A Small Space & 500 Monthly Orders: How Couch Tomato Catering Makes It Happen
- Jacqueline Raposo
- 4 Min Read
Couch Tomato catering is small but mighty force in the Philadelphia catering scene. Between their West Chester and Manayunk restaurants, they turn out a whopping 500 delivery orders every month. Of those orders, 475 go to office lunch and learn meetings or large-scale corporate events. One recent event required 93 pizzas alone. It’s a big win in a city Thrillist claims is ripe for those with a serious pie obsession.
To make enough dough for a 93-pizza delivery alone, it takes Couch Tomato catering over 50 pounds of flour and a whole lot of planning. We spoke with Couch Tomato’s staff to find out just how they make it happen.
Catering At The Right Time, In The Right Place
Craig Mosmen and Michael Cassano founded Couch Tomato in the Manayunk area of Philly in 2003. But the region was not yet the hot Philadelphia catering and restaurant scene it is today. As such, the team quickly recognized a local need for takeout and delivery lunch service — and that their menu of flavorful Italian food was a particular hit during office hours. So, they decided to focus their attention on growing a particularly smart catering program.
Mosmen researched other successful Philadelphia catering businesses to see where competition excelled and what they lacked. They soon came to understand that repeat business would only get them so far. Returning customers brought friends and inspired new catering business. But that wouldn’t be enough. To build trust in Couch Tomato catering, they set up a striking marketing plan complete with a dedicated webpage and video that relays the various services they provide. They figured that even if a customer didn’t utilize all the web information or watch the video, they would be offering that initial trust just in doing the legwork.
By 2006, orders started flying in.
How Do They Make All That Dough?
Each batch of Couch Tomato catering’s dough is made from organic white or whole wheat flour and takes three to five days to proof until it’s just right. They credit consistency of orders for being able to plan days in advance. That means they can make several batches at one time with the 50-pound bags of flour. Once mixed, the bowls of proofing dough go to various storage spaces until they’re ready to roll out.
Early on, Mosmen and Cassano learned that when it comes to making quality pizza, sandwiches, and salads, efficiency would help them scale up their productivity. Couch Tomato began as a cafe on one floor of a small building with limited production space. In 2011, they expanded upstairs and added a bistro, bar, and office. But there was no additional room to store or make food.
To increase production, they organize with intense scrutiny. Various walk-ins store ingredients by how readily those items are to be used. Marinating ingredients, tomatoes not yet roasted into sauce, and proofing dough chill in the basement. Prepared soups and organic salad produce are at hand in one upstairs kitchen walk-in. An inventory manager makes sure things are ordered properly and stored correctly. And when a new menu item is considered, the team questions: “If we can’t say why a thing is there, we have to ask where it would be better or if we need it at all.”
500 orders going out across the Philadelphia catering landscape takes organization. The same kitchen staff turns out catering orders in the morning before shifting to lunch and dinner service. And Couch Tomato catering ensures order accuracy by having three production team members dedicated solely to catering orders on any given day.
Every catering order gets written out by hand. One staff member takes or confirms order details by phone. And only when the all the details are confirmed do they then type orders into their digital platform. A second team member reviews the order in the system to confirm no data entry errors. By spending time reviewing beforehand, they have fewer errors to solve when a mistake happens at a location twenty-five miles away.
The staff calls it “redundant accuracy.” But clearly it’s working for the team, as the orders keep rolling in.
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