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!


It’s all about the magic! – Why I attend Industry Conferences

I hope you all read this because I feel that Industry conferences are just so important. I love the way people come out to learn new ideas and share old ones. The energy is high.

I have always maintained that my love for the restaurant industry is because of the people. As restaurateurs, we touch people each and every day. We touch them through food, experience and magic. Yes magic. Not the “trick” kind of magic, but the magic of connection. Personal connection. At least, that’s how it is for me.

To me the restaurant industry is magical. I mean, how do you pull off all of the different variations and combinations of preparing and packaging food for consumption the way the restaurant industry does? The magic of free markets? The magic of competition? The magic of providing a consistent, scalable and predictable experience, day in and day out? The magic that dreams are made of. After all, somedays I feel like I am living proof. I could not have ever imagined that today, my company would be working with the smartest people that this industry has to offer. But, to my good fortune, I am. And not just a few people. ALOT of really, really smart people!

There is nothing more magical than watching a group of people collaborate on a new idea. The coming together of their passions, their beliefs and their desires. In the photo above you can see a team of Rosati’s Franchisees coming together during my presentation to help them imagine a new catering world. A better world for their business. A better world for their team members and their customers.

Me? I have a great job! I get to stand up in front of our community and present to them a perspective that they may not have considered. What matters to me, what fills me up is when people share openly. They share their victories, their failures. Their pain. Their pleasure. I love watching our community work together to solve important business and world issues. Things that really matter. Real challenges and real solutions.

I just spent 10 days on the road and I covered alot of territory. I stopped in at three conferences, visited a handful of customers and spent time with several new prospects. Alot of territory.

I lost count along the way, but I’d venture to say that I met more than 300 new people over those ten days. Now, I didn’t get to spend quality time with each person, but I did make some fantastic intellectual and emotional connections with the ones I did get to spend some time with. Thanks to each of you, I listened and learned. I thank you for your personal stories and for trusting me enough to hold your thoughts in confidence.

For me, conferences are a place of community. A place to belong. A place to make great memories and great friends. I find it fascinating how strangers or acquaintances can be exchanging high fives and hugs goodbye after just a few short days together. I find this human connection to be the most compelling reason to attend a conference. It’s why I go.

Sure, I am there for business. Just like all of you. And, I make sure I am accountable to that. I make sure I get my business done. But, because of the short and intense burst of time together, I find that the new friendships that I make are really what feeds me most of all. That’s the magic, from how I see it.

For those of you that attend conferences, I encourage you to keep doing so. I know they are alot of effort. I know that they take you away from your families. But I promise you, that the magic that happens in between the workshops and presentations is the real reason to go. That’s where you make your long term relationships and get to learn about what great people this industry is made of. Everyone from operators to suppliers to editors of magazines and media. All doing their part to make our industry better.

What a great industry we are part of! Thanks for letting me be in it.

Hope to see you at the next opportunity!