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The holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times for any catering business. It can be a particularly lucrative time with more orders coming in. But unless you are prepared for increased deliveries, you won’t be able to keep up with the demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 185,000 professional drivers in the United States work for food businesses. And at times, these drivers are the main people your customers interact with. So to be successful, you need to hire the right people, find efficiencies for your delivery team, and understand how to get around your area safely. If you know how to manage a catering business during the holidays, you’ll definitely be set up for success the rest of the year.

Hire Seasonal Staff

In order to handle the increase in demand for your business, you need the right people in place. Look at your point of sales and payroll from prior seasons as a start. Hire a team of seasonal staff to help take some impending pressure off of your current team. Here are a few tips for hiring the right staff:

1. Identify Where You Need the Most Help: Start by asking the right questions. Will you need to hire additional drivers to meet an increase in demand? Will those drivers be responsible for loading vans and confirming orders, interacting with customers, and assisting with setup? Or will a few runners to help with heavy lifting suffice? What driver’s license or food handling documentation will new hires need? And how will you train and manage them? Answering these questions early reduces search hours and hiring costs.

2. Start Looking Early: Once you know what you know what you need, start as early as you can. Snagajob, the popular site for temporary and seasonal jobseekers, notes that 94 percent of the best jobs are full by the end of November. If you want to compete for the best candidates, begin looking as soon as you can justify bringing people on.

3. Advertise for Your Needs: In your job postings, emphasize a need for familiarity with your region. Every minute counts when delivering hot food. Focus on the importance of friendly customer service and quick thinking. You want new delivery people who are as enthusiastic about hospitality as the rest of your team.

Optimize Your Delivery Efficiency

When figuring out how to manage a catering business, the details count. Before the holidays hit, take a look at all aspects of your delivery supplies. Here’s where to start:

1. Check Vehicles: Check with your current drivers to see if any vehicles show signs of wear. Fix or replace anything vital. Check your mileage for routine oil changes and realignments. Make sure all vehicles have safety equipment like belts and skid pads intact. If you make sure your catering delivery vehicles are in working order now you’ll cuts back on the chance one will falter when you need it most.

2. Assess Delivery Supplies: Delivery is not just about the transportation. Assess your pan carriers, insulated bags, packing bins, and boxes. Make sure everything is in optimum working condition. Are straps worn or are bags torn? Do wheels on rolling carriers wobble, causing food to shift in transit? Simple repairs will increase your efficiency so your food looks as beautiful (and warm) when it reaches your customers as it did when it left your kitchen.

3. Question Equipment: Pay attention to your feedback. If customers have consistently noted certain items are often delivered with spills or served too warm or cold, reconsider how they’re being delivered. Ask your drivers and delivery staff if a point in the process might be contributing. Consider an upgrade in delivery equipment to fix consistent problems. Look to vehicle organization, too. If dry goods consistently overflow from a too-small bin, an additional storage container will be worth its weight in the time saved from regular tidying.

Reconsider Routes

Everyone has favorite routes. But when minutes matter most, use the latest technology to make sure your delivery teams get it right every single time. Your customers will notice and repeat orders will thank you for it.

1. Consider GPS systems: To guarantee your drivers always have the most up-to-date traffic patterns and direct routes, consider installing GPS systems in all your delivery vehicles. The New York Times points out that standalone systems have larger, more user-friendly screens than mobile phones. The best new models on the market show street parking, update automatically, and have internal dashcams.

2. Switch Up the Apps: If installing systems is a no-go, look to free apps available on most smartphones. Google Maps clocks current traffic patterns, and Waze adds construction and road obstructions, too. Utilizing real-time technology send your drivers out on the most reliable routes at any time.

3. Safety First: No matter what technology you use, make sure all your systems are properly mounted in a clear line of vision. Provide headphones or headsets for hands-free communication as needed. Efficiency and safety go hand-in-hand. Increases in deliveries can add stress, but every order needs to arrive safely.

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Jacqueline Raposo

Written by:

Jacqueline Raposo

Jacqueline Raposo is an expert interviewer. Her over 400 articles, essays, and podcast episodes feature Missy Robbins, Daniel Boulud, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and other such award-winning chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, managers, and hospitality personnel. Find her at www.jacquelineraposo.com or as @wordsfoodart.

Posted in: Food at WorkRestaurant

Tagged with: Equipment and Supplies, Management, Staffing