Without a doubt, company Christmas parties aren’t what they used to be. The days of opulent parties stacked one after the other are clearly behind us. On the other hand, there’s definitely some opportunity for restaurateurs looking for a little extra Christmas income.
That’s because companies want to show some appreciation to their employees and boost morale after a tough year. They just don’t want to pay a lot of money doing it. That means hors d’oeuvres and light meals rather than New York Strips and an open bar. The good news is, at least there’s a Christmas party at all. Last year there was a rash of cancellations as the full effect of the oncoming recession began to hit home, and many in the food service industry who depend on holiday income were left in the lurch.
The key to getting some good Christmas business this year is to cater (both literally and figuratively) to your customers. The best service you can provide customers looking to throw a holiday party is keep it simple yet unique and interesting. Chances are, your restaurant already has the character part down. Now all you need is a way to deliver that character in an exceptionally affordable way.
That’s where an investment in some quality catering equipment can go a long way. That’s because when you’re set up with catering equipment, you have options and therefore your customer has options. Do they want to save money by having a party in the office? No problem, just roll in, set up, and serve. Do they want to rent the private dining room instead of your whole restaurant? No problem, you can set up the chafers and let them do their thing while you bring in other customers.
So what catering equipment do you need for a successful holiday season? Here’s a quick rundown of essentials (and a few nice extras):
Chafing Dishes – of course, you knew this already. But not every chafing dish is created equal. Having a variety will give your operation more versatility, which means you’ll be better suited to accommodate your customer’s varying needs. For example, clear roll-top chafers make for a better presentation in a self-serve situation. Different chafer and food pan configurations allow you to serve soup and divide space for different foods.
Serving Utensils – another obvious one, but nevertheless essential to your success. Buffet-style serving utensils will ensure your customers have all the tools they need.
Insulated Beverage and Food Carriers – if you’re planning on doing any out-of-house Christmas catering, then these carriers are key to your success.
Portable Stoves – a stove lets you do some serious reheating (above and beyond the gel flames you put underneath the chafers). Once again, your catering operation should be about options, and this stove gives you plenty more.
Portable Bar – this is by no means necessary but certainly a nice thing to have, especially if you’re going out of house or separating only a part of your restaurant for holiday parties. Alcohol sales are always a quick way to profitability, and a sharp little bar you can set up anywhere can only help the endeavor.
As I’ve discussed in other posts here on The Back Burner, catering gives your restaurant another dimension of service that allows you to accommodate your customers no matter where they are. Especially in a cash-strapped holiday season, having the right equipment could go a long way towards boosting your year-end sales.