Catering Tip #3 – Pricing your restaurant catering menu

I often have restaurant operators asking me about how to manage their menus.  At the MMS Catering Institute we believe that catering out of restaurants is a separate business;  a business unto its own.

When it comes to menu pricing, I’d like to put forward the following recommendation.  Check you this video for my perspective.


Catering Onboarding The Right Way! – Rosati’s Catering

I am so proud of my team at MonkeyMedia Software and the MMS Catering Institute.  This generous article was written by Alicia Kelso and featured on Pizza Market Place.  I’ll repost here because it’s really something to be proud of and it speaks the truth.  Hope you enjoy it!  Let’s talk catering!!



Chicago-based Rosati’s Pizza has been around since 1964. Since that time, the company has offered catering meals featuring beef, chicken, pasta and pizza.

But now the nearly 200-unit chain is adding off-premise catering — not just a carryout option as it’s been, but a separate revenue channel and business, complete with devoted staff, training and packaging. Because of increased competition and consumer demand, now is the right time to enhance the service, according to Rosati’s president Marla Topliff.

“Pizza is pizza; it’s not going to change. You either add another dimension or you don’t grow. We’re all looking for that next step to take and catering is probably it,” she said.

Rosati’s recently selected MonkeyMedia Software to set up its new program, and hired a new catering director in Jennifer Freskos. The chain is currently onboarding its off-premise catering program via MonkeyMedia Software’s Catering Institute.

“It’s not a giant leap, but it is adding a giant dimension to make it more profitable for stores and to add more revenue,” Topliff explained.

Added customer service

MonkeyMedia’s Hillary Jacob, senior catering analyst, is helping Rosati’s with the process and said the biggest difference between this program and the previous one is the customer service dimension.

“Now, when you have a catering call, the customer will talk to a trained catering rep; someone who is trained on the menu and can help them plan their meal for any occasion. Delivery is stepped up a notch as well — they’re in uniform, they greet you, they set up your meal, take lids off of pans, simple things like that. These little steps of service add up and make a great experience for the customer,” Jacobs said.

MonkeyMedia’s Catering Institute includes back-of-house training, delivery, customer service, CRM, sales and marketing and more. A brand that chooses to undergo such training then becomes certified by the company. Time and money spent varies depending on the size of the brand.

Freskos said there is not only an increased demand for off-premise catering but customers want these service upgrades as well.

“The biggest focus is on business to business consumers — the power lunch, the client meeting, etc. That’s why we need to have that top customer service every step of the way — from the initial call to picking up the boxes afterwards. These customers are too busy to worry about all of that,” she said.

A big part of the business

Topliff said catering is a big part (about 10 percent) of the Rosati’s business and with the new platform, she’s anticipating it to become “much bigger.”

“I could see it becoming about half of the business. The opportunity for catering is so huge right now. It gets customers fed the way they want to be fed and when, and that’s what they want and need right now,” she said.

The Rosati’s catering menu extends well beyond its signature pizza. Freskos said it’s important to include a variety of options, such as sandwiches, salads and antipasta, and there are also some “non-mainstream” entrees, such as chicken Marsala and lemon chicken, as well as new desserts. (See some of themenu items here).

The meals will be served in Rosati’s Catering-specific packaging. Topliff said the packaging was designed to look sophisticated and upscale, to help “take the program to another level.”

Rosati’s will market the service with a sampling program, bringing food to target customers. It will also be heavily advertised in stores, on the brand’s website and through social media channels. A My Rosati’s Catering Facebook page was recently created, for example.

Rosati’s is in the process of certifying restaurants to include the new catering service and will add a “few at a time.” Topliff said the company needs to start small, test and make sure it’s right before going chain-wide. Every store that includes the program has to be certified before going live — that includes training for the entire staff. Training covers operations, marketing, menu knowledge, how to upsell, how to answer phones and identify different buyers, back-of-house training and more, Jacob said.

“Training goes down to the amount of ounces of cheese included in a salad, which utensils to use and dressings to put on the side,” she said. “”There are a lot of pieces that go into catering; it’s not just an add-on business, it’s its own business. We need to make sure everyone in the store can speak to the program.”

Once the foundations are in place at each store, the MonkeyMedia software will be rolled out. The web-based application enables operators to manage sales, orders, payments, production sheets, order distribution and more. Through this platform, for example, Freskos will be able to look up every order a client has ever placed, complaints, compliments and more.

