Feb 08 2018
Jenn Mar
3 Minutes to read

If Andre’s Café owner Haido Bennett had her way, restaurant owners just a little wet behind the ears in catering operations would know about the existence of bungee cords for keeping food carts from flying out of their vans. Speaking at a panel discussion geared toward restaurant owners at Boston’s Convene, Bennett was advising a man in the audience, who had just inquired about the logistics of installing a hot-food rack.

Early in her career Bennett was suckered into installing the pricy contraption—and suffered for it. She learned too late that it just didn’t work, a mistake that cost her a lot of money. “So we started using bungee cords,” she said. “I know it sounds crazy, but it works.”

This was one of a handful of insights shared last Thursday at ezChats Boston, the second of a new series of panel discussions organized by ezCater for the restaurant community. Local restaurant owners got backstage passes to see four high-profile restaurant executives, who stepped away from daily operations to share ideas about how restauranteurs can grow their businesses beyond their brick walls.

The ezChats theme, “Building an Off-Premise Business,” is pitch-perfect with the times. In today’s digital, delivery-friendly landscape, restaurant owners are trying to keep pace with changes to their businesses. Both Eater and the Chicago Tribune report that while restaurant traffic has slowed down, diners are increasingly eating outside of the traditional confines of the restaurant. Restaurant owners are hoping to capture some of that revenue.

The four ezChats panelists—Erin Childs of Boloco; Jim Rand, formerly of P.F. Chang’s; Ky Nguyen of SA PA’s tasty bahn-mi sandwiches; and Haido Bennett—talked about the thorny complications of running restaurants, marketing brands, and building successful catering businesses.

After the hour-long talk and Q&A segment, the roughly 70 attendees were served martinis and appetizers while they mingled and swapped business cards.

The mission of the ezChats series is to organize and educate restaurant owners across the nation, who are often too busy with kitchen orders and micromanaging staff to share stories, insights, and business strategies with members of their community. This year the ezChats tour is scheduled to pop up in big cities across the nation including New York and San Francisco.

If you missed out on ezChats Boston, you can watch this video.

Key Takeaways
  • Quit Missed Opportunities. Jim Rand, former V.P. of P.F. Chang’s Off-Premise Dining, suggests appointing a dedicated staffer as the go-to catering person, whose job is to take orders and educate customers about your restaurant’s catering services.
  • Drink Moxy. Haido Bennett says college campuses order a lot of catering. Recruit college students as brand ambassadors to hunt down opportunities for your business.
  • Win Their Hearts with a Basket of Burritos. “The more generous you are, the more business you get,” says Erin Childs, Director of Catering for Boloco. Budget out a reasonable amount of product to give away and drop it off to the community.
  • Data Will Transform Your Business. Tap into the ezManage portal, the latest version of the ezCater platform, for seasonal food trends and personalized data to figure out your next steps.
  • It Ain’t Easy. Say Yes. Ky Nguyen of SA PA confesses that he says yes to just about every catering order and figures out the details later. Nearby businesses are only too eager to scoop up the opportunities you turn down. Don’t give away your share of the money pie.

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Written by:

Jenn Mar

Jenn Mar is ezCater’s senior digital editor. She covers books, food, and the arts for outlets like McSweeney’s, Kenyon Review, Kirkus Review, and elsewhere. She is anchored by crusty donuts and tingly “biang biang” noodles. Learn more at jennmarwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @getfoodrevolt.

Posted in: ezCater InsiderezCater Events

Tagged with: Caterer Network, Catering, ezCater Culture, ezCater Events, ezCater Reporting