Category Archives: Catering Operations

Travelin’ Brand by Sam Smith – Good Article about Restaurant Catering

Increase Catering Sales

The article “Travelin’ Brand” in the February Issue of Restaurant Business is very thoughtful.  As I have been pursuing the restaurant catering conversation for the last 16 years, I find it very refreshing to see other writers covering the subject matter.

So many of our customers and friends at MonkeyMedia Software and The MMS Catering Institute ask about the “size of the prize”.  While I am not convinced that the numbers presented in the article are perfectly defined, I think it is a great step towards helping our restaurant community understand the subtleties of the marketplace.

The following link will provide you with digital access to the article which begins on Page 47.

http://digitaledition.qwinc.com/publication/?i=194650

Great Job Sam Smith and kudos to Restaurant Business Magazine for providing coverage on such an important topic.

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How to Grow Catering Sales: A Franchisee’s Perspective

Franchisee/Franchisor

It’s no secret that the franchise model for growing restaurant companies continues to be a key driver in the restaurant industry. The restaurant industry is no different than other industries such as the music industry, the movie industry or even the software industry. Ours is an industry full of creativity, processes, proprietary flavors and company cultures. It makes good business sense for our industry to leverage that intellectual property across the globe through franchising. Like any business, a restaurant’s strategic plan is critical.

A franchisee is a very important community member within the restaurant industry. Happy franchisees promote positive energy. Happy franchisees invest in their restaurant operations. Happy franchisees will strive to meet restaurant brand standards. Happy franchisees care about results. And happy franchisees make more money!

Yes, when franchisees make money we have a healthy franchising ecosystem that thrives, prospers and grows for many generations forward. And so, that is why a franchisee is so important to our restaurant community.

Thinking about restaurant catering as a franchisee, I’d like to encourage you to take some time to understand the perspective of restaurant catering from the franchisor’s perspective. This is very important because, well frankly, they need your help to do catering right. What follows is my perspective on the franchisee/franchisor relationship and how it impacts the decisions that need to be made around catering out of franchisee locations.

As we all know, the franchising business is only successful if the franchisees believe they are getting timely services from the franchisors. Good franchisors understand this service dilemma and go out of their way to make sure they invest in the proper infrastructure to provide services to their franchisee community. When it comes to franchising, the franchisor is the seller and the franchisee is the buyer. It’s no different when it comes to catering out of franchise ecosystems.

As a franchisee, please consider how rapidly the market for healthy and convenient food is growing. Franchisors everywhere are in a constant race to position their restaurant brands in front of consumers, and demands and tastes are shifting every day.

Because catering out of restaurants has primarily been an industry afterthought, many franchisors have neglected to make this important sales channel part of their brand’s core business strategy. And the ones that have are still in the early days of our industry’s evolution.

As a franchisee, your job is to help your franchisors understand your needs. Because catering is tied to the business strategy of your restaurant, it requires attention at the most strategic level of the brand you represent. You need support to execute the catering operation with precision.

In many franchise systems, good franchisee operators went ahead with catering services in earnest. Why? Because catering out of restaurants is simply smart business. Catering makes you more money.

Every restaurant franchisee today has customers asking for catering services. In addition, every restaurant franchisee needs more sales to help make this week’s payroll. Saying no to customers is never an option for any growing venture. Good franchisees find a way to do it.

And so, as the telephone rings more and more for these services, we must raise our service to a standard that can be measured and ultimately improved. That is the only way to yield more sales and we need to get better at it.

On this franchisee-catering journey, we must deeply understand the subtlety in restaurant operations when it comes to catering. It requires a sturdy organizational foundation at the executive level committed to solid catering leadership and enterprise-level catering alignment. No business can advance without clear leadership, financial accountability and a vision for future growth. Therefore, franchisees must work together with their franchisors on restaurant catering to implement a scalable business focused on incremental sales. Franchisors can utilize the scale and resources of the full ecosystem to drive more sales for everyone by representing the brand properly in the marketplace.

As part of this strategic alignment exercise, franchisees must include their restaurant unit managers and their community team members. If employees at the restaurant level are not trained around your designed catering culture, that culture will cease to exist and your catering program will fail.

To get everyone in your operation on the same page — whether you have one restaurant or 100 — here are 4 characteristics of organizational restaurant catering alignment that should be agreed upon and communicated to the rest of your restaurants and your franchisors:

1. Sales Goals: A clear and concise sales goal must be posted publicly and promoted visibly within all areas of your restaurants. Growing catering sales takes a full team commitment to selling.

2. Financial Investment and Resources: Restaurant catering represents a high-margin sales opportunity. A few small investments in the right places will yield incremental sales with few incremental costs. These investments need to be well defined, qualified, quantified and committed to.

