On-site catering is akin to setting up and breaking down your restaurant for each job. As opposed to pick-up / drop-off catering options where you prepare everything in the familiarity of your kitchen, on-site preparation requires you bring everything you need to provide the client with what they need. While it’s exciting (and can be profitable) to offer your customers this new service, it is often the most challenging type of catering as there are numerous variables that can affect your success – so it’s important to plan this offering out thoroughly!
The Menu: Before you begin purchasing equipment and booking clients, you need to decide what menu you can offer your clients for off-site catering that will differentiate you from your competition. It’s wise (and actually, easiest) to start with what you do best, and build on customer favorites from your menu. If you’re known for your burgers, wings and beer, start with that, and gear your marketing efforts towards those that would be interested in that type of fare for events. No sense in re-inventing the wheel!
Pick a Point Person: Who will handle incoming calls regarding catering requests? We recommend selecting one person on your staff to manage these requests and the catering calendar. However, all team members should be aware of your catering capabilities and options, so that they can easily communicate this information to customers.
The Equipment: Depending on the type of restaurant, bar, bakery, or cafe you run, the type of equipment you need to prepare and serve food off-site will vary. However, it’s safe to assume that you will need the following kitchen basics:
- Convection Oven
- Skillets / Stove Top
- Refrigeration / Freezer
- Holding Cabinets
- Hot Boxes
- Working Counter Space
We found a great article on transporting food for off-site catering over at The Food Service Warehouse. Lots of other helpful resources there, as well!
In addition to the equipment listed above, needed to prepare the food, you’ll also need equipment to present and serve the food. Tables, tablecloths, serving trays and utensils, napkins, plates, bowls, cups, forks, knives… you get the picture.
New Expenses: Off-site catering, while profitable, can also introduce a host of new expenses that you don’t have to consider with your brick and mortar location. Delivery / on-site vehicles, maintenance of those vehicles, new equipment, maintenance of that equipment, and insurance are all costs to consider. Look into whether it makes more sense for you to lease or purchase equipment and vehicles.
Market Your New Offerings! To grow this new aspect of your business, you need to be just as (if not more) consistent with your marketing efforts. Draw attention to your catering offerings on your menus, or create a new brochure just for catering. Additionally, let your customers know with in-store signage, via social media and your website. The best way to grow and sustain your catering business is to perpetuate positive word of mouth marketing through satisfied customers, and to get involved with your community. See if there are any local fairs or festivals coming up where you could set up a booth to demonstrate your new offerings, or offer to donate catered services to a local charitable cause.
For even more ways on how to drum up business for your off-site catering business, check out: