Somehow, it’s already the end of October. With the holiday season quickly approaching, you’ve likely already received a catering request or two – be it for office parties, community functions or family gatherings. Holiday catering, while definitely a stressful endeavor, can be lucrative for well-prepared restaurants. As such, we’ve compiled five of our tried-and-true tips for a successful catering season to help you prevent a holiday nightmare:
- Start your marketing early on. Holiday events are being planned now, so there’s no time to waste. Put your social media posts, email promotions, flyers on carry-out orders and table tents to use. You may also want to consider hosting a catering event night to allow prospects to sample your menu or targeting specific local businesses whose employees frequent your restaurant.
- Refine your menu. If you’re just launching your catering service, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of menu creation. Soon enough, though, you’ll have an entirely new slate of offerings, which can turn into a logistical headache fast! Crafting a menu that remains true to your brand is crucial, so stick to what makes you special. For example, if your bartender is an expert mixologist, consider creating a themed cocktail for each event. Also, remember to double-check on dietary restrictions and preferences.
- Invest in the proper equipment. Before you book your first event, it’s time to take inventory. Especially if you plan on delivering catering orders to your clients’ doors, having the proper equipment (and enough of it) will make or break your service. Consider offering convenient add-ons, such as table linens, flatware, table settings, barware and even themed decorations, to take some of the party-planning burden off your clients’ shoulders.
- Don’t skimp on training (or hiring). Between your in-house, carry-out and delivery customers and your catered events, your front- and back-of-house staff will be stressed. Bringing on a few seasonal staff members can help you deal with the rush. But extra hands aren’t all you need; even your best employees may not be instant catering pros. Train them on how to manage and prepare catering orders following whatever system you’ve created. Many restaurants’ level of service becomes lax at these events, so maintaining your high standards will instantly set you apart from competitors.
- Mind the little details. Your reputation is on the line, so err on the side of being over-organized. Checklists and calendars are your best bet to avoid overbooking, to make sure your team members show up at the right place at the right time and to get your orders prepared and served on schedule. Traffic can be brutal during the holidays, especially, so give yourself a buffer and use Google Maps or another GPS service for efficient navigation.
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