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This article is part of a series called “Getting Off-Premises”, which examines how to build an off-premises business.
Follow catering practice leader Jim Rand as he visits Brandy Blackwell, the director of off-premise marketing for McAlister’s Deli in Atlanta. Brandy talks about how catering helped McAlister’s Deli grow its business.
Jim Rand: Hi, Jim Rand here. I’m in Midtown, Atlanta, to meet with Brandy Blackwell at McAlister’s Deli. We’re going to talk catering and grab a beer.
When it comes to service styles for catering, what is the sweet spot for you guys between delivery, fully attended events, and serving food to people? Where does McAlister’s sit in that?
Brandy Blackwell: So I would say that we never really say no. McAlister’s is going to do pretty much what you ask if we have the bandwidth to do it. One thing that I really feel like just goes hand in hand with our brand as a whole is genuine hospitality. So how does that resonate outside of the restaurant? That’s what we’re constantly trying to strive for. And that includes setup, that includes serving if they need it, and being there for the entirety of the event.
Jim Rand: I mean, if you show up on time and you give them what they want, then they’re going to come back and use you.
Brandy Blackwell: And they’re going to recommend you to friends and the word of mouth is really where catering sells itself. See, you can do digital marketing all day long but if you can’t get an order there on time, accurately, then business isn’t going to grow.
Jim Rand: Brandy, with all your experience, if you had to go back and do it all over again, what’s the one or two things that you would share with other folks that are interested in getting into the world of catering?
Brandy Blackwell: So I would say don’t just do catering. Embrace catering and make it its own business, and treat it as its own business. The flow-through for catering, for us, is higher than your regular takeout orders and that value of a catering customer is much higher.
Jim Rand: Yeah, the lifetime value, right?
Brandy Blackwell: Absolutely. So if you invest in resources and team members to support your catering and really do it right from the beginning, you don’t have to backtrack to invest in that. And it’s great to open your door with a thousand dollars in the register because you got a catering order and it took a lot less manpower to put it together and your business can grow tremendously.
Jim Rand: Thank you so much for your time.
Brandy Blackwell: Thanks so much for having me.
Jim Rand: You’re welcome. Cheers.
Want to grow your business? There’s money in catering.