Catering for Caterers FAQ

Jul 03, 2018 | Divyesh Amipara

Why should I expand my restaurant business and offer catering services?

It’s a great way to boost sales and increase your business. Catering will mean that customers who might not usually go to your restaurant have the chance to try your food in what will be a fun and enjoyable setting. It’s good for word of mouth advertising and chances are if you do a good job the guests you’ve catered for will come to your restaurant. Furthermore your restaurant’s customers will provide an initial customer base so you won’t need to do as much additional marketing as you think.

Do I need a contract for catering events?

It depends on the nature of the client and the event but it couldn’t hurt to have a written contract in place so both the caterer and client are clear on what their responsibilities are. Making clients sign a contract should also protect you and your business should something unexpected happen. While you aren’t required to have one by law for these reasons it is a good idea to have one ready for every client to sign. 

What equipment do I need?

There are the obvious things such as plates, glassware, flatware, linen and cutlery. If you already have a restaurant you may have many of these already but it may be more economical to buy or rent them separately for your catering business as sharing with your restaurant could affect business there.

Other than the basics, chafing dishes are an essential item for caterers planning to serve a buffet. If you’re planning to offer off premise catering and deliver the food it would be wise to invest in a cambro as this will keep your food at a safe temperature weather it needs to be hot or cold.

How do I price my catering menu?

You should keep the price similar to your regular restaurant menu or if you’re an independent caterer, similar to what local restaurants offering the same type of food are charging. If you offer off premise catering however, you’ll need to charge slightly higher prices to account for the cost of transportation. Charging similar prices to restaurants will likely allow you to have a higher profit margin, especially if you’re catering for a large event and therefore buy the food in bulk.

Where should I advertise my catering services?

While traditional advertising on TV, radio, yellow pages, magazines and newspapers is expensive it can still be necessary and as it comes at a high price you need to be smart about it. Know the right channels and publications to advertise by analysing the target audience of each and taking out an ad in one whose viewers/readers are of the demographic likely to be interested in your catering services. As a very basic example, should you specialize in wedding catering, you’re best off advertising in a woman’s magazine or during a TV show about wedding planning. Targeted social media advertising will also be effective, however despite the lower cost successfully breaking through the clutter that is on the internet and being successful requires a very focused strategy.

If you have a restaurant you’re at a distinct advantage in terms of direct marketing as you can hand out flyers advertising your services to customers as well as have menu inserts to gain awareness. For this to be most effective (if you have the budget for it) offer restaurant customers a discount on catering as the perception of good value would leave them more likely to give it a try for their next party or event.

Should I offer a room fee, or any other fees?

Charging fees other than food is very important as you need to cover your costs and be as transparent as possible with the customers. A mistake made by caterers is that they try to cover the costs by increasing the price of the food. This will deter customers as they may not see the value in the food. The best way to avoid this is to charge fees for any other costs incurred and make sure to include them in any statements given to your clients. However, do not charge fees Try unnecessarily.

How much should I pay my staff?

While obviously taking minimum wage laws into account, your staff should be paid a higher than average rate should you be able to afford it as this will lead to them working more efficiently. Paying them more will make it worth their while to work a catering shift instead of a dining room shift and will attract a higher calibre of employees. if you can’t afford to pay your employees a high wage consider letting them keep any tips they receive in addition to a basic wage, as this is even more likely to result in high work standards.

Who gets to keep the leftovers?

Excluding any health laws that might be in place regarding leftovers, the choice is up to you. As caterers tend to prepare more food than is required/eaten at an event there’s likely to be some left over at the end. Depending on what kind of food it is, you can bring it back to your restaurant should it be hygienic to do so. Alternatively as a gesture of goodwill you could offer it to the customers, which will increase your customer service rating also negate the cost of having to bring it back and store it. Whatever you decide it’s important to let your client know beforehand so there’s no confusion about whose responsibility the leftover food is.