3. A Commitment To Training & Standardization: People development is a key aspect to succeeding in your restaurant catering division. It takes ongoing people development to solve catering problems.

4. Coordinated Action Through Conscious Leadership: Results in an aligned customer service action throughout every department of your organization. Catering team ambassadors in every department all working together for seamless execution of catering, while maintaining existing business operations.

Let’s talk catering!

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Improve Kitchen Production Efficiency to Grow Restaurant Catering Sales

Kitchen Design

When it comes to selling and marketing your catering products and services, reliability, predictability and scalability are three key elements required to ensure long term success. Until you thoughtfully design your restaurant catering production process, you will not be able to maximize the opportunity for catering out of your restaurants. Catering is a different business!

You must adopt a “manufacturing mentality” for your catering operations and how you engineer that dynamic into your kitchens directly relates to the execution success of your catering business. You must appreciate that an adjusted workflow will create new operational dynamics in your restaurants.

This is where planning and flexibility with regards to your catering production methodology becomes an important part of your overall strategic catering plan.  Your team must be prepared to consider “batch based” manufacturing and assembling of products, as well as be able to handle last-minute order adjustments.  Your catering policies and procedures must be well documented and publicized to deliver a smooth catering experience for both your store-level employees and your guests.   You have to follow some sound business logic when managing order dynamics for catering.  So, what you do in your kitchen really matters to your catering customers!

As catering sales grow in your restaurants, so too will the demands and competition for more resources. In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges facing our restaurant community. It is hard to teach people to respond to this kind of dynamic demand, while also filling their regular duties related to your daily restaurant operations.  To overcome this intellectual challenge, I’d recommend that you take the time to re-engineer the roles and responsibilities of your kitchen production teams to make room for your catering operation.   Start by putting a single point of contact in charge of all catering orders when it’s time to get product out the door!  There is more to consider, but you need leadership at all levels of the catering transaction!

If you design properly, you can use your existing labor at the restaurant level to help facilitate the production and assembly of catering orders.  If you look at the order flow, you will see that when we add the element of delivery and order distribution into the workflow, in fact, orders have to be out of the kitchen long before your guests consume your catering products.   As such, we need to adjust our human capital to begin producing products long before your regular restaurant day parts begin to impact operations.  The beautiful thing about that dynamic is that catering sales will yield higher margins because you are utilizing your labor far more efficiently.   Saying that, you will have to really look at each step of the order manufacturing and assembly process.  I am proposing, that there should be very little incremental cost in human capital as you increase catering sales.  Simply re-engineer the workflow of your current team members to take on some catering-related tasks on each shift.  In addition, consider that menu engineering can have a serious impact on creating more capacity for catering sales.  You don’t have to offer every item on your restaurant’s menu.  Catering can be a subset of products and a very specific experience.  Engineer a catering menu that takes pressure of your kitchen!

Depending on which day-parts for catering you are focused on, your production start and stop times will ramp up and down just before your retail business traffic hits your restaurants.  For example, if implemented successfully, your lunch catering orders will already be in transit to your customers, by the time the in-store lunch rush begins. This synergy will create more overall efficiency in your entire restaurant operations and will make better use of your assets. Ultimately, if you can engineer this dynamic properly, you will fundamentally shift the economics of your restaurants!

In addition to production start and stop times, the preparation process for receiving, inputting and preparing catering orders is something that is critical to appreciate.  As an example, your catering captains on each shift at your restaurants should begin preparing for catering orders the night before they are scheduled for delivery or pick up. As such, you will get a jump on tomorrow’s orders long before your kitchen closes for the day.  This makes the next day’s catering orders easier to execute as we prepare tomorrow’s raw materials for assembly and cooking.

Meanwhile, shelf-stable items such as chips, beverages and paper service should be gathered and prepared by the closing shift, thereby making better use of downtime during slow nights at the restaurant.  If it’s a busy night, experience tells me that the work still gets done and the numbers look even better.  People tend to work to the speed at which business is coming in the door!  We just have to teach them how.

During my time at Tony’s Deli, we had a single catering supervisor for each shift at the restaurant whose sole responsibility was to fold boxes, organize labels, prepare beverages and paper service for the next day’s catering orders. In addition, they also helped with the store’s closing procedures and cleaning that allowed us to operate our entire business far more efficiently.  This kind of workflow dynamic makes better use of your existing resources that might otherwise sit idle between day parts, and is another critical part of the efficiency equation!

If you have planned and executed well, on the day of catering production and distribution, your kitchen team’s energy should go into the assembly and packaging step to fill orders and not all the tasks that should have been pre-prepped earlier in the process when time was not as critical.

There is more to discuss here.  However, I have learned that we can design and implement a more thoughtful workflow in our kitchens when it comes to executing restaurant-catering orders.

Let’s talk catering!

 

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