Why Catering is This Year’s Top Growth Strategy for Restaurants

Between workers returning to the office and consumers hosting more social events, catering is back, and business is booming. The $72 billion catering sector is expected to reach over $124 billion by 2032, and restaurants are hungry to tap into the growing demand.

Catering is Low-Risk, High-Reward
Not to be confused with the everyday consumer who may place a catering order once or twice a year, corporate customers place larger orders, and they order more frequently. Forty-six percent of companies say using catered meals to incentivize working at the office is a top strategy to promote collaboration, boost productivity, and show their appreciation. Even better, company spending on employee snacks and beverages has increased by 20% since 2019, proving that a free lunch continues to wield power in the workplace.

Reimagine Catering for Online Ordering
While paper menus and phone orders remain viable tactics, restaurant operators who emphasize digital ordering and integrated technology to capitalize on the corporate catering boom will have a better chance at claiming greater market share. If you’re among the 54% of full-service restaurants adding catering to support growth in 2024, hitting all the right marks out of the gate will be critical to long-term success.

As restaurant operators update strategies to focus on catering, the following best practices should remain top of mind:

Configuration for added control. In addition to integrating catering orders with your existing technology stack, including Point-of-Sale (POS), consider supporting the ability to:

  • Control how far in advance customers can place orders;
  • Configure cut-off times to ensure your kitchen has sufficient lead time to prepare orders;
  • Support pre-auths for when orders are initially submitted;
  • Set minimum and/or maximum quantities for catering orders;
  • Define specific delivery zones and delivery fees (based on order size);
  • Extend gift and loyalty to your catering customers;
  • Provide your customers with the flexibility to modify their catering orders (including the date/time for delivery, and location) right up until the predefined cut-off time; and
  • Enable the kitchen to accept/decline pending orders prior to cut-off time.

A digital ordering solution configured to meet the specific needs and nuances of catering will separate the leaders from the laggards.

Incremental catering revenue depends on delivery. Whether managed in-house or through third parties like UberDirect and DoorDash Drive, delivery will be key for corporate customers who are more willing to pay for the service and convenience. They may also expect the ability to track their order and delivery status in real-time. Inaccurate catering orders or late deliveries will result in poor reviews and lost business.

Re-engineer your menu. As a lasting effect of the pandemic, catering to a crowd with new expectations and behaviors is critical. Individually packaged items, for example, remain an appealing alternative to trays and buffets. Accommodating dietary restrictions and preferences for a large group order should also be addressed. It’s also important to establish competitive and transparent pricing for catering that considers labor and food costs, delivery, and any additional services.

Seek a solution that can effectively manage multiple order types and channels. The ability to manage online catering orders, standard pick-up and delivery orders, and 3rd party marketplace orders all from a single platform is far more efficient. With one platform driving operational efficiencies, like consolidated menu management and reporting, restaurants can ensure a positive and seamless omnichannel user experience.

Catering is Ripe with Benefits
Business catering is a lucrative channel with high-value repeat corporate customers with budgets earmarked for employee perks and incentives. The opportunity to convert corporate catering customers into brand supporters outside the workplace is high, and that should be the key objective. Large workplace catering orders will expose your menu (and brand) to a pool of potential new customers. If consumers enjoy your food in a business setting, they may be excited to try it outside of work.

To learn how to engage all guests and enhance customer acquisition while providing a consistent online ordering experience, click here.

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