There’s no denying that your restaurant’s business operations have had to undergo some adjustments in order to function in a COVID-19 world. You scrambled this past spring to put together a takeout and delivery program. You’ve had to modify sanitary practices, employment regulations, and most likely even the physical setup and flow of your floor plan.
Yet, through all of the stress, hard work, diligence, and persistence if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us it’s that sometimes change can be a positive thing; something that can help us grow in ways we may have never thought of before. When it comes to our businesses, these adjustments can be something as simple as changing up our menus, offering takeout, or even adding a catering service.
I have to be honest here, I’ve worked in hospitality for over 20 years and I’ve never once worked for a catering company or even for a restaurant that offered organized catering services. So, it goes without saying, that I’m obviously not a catering expert. But what I do know like the back of my hand is the restaurant and private events industry. I know that after working years as a private events sales director, the thought of switching gears to offsite catering can be a bit daunting, to say the least. But during a time when hosting private events in restaurants is sometimes viewed as taboo, you need to accept change and go for it. Who knows, when things start to go back to normal, and you’re filling up your private dining rooms again, your catering service could be extra money towards your bottom line.
Catering is a hot commodity in the events world right now. Many people are still feeling uneasy with the idea of hosting events outside of the comforts of their homes or offices. No matter how safe you make your restaurant for patrons, there will still be those groups that feel safer off-site, and you don’t want to give up that business if you don’t have to. So where do you begin?
I’d start by devising a well-thought-out plan that answers all of your important, logistical questions.
Who are you targeting?
Before you begin to curate your catering packages and menu options, you need to decide what groups you’ll be catering to. Remember you’re a restaurant, not a catering company, so starting with “everyone” would be a bad business move. Consider starting with three different groups and go from there. For example, weddings of 75 guests or less, corporate meetings, and small social gatherings like bridal showers or birthday parties are probably a safe place to start. From here you can begin to build out your catering packages.
What catering packages will you offer?
This question has become more difficult to answer in a COVID-19 world. I’d say, for example, that stations where guests help themselves to appetizers are probably out of the question because of the increased risk of transmission. If you’re planning to offer buffets, you’ll need to provide individual serving utensils for each guest, or employ a staff that will wear gloves, masks, and be trained to not touch the food, and only handle the serving utensils.
The good news is that this shouldn’t be too hard to do considering you probably have a staff that is used to working private events in-house that have had their hours cut and will be available to work. If staffing is out of the question, you can offer individually portioned meals that are ready to serve or even bagged lunches or bento boxes. This is your chance to get creative during the process of building a successful catering business.
How do you plan to market your new catering service?
You know your target audience, and you’ve created some killer catering package options. Now it’s time to get the word out. Chances are your marketing budget is far from bottomless and probably teeters somewhere between slim and none. So you’ve got to be calculated and you’ve got to be prudent. Start with simple email marketing campaigns.
Use your reporting feature in Tripleseat to pull a contact report of all your past private event customers that fall under the realm of your target audiences. Send them a catchy and pertinent email that showcases your catering packages and makes it hard for them to forget. I recently received an email from a local restaurant that said, “Juggling working from home with homeschooling and child care? You’re not alone. Let us take the labor out of Labor Day this year with delicious home-cooked entrees for your small gathering.” Simple, to the point, and above all else relevant to their target audience.
Once you’ve deployed your email campaign, it’s time to start promoting your catering services on social media. During the pandemic, I’ve found it more and more difficult to turn on the news, and instead, I tend to spend a lot of time perusing my social media accounts. I’ve seen countless restaurant photos and advertisements and have certainly succumbed to more than a few promotions. Bottom line? Social media marketing works and it’s basically free.
The first rule to promoting your services on social media is to know your customers. Think like your target audience and what would convince them to choose your restaurant for their event catering. If corporate catering is what you’re pushing, then take photos of your staff safely packing boxed lunches for a corporate meeting. If weddings are your goal, show photos of your beautifully plated meals, or a buffet line carefully set up to adhere to all safety guidelines. You get the point. Become your target customer and create a tone for your social media marketing based on this.
How will you organize your catering events?
The answer to this one is simple if you’re a Tripleseat customer. You’ll add your catering events to your Tripleseat calendar the same way you add in-house events. But first, you’ll want to ensure that you have a room set up in Tripleseat specifically for catering that has been checked off to ignore all conflicts. Of course, this isn’t a room in the physical sense but it’s how you’ll organize your catering events, and making it immune to conflicts guarantees that you’ll be able to book as many of these catering events in overlapping time frames as necessary. In addition, you’ll want to create an event type for each type of catering event. This way you can mark them accordingly so that you’ll be able to pull specific reports on them for years to come.
Now that you’ve made these easy additions in your Tripleseat account, you’ll be able to enter your catering events quickly and seamlessly. For more ideas on easy ways to customize your Tripleseat account for catering events, please reach out to our knowledgeable support team.
I hope this post has shed some light on how simple it can be to add another revenue source to your restaurant business. Here at Tripleseat, we understand that this pandemic has been nothing short of ruthless to the hospitality industry. If there are ways that our software can help your restaurant grow any part of your business whether it be events, delivery and takeout, catering, and more, we are dedicated to making it happen.
There’s plenty of time to make 2020 a success
No matter what catering idea you choose, Tripleseat can help you organize your catering and events business. Not yet a Tripleseat customer? Schedule a demo to learn more about how Tripleseat can help you build and streamline more than just your private dining business.