, corporate meetings, birthday parties, baby showers, anniversaries, backyard barbecues, social gatherings. The demand for event catering continues to rise. Plus, it actually doesn't need as much labour as you think.
Let's dive into why your restaurant should offer catering.
- A chance to serve new customers
- Wastage goes down
- Profits go up
- How to get started with restaurant catering
A chance to serve new customers
If a customer loves the catered food, they are more likely to visit your restaurant to try other menu items. It's also a chance for them to share their experience with friends and family members who can't make it in person.
If there's anything I've learnt in my 13 years of running a restaurant, it's this one universal law. "Good food always has tongues wagging." Happy party guests are more likely to share their experience with others.
Catering brings in more guests, converting them to regular customers. I dare say it's even better than online marketing. Why? Because catering offers a taste of your menu to those who haven't visited your restaurant. You can't taste the food on an Instagram post.
Think of catering events as an edible billboard for your restaurant.
🌟 Pro tip: Ask the host to let you display your business cards, QR codes, or catering menus on the food table. It's also a good idea to have a sign-up form where you can collect an email list of catering clients. If it's a manned event, train your waitstaff to refer guests to your website for more information.
🍬 Bonus: Catering is a great way to test new menu items without having to make big changes at your restaurant. Try it out with catering clients and get feedback first! It also makes them feel special because it's something that is not served in your regular menu.
Wastage goes down
Okay, let's be real here. It's something we restaurateurs don't like to talk about, but the fact is restaurants have a lot of waste. From perishables that don't get used to over-prepped leftovers, it's a sad reality.
And I get it. Predicting inventory levels is tough business! You can get close using past data, but knowing the exact traffic you're going to get in advance is impossible.
The beauty of catering is that you can determine the exact amount of raw ingredients to order. Usually you'd buffer a little in case of accidents. But if all goes well, the staff can take the excess ingredients home or you can donate them to a food bank.
But I can guarantee you'll definitely use up all the prepared food. This brings your wastage down to near zero. And you can check the following boxes off your feel-good list:
✅ Save food
✅ Save money
✅ Reduce your environmental impact
Profits go up
You'll start having better cashflow. It's common to ask for a 50% downpayment or even full upfront payment for catering orders.
Bulk-buying ingredients while needing fewer resources lead to economies of scale. For example, you might not need waitstaff for drop-off catering events.
Now, I know what you're thinking. “I can't afford to offer catering services.” But the truth is, you can't afford not to. You might need to buy some catering equipment to get started. For example, chafing dishes, serving trays, and some tableware. But this small investment can pay off in a big way. Trust me; it's a lot cheaper than investing in a new restaurant location.
Turn your restaurant into an event catering powerhouse! With a little bit of effort and planning, you'll be raking in extra revenue in no time.
How to get started with restaurant catering
Ready to make your restaurant stand out from the competition? Here are some hot tips from our top-performing merchants:
Create a separate catering menu
Don’t offer the exact same dishes that you serve in your restaurant! You can include some of your more popular items, but make them to be "tray-sized" to suit larger events and parties. You might even want to create separate menus for different types of events. For example, a marriage solemnisation menu and a baby shower menu. It can be as simple as coming up with different names for the menu items to make it seem "customised" for the event.
Tell your guests how much time you need in advance to prepare for their party. For instance, you might need at least 3 days' notice to order ingredients and get things ready.
Maynuu makes it easy to set up a pre-order catering menu. You can list your catering dishes, and decide the number of days' notice you need for a pre-order.
An online catering menu makes is super convenient for your customer to place an order and pay you in advance. They add their selections to their cart, and select a date for self-pickup or delivery. You can manage all your catering menus through the Maynuu dashboard.
Promote it offline and online
Don't forget to promote your catering services to your existing customers. How to go about it:
- share it on social media
- print menus to distribute in-store
- add promotional information to packaging and receipts
- make a window decal that says "Ask about our catering menu!"
Offline: Place your printed menus where your dine-in guests would notice them. It can be a simple layout with checkboxes. The customer ticks the items they want, and makes a downpayment or full payment in-store.
Online: Make sure that your catering services are easy to find on your website. Create a separate section that highlights your catering menu, pricing, and ordering information. If you are using Maynuu for your catering menu, then make a loud and obvious link to it on your website.
Post signs on your shop window and on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Make use of all the direct channels you have, like WhatsApp or Telegram groups.
Don't be shy about showing what sets your restaurant apart.
Some of the things that have worked really well for restaurants who offer catering:
- Establish relationships with local event planners and corporate clients.
- Attend networking events and offer discounts to build loyalty to your brand.
- Create flexible and customisable packages that can meet varied event needs.
- Partner with wedding venues or corporate businesses to provide regular catering services.
We live in a world of endless possibilities. Why limit yourself to serving food in your restaurant's four walls? Not to mention, event catering is on the rise, and it's time for your restaurant to get in on the action.
Think of it as expanding your culinary empire – one event at a time!
In summary, benefits of offering catering:
- reduce food waste
- reach out to a broader market
- open doors to new opportunities
- keep your kitchen busy during idle periods
- showcase your culinary creativity to a different audience
- add extra revenue while doing what you love - making food
Not sure how to go about it? Ask us about our catering features.
We use the term 'restaurant' throughout the article for consistency. However this guide can be generally applied to any type of food shop, including but not limited to: bakeries, bars, bistrots, boulangeries, butcheries, cafés, caterers, coffeeshops, delis, diners, eateries, food trucks, patisseries, pubs, etc.