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  • Writer's pictureAaron Hoffman

Complete Guide for Your Catering Operation

Offering catering can be the catalyst your restaurant needs. Not only are you moving a large quantity of food, but you're also getting your name out in front of customers that may have never visited your restaurant. Before you put out your first catering order you're going to need a business plan. This plan will outline everything from marketing to price points.

Be Unique

When I say the catering industry is large, I really do mean it! This 22 billion dollar industry is growing each and everyday. More and more restaurants launch catering each year which ends up creating some serious competition. In order to stand out amongst the rest, you're going to need to shake things up and be different. Identify something that you're good at and roll with it. I often come across restaurants that do the same thing as everything else, which leads to poor sales. The restaurants that go above and beyond their customer's expectations always win. Not only are they creating an amazing brand that will easily be recognized, they're shaking up the way their competitors run their catering operations. If restaurants are following your lead, you know you're doing something right. Reach Your Existing Clientele

This area is often overlooked and there's a reason why. It can be very uncomfortable reaching out to existing customers about a new product. However, if you offer some sort of incentive then you should have no problem getting your catering out. Offer something like a 10% discount or some sort of rewards for ordering. What we do is offer $25 for every $500 spent on catering. Often times this makes a huge difference for professionals. They usually don't have to use their own money to pay for the food, so offering an incentive like this is crucial. They'll more than likely always choose your restaurant because they know that they'll always be getting something back.

Establish Your Price Points

Your catering business plan needs to have an established pricing model to work from. Don't get me wrong, there will be times where you have to stray away from this model for large events, but you should definitely have something in place for the 99% of your order.

There’s three ways that catering is priced:

Per Person: This is a great model to use for professionals like drug reps. They often have to order for an office or for a client meeting. This model will usually include an entree & drink

Per Item: Having an a la carte option is necessary to have.

Per Package: This a food package often priced at a bulk rate. For example, if you want to offer a grad party package you may want to price it lower than what someone would have to pay per person. It is a good practice to throw a few extras in, like a side or drinks, to entice the customer. This just creates more value and will allow you to move more food.

Develop a Marketing Plan

You’ve identified a niche market with catering, know what food to offer and at which prices people will purchase at, but that still isn’t enough. You need to identify your target customers and develop a marketing plan around them.

You can hand out business cards, have tasting parties, and offer discounted purchases but sometimes that’s not even enough. Like I talked about above, you need to be different. If your target market is going to be inside sales representatives do you think instagram will be your go-to marketing option? Probably not. If you’re able to figure out how to reach your key audience in a cost effective way you’ll be heading in the right direction.

We will use drug reps as an example of who to market to. What we’ve done in the past is reach out directly to the companies that the reps work for. One simple call turned into hundreds of orders from reps all over Ohio. Reason? It made sense for the companies to have their reps go through us. Not only were they getting an incentive but were also dealing with only one company when it came to catering.


Plan of Action

  1. Identify how you are going to be different than the competition

  2. Reach out to your already existing clientele

  3. Establish price points for your food that allows you to offer incentives

  4. Market to your target customers


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