To ensure its success, Rosati’s has developed a catering council. Topliff said this allows store owners to provide feedback and menu ideas.

Part of a bigger trend

A recent report from marketing research firm Technomic projects gains in consumers’ use of restaurants for catering of 5-plus percent annually. Not only do customers want the service, but operators are seeing the benefits as well.

“If executed properly, operators can expect $1,000 a day in incremental sales per restaurant,” Jacob said.

Topliff said the biggest hurdle for many is to try something new.

“It took me almost two years to say yes. All of these questions and fears came up,” she said. “But pizza isn’t the only segment delivering anymore. That used to be our differentiator. So where do we go? Catering adds to the bottom line, customers want it and it causes brand awareness outside of your four walls. If you don’t stay current, you don’t grow.”



Marla Topliff – A Great Leader and Friend (And Visionary for Rosati’s Catering)

Every once in awhile, you get to meet an amazing person. A true industry leader. One with conviction, passion and certainty. One that works tirelessly to enhance the experience of others, even if it costs her.

My passion for the restaurant industry has always been for the people that work in it. Amazing people with incredible vision and a never ending desire to make things better. There are so many.

Well, today, I want to celebrate an amazing woman. Marla Topliff. Not only is she the President of Rosati’s Pizza, but she is also the Chair of the Pizza Council at NRA. Marla works 24/7 on our industry.

Marla Topliff

The thing is, not only is she a great leader, but she is a fantastic friend. Just ask anyone in the restaurant industry if they know Marla, and they will tell you how fantastic she really is! Always available, no matter what!

Marla is a visionary for Rosati’s and has dedicated her life energy to making Rosati’s a truly fantastic company.

I am so proud of her efforts and all she does for restaurants. I am especially proud of her new catering program! Way to go Marla! Everything on the menu looks great!

If you have not tried the catering items, order tomorrow! You will be glad that you did.

It takes serious ambition and leadership to achieve the results that Marla has in her career. I am so grateful to many in our industry, and Marla is no exception.

Thanks Marla for all that you do!


Superteam Family!

Well, I’m back in Vancouver now.  Thinking about the week in front of me at MonkeyMedia Software.  Before I do that, I just want to take a minute to close the loop on my ‘in and out’ trip to the Midwest Last Week.

If you read my previous post, you will have learned that I was entering an ‘uncertain change process‘ for a 170 unit pizza chain that is family owned.  Been in business for 50 years.  5th generation.  Lot’s of history and water under the bridge.

I was anticipating a bit of an uphill battle towards strategic alignment on their catering program.  Just because of the family and team dynamics.  But I have to say, this was a super experience!


Well, to my good fortune, not only were they kind to me, they were incredibly creative, open minded and passionate.  Their willingness to succeed is obvious and to be honest, they just simply made my job easier.  Trust was high during our session and as I so often do, I just tried to listen and learn.  They have ALL the answers already.

I was so happy to see the commitment in the room.  Job well done!  I left on Friday feeling quite accomplished.  I love working with Family Businesses!

Well, that’s all for today.  Speak soon.


Family Business is Good Business – The Italian Way

I am sitting here on one of these crazy flying machines again. Hurling towards the Midwest at top speed. How fast do these A320’s go anyways? “It’s just a commute to work” I convince myself. Just a commute? Seriously? My third road trip in three weeks. “just drink water”, I tell myself.

Well, the Northwest of Canada is not the most convenient place to commute from. I’m positive now that our NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks, have never won a Stanley Cup because of the travel toll. Yes, we pay a price to live in the beautiful Northwest. It’s far from most everything and we get hammered on the time change.

No matter. It gives me a few extra hours to really focus on my task the next few days. I’m working with the “inner circle” of a tightly held family business.

Franchisors and operators of 170 restaurants. Full service Italian concept. Includes pizza delivery.

This brand has been catering since 1964! That’s before I was born. Seems a bit silly that I should be teaching some long-term catering experts how to cater. So, this got me thinking.

If the family has been catering since 1964, what can I do on this trip to improve their “catering perspective”?

This is a 5th generation family venture. It has all of the classic textbook elements that are common in generational family businesses. They operate totally differently than “regular” corporations. I’m going to use that to my advantage. This is a great family with great core family values.

Personally, I admire that. It feeds me.

Estate planning, succession planning, family dynamics, intertwined finances, sibling rivalry and deep rooted history will be present in the boardroom. I’m going to have to dig deeper on this one. I just know it. I’m bringing my ‘inside voice’ because my personal passion can get as certain and as loud as anybody’s.

Well, to my good fortune, (or perhaps misfortune), not only did I write a thesis paper on “Passing the torch” in a family business, I myself left a family business in 1996 after 10 years. It’s worked out for me in my business life, but it was not easy at the time. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will share that the learning was BIG. It applies here. I plan on using it.

As I write this post, I am reminded to focus on the issue at hand. I am reminded that my goal on this trip is to align a group of capable and passionate young (and not so young) people that are working together mostly because they share the same blood. Not necessarily because they are the right person for the job.

But that’s ok. It can work in their favour, the family business thing. It’s unique. It’s special. Lots of good stuff to go with the challenges.

It’s challenging enough to layer new services inside any organization never mind one that runs so deep with love and complex family dynamics.

On top of that, the family is Italian! Food is everywhere, egos large and divisions run deep. That’s what family businesses are. Difficult to keep alive. After all, more than 85% of family businesses fail in the second generation. Of those left standing, 90% fail in the third generation. Remember, I wrote a paper on the topic. I also left a family business. So, I know what it is. And it’s complicated. No question about that. Nothing easy about it.

Saying that, it can also be AMAZING!
So, I am asking myself, “how is this family business still standing in its fifth generation?”.

Something special is happening here. Alot of pride and love There is alot to celebrate. This kind of survival is not usual.

Most [family businesses] are gone by this time. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s going to be tenuous in the room. Some family members going to the right and some to the left. It’s natural. It’s the way it is in these situations. So what?

So here’s my plan;
1. Focus on the best interest of the brand.
2.Facilitate agreement that my business academics make sense. Its just a business.
3.Gain trust from each family member and their managers. I am there to serve each of them equally.
4. Point out that my disconnect from their history is a strength..
5. Ask them to check their egos at the door. There will be no arguing on my watch.
6. Ask them to leave their personal judgement at the door.
7. Focus,focus,focus.

Of course there are many other things that I will ask of them. But without their trust and buy-in, I’m dead meat! So, I’ll just continue writing this blog post so that I can post it online and make sure they all get this memo before I get onsite.

Successful Family Business require a solid succession plan.

Memo to All Family Members and Managers

I am traveling far and wide to spend this time to help you increase your off-premise catering sales system wide.

I know there is alot of water under the bridge and that blood is thicker than water. I left my family in Vancouver to be with yours and for that I am grateful. So let’s be productive together. Let’s get to work. Let’s have some fun.

I urge you to attend our sessions with your best foot forward. Tuck your “stories” in your closets. Leave your personal “hurts” at the door. We won’t have room for that over the next few days. Forget about the “he said vs. she said” blame game. It’s not going to matter. It’s not going to work on my watch!

No. Please come with an open heart and an open mind. I just want to focus on the future. If your time has seriously come where you just want to make it better, than show up!

My job will be to create safety in the group and if I feel anyone is not adding value by simply digging heels in on old and stale issues I’m going to ask you to leave the room. Be warned.

I am not traveling all this way just to get stuck. I intend to move mountains over the next few days. Anything less would be a waste of money and time. Yours and mine.

What I can tell you, is that if you let me do my job and you give my catering business strategy a chance, our focus together will be on how we build a $48 Million per year business for your brand. For your family. After all, I appreciate how many of your family members rely on this business in this 5th generation. It’s got to be hundreds of people spanning all ages and genders.

So, I urge you today. Think of the future. Think of making it better. Don’t show up giving me all the reasons of ‘why it won’t work’. We all know there are thousands of reasons why it won’t work.

Guess what? If you tell yourself it won’t work, it won’t. The last time I looked, building a multi million dollar catering business takes effort. Gumption. Vision. Passion. Hard work.

Families all have dysfunction, including my own. It’s why most family businesses fail. But somehow, our paths cross today and my job is to be accountable to each of you so that you each serve the business and yourselves well. The business is separate from you. Separate from years of complex personal inter relations.

Well, I’ve got 45 minutes left in today’s commute and when I get there, I want you to know that I’m taking numbers. I’m not here to play games, I’m here to get the job done.

We can do it the ‘hard way’ or the ‘easy way’. I can be as old fashioned as anybody, but I promise you that I am going to put my best foot forward and fight hard for what I know is sound business logic and a certain and proven methodology.

At MonkeyMedia Software, we’ve done this before. Our customers who heed our advice are not only winning, but they are winning BIG! Just ask them yourselves.

I’ll see you all in a few hours. I hope you will let me be part of ‘the family’. I promise to serve each of you well. But you will have to give me a chance. That decision is yours.
Please be kind to each other. (and to me!).

End of Memo

For those of you reading this blog post, stay tuned for my report after the next few days. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Preparing for another landing so I have to go. I’ll be in touch soon.

Why Pizzerias are positioned to win BIG at catering

I’ve been working with Rosati’s pizza these days! learning alot! About the pizza biz!

In my opinion, the pizza segment of the restaurant industry has always been well poised to win BIG at catering and the off-premise sales growth opportunity.

Because “pizza delivery” is so ingrained into the operating DNA of pizzeria operators they already understand the subtleties of successful product distribution when their products are going to be consumed outside the four walls of their restaurants.

For decades, these restaurant operators have achieved sales success in the off-premise space in regard to the delivery component of their businesses, and consumers already understand that the pizza segment in general are experts at delivery services.

So trust between consumer and their favorite pizzeria is already high. They know the food will arrive on time, every time!

Now that we have established that distribution is a key element towards success in building an off-premise service experience allow me to bring your attention to the opportunity at hand.

I believe that based on current consumer demand, the pizza segment is in a perfect position to help the restaurant industry define what the difference is between “catering services” and “takeout services”. Both of these experiences can be available for “pickup” or “delivery”.

One customer, selecting from two off premise service channels using very different buying decisions.

Your customers will buy for different reasons, depending on the need they are trying to fill.

Of course there are the surface items of differentiation that we can all see. Such as reformulating packaging and menu items. Sure there is the opportunity to focus on a subset of products for a catering program. Lasagna by the pan. Caesar salad by the bowl. Desserts by the tray. Cheese by the platter. And on and on we go.

Although product changes are a critical part of defining a proper differentiation of services, the real work that has to get done is the re-engineering of the pizzeria operators business processes including catering sales, catering order entry, catering manufacturing, catering distribution and catering technology systems. The entire conversation with the consumer is completely different when it comes to catering. It’s just different. But not in a small way. In a BIG way!

Today, pizzerias have all the raw materials that they need to reformulate their product offerings. In addition, pizzerias have the “distribution trust” from the consumer. They know you will be on time, every time if your distribution engine is working well.

The challenge with catering lies in building an operational culture centered on growing occasion based sales.

Educating your customers on the different service channels and letting them know that you have alternative services to help feed them where they Live, Work and Play, will be the real work that pizzeria operators will have to face. It will require a deep commitment to internal training and a clear vision of differentiation and leadership.

Once the paradigm shift is made in the minds of pizzeria operators, catering will present the largest growth opportunity that the pizza segment may have seen in the last 30 years!

I’ve always maintained that through the establishment of a successful catering and off-premise business, restaurant operators have the chance to increase revenue by up to 20 percent. I believe there is even more potential for pizzeria operators, given their position in the marketplace. A focus on business-to-business relationships will boost their lunch business, and that will make better use of idle assets.

Now, I have to remember that I am writing this post for pizzeria experts. And so, I pose a question? When is pizza a “takeout” delivery and when is pizza a “catering” delivery? No doubt, there are gazillion ideas on this, but I believe that it’s all about the buying decision of the consumer. That’s where the differentiation is.

As pizzeria operators, you will need to take a stand and tailor your products and language around the consumer demand. For that, you will be rewarded BIG!

But remember, catering requires its own set of conversational ordering, invoicing, accounts receivable and marketing initiatives that create the subtle nuances of running any business. Catering is a different business! If you give your customers another reason to buy, and tell the story of catering properly focused on a different demand, your customers will spend more money with you. Don’t forget to train your people in the language of catering. In the end, they are on the front line and have to keep your customers happy! Invest in your catering program today and experience the power of this growth opportunity!


When is Pizza “catering” vs. “takeout”


The leadership at Rosati’s is different. Different in a good way. After all, this iconic brand has been “catering” since 1964!

Even though the off premise transaction is rooted deep in their veins, even after almost 50 years of doing it right, they are opening their eyes, their minds and their hearts to a new perspective.

Why? Because they have great business intel. Good culture, BIG passion and a desire to learn and listen to their customers.

Catering is big for the pizza industry. This is about shifting markets, new language, different conversations and ultimately an emerging customer demand.

But, only amazing companies like Rosati’s will surface to the top.

We will all come to understand why catering is not only the 13th month, but that in fact, our industry economics depend on it.