Steps caterers can take now to be successful and profitable
Every two weeks, 11 successful catering CEOs from across the country meet via Zoom. Our sales range from $1 million to $13 million. For our first couple of meetings in March, we used the “pivot” mantra. But since that time, every one of us committed to immediate performance that will guarantee our company’s sustainability.
Food is food is food, and as a caterer, it doesn’t matter if our food is presented on a plate, in a box or sold by a specialty grocer. Our clients love our food. We just have to figure out a way to get our food to them.
Patty Howard, CEO of Kitchen Door in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and a member of our catering group, believes this is our ONE chance to reset. No one will ask questions why. Everyone will understand. As an example of this, Patty shifted much of her company’s operations to online food shopping. Company sales are almost back to pre-COVID-19 numbers, and the quality of life for her employees has drastically changed. They are working a four-day work week!
As I write this article, each of the 11 companies in our group is in business. No one is waiting for the world to return to January 2020. And the conversation is not about what will happen when business returns. It’s all about what can we do now to be successful.
Real Reset Results
Company A in Washington state is currently at 20 percent over last year’s sales, year over year. They are providing curbside pickup, door-to-door delivery for dinner, prepared meals and cocktails, and patio seating at their restaurant. They also just purchased a trailer to sell small bites, including shaved ice, near their patio.
Company B in New Jersey started Fried Chicken Fridays and is selling more than 50 family pick-up dinners every Friday. They now have better cash flow and lower labor costs than ever before, because they shifted their emphasis to selling from their own retail food shop in the front of their production kitchen.
Company C in Texas was a strictly high-end event caterer. They now sell dinners for four to the same clients with an average sales ticket of $200. Plus, they have become the go-to stop before their clients head off for the weekend to their ranch. By immediately adding daily social media, their food shop and online shopping are gaining new customers every day.
Company D in California has converted their food production from parties to meals for those in need. Their rental division is busier than ever due to the need for small-group entertaining at local vineyards.
Company E (my catering company) started three new revenue streams since March. Year-to-date sales compared to 2019 are even. Can you believe it? We have no events, and our sales are even with last year. It’s all due to multiple revenue streams.
How Can You Reset?
Find multiple ways to provide your food to your clients. You have the client base, the equipment, the recipes and the staff.
Start with an online shop on your website. This can be done very inexpensively, and you can do it yourself. Start making your fourth quarter online shopping menu.
Think of food that you can sell for:
Weekend football watching: People are starved for sports. While they watch, they want good food to eat!
The long Thanksgiving weekend (not just Thanksgiving Day): Help make your clients’ busy holiday weekend easier by offering foods for breakfast, brunch and lunch, with items that can be cooked straight from the freezer to the oven.
Small group holiday gatherings: People will still be celebrating in December, even if those celebrations are smaller. Offer hors d’oeuvres, small plates and desserts specially designed for small group gatherings.
Always remember: You CAN reset. You CAN be profitable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandy Korem is the owner of Dallas-based catering company The Festive Kitchen, which operates multiple food divisions, catering, food manufacturing and gourmet food shops. Sandy and The Festive Kitchen have received numerous awards, including “The White House Food Service Medallion” for outstanding service to a sitting president. She is also a frequent speaker at national restaurant shows and a contributor to several national food publications. Learn more about her coaching program at thecateringcoach.com.