August 06 2014 – Robert Fiumara
Do you cater? Catering can be hard to implement and costly, but it is also an effective way to increase earnings and build business both in and outside of your restaurant once you implement a sound catering structure into your business.
Catering Is a Difficult Process to Begin
To begin, if you’re serious about offering catering services, you need to implement a secondary menu for catering events specifically. This serves two different purposes, the first being that it makes the catering event feel specific and unique from simply walking into your restaurant. The second is that if you simply fall back on your restaurant pricing, you’re setting yourself up for failure and loss. The cost of simply transporting the food and the labor involved therein will eat up the slim profit margins your regular pricing structure would offer. Your catering prices need to be higher. Financial accountability and careful cost analysis is needed in every single catering contract you do. Know your costs down to the penny, and adjust your prices accordingly.
If you’re going to offer catering services, you also need to have a nonrefundable deposit. Even if it’s only a small cost, like two to three hundred dollars, you need to have some insurance that not only is your client serious about the catering inquiry, but that your time will not be wasted. Having this deposit is like having insurance. It guarantees that your client is serious about the catering and that your time will be rewarded.
In your billing, you have to itemize your costs. Charge the client from the moment that your staff sets foot on the property. Do not hesitate to charge for packing time and preparation as well. As we all know, time is money, and any time you invest that isn’t paid for is money lost. It’s not easy maintaining an experienced and professional staff. You have to cover those costs. Make a checklist and keep careful stock of every item you’ll need. From utensil and ingredients to changes of clothing and water, you’ll be surprised at what the venues you work at may demand of you.
In any case, do not hesitate to hire a non-kitchen coordinator; someone who can supervise the staff through every minor part of the event and smooth over any unpleasantness that may arise. Having a dedicated liaison to keep a cool head will make any difficulty much, much easier. In this vein, you also need to pay event staff a bit more. As you’ll soon learn, catering is not exactly like working in the restaurant. It has more unique stresses that make many people unsuited for the job. Reward those who reward your business, and build that into the cost of your catering services.
But If You Can Overcome the Initial Barrier, Your Profits Will Grow
It seems like catering can be daunting, but really, there are few ways to better build your business and drive up your bottom line. While the barrier to entry seems enormous, the rewards are well worth the difficulty. Consider adding a catering line to your business today!