As you build your catering menu, remember the story of Goldilocks: The menu needs to be small, but not too small. While a streamlined menu is good for your bottom line, it needs wiggle room to offer customers variety. Here’s a primer on creating a profitable catering menu.
Check out the offerings of your direct competitors. Do they offer:
Evaluate the competitive landscape, and compete smartly by finding gaps in offerings.
Don’t offer your full restaurant menu. It’s too difficult to manage and potentially harmful to your brand as a complex menu can slow down the kitchen and hurt the food. Instead, tighten up your catering menu. A smaller menu makes it easier to deliver tasty food to large numbers of people, especially when customers order catering à la carte. It also cuts down on inventory costs and waste.
To create a small menu, select ten mains from your restaurant menu using these guidelines:
Using these same guidelines, select five or six appetizers, side dishes, and desserts for your catering menu.
Customers love bundled meals because they’re easy to order, especially online and for business meetings. People also view them as a good value for the dollar.
Bundled meals are beneficial to operators, too, as bundling encourages customers to spend more money than they normally would. When you bundle a big-ticket sandwich with a side (pasta salad, bag of chips, piece of fruit), dessert (cookie, brownie), and a beverage, that creates a perception of value in the customer’s mind. But it also justifies a $12 charge, even though the meal is mostly made up of cheaper, higher-margin items. That’s why bundled meals often bring more money than the average customer check. The pricing strategy of bundled meals works as long as you use correct parameters to stay profitable. Price your bundled meals correctly and they can be profitable menu items. (Learn more about using menu design to increase sales.)
It’s also smart to offer catering packages, such as a medley of sandwiches on a platter, a bowl of salad, and a variety of sweets. Catering packages give customers variety and the option of eating as much or as little as they choose. The preset packages appeal to customers because they make food ordering easy, especially when customers need a catering spread for different appetites and large crowds. Because people are willing to pay for convenience, catering packages can be a great approach to increasing sales. One final note: to help customers order correct amounts of food, remember to identify the portion sizes of items (“feeds 10 to 12”).
If your restaurant offers customers the unique experience of customized menu items, those customers will expect to custom-build their catering orders, too. Here are some examples of how to pull this off:
Reach more customers with a varied menu. Try to make room for these food groups and menu categories:
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