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Holiday Catering Guide

Guide for Restaurant Catering


Holiday Catering Guide

Holiday catering is a great way to increase restaurant sales.

Joel Terrell
The holidays are the start of a busy catering season for many restaurants, from family thanksgiving dinners to go, to corporate Christmas parties and New Year’s Eve bashes. Long time readers know that I’m a big advocate of restaurant catