In a recent study by Technomic, 36% of consumers said they are doing their socializing at home more often than a year ago. In addition, 40% said they’d like to entertain at home more often in the next year.
For a restaurant owner, those are some sobering numbers. The corresponding 4% decline in restaurants nationwide over the last year tells you just how serious the situation is. If your restaurant has made it this far, then hopefully the worst of it is behind you. And now might be the perfect time to turn the crisis into an opportunity.
That’s because although consumers are staying home, they’re not necessarily wanting to cook at home. That means you can find willing customers if you’re willing to venture out from the restaurant. In fact, 53% of consumers said they bought prepared foods for the 4th of July 2009. That reveals a market that’s available for what you do best: prepare great food.
Catering for small and mid-sized parties (10 – 100 people) is on a steep rise, and some restaurants have already started offering their services as a way to drum up business, even if those customers aren’t seated in the dining area. So how can your restaurant get in the game? Some ideas:
Get equipped. Don’t try to translate what you do in the kitchen of your restaurant so well into a foreign venue without the proper tools. Catering requires some specialized equipment that allows you to be mobile and quick on your feet. Don’t get into the catering game without investing in some good equipment first.
Specialize your menu. Stick to the items on your menu that are high margin and require minimal prep work. Whatever your bread and butter entrees are, the ones you can whip up in your sleep, slap them on a special menu for catered events. This keeps things nice and simple, especially when you’re starting out.
Try to reach known customers. If you have an email list or other way to market to customers you know haven’t been in for awhile, use it to advertise directly to the people who are probably staying home but like your restaurant.
You probably will want to try a few dry runs before you hit the big time with your new catering operation. Maybe try catering your own family function or a similar low-stress event so you can work out the kinks. That will ensure you’re making the best impression possible when you start.
If you choose your menu items carefully and back up some effective marketing with a well prepared mobile operation, your restaurant can stand to make some pretty good money in catering, which gives you another stream of revenue and a little more stability in the uncertain world of food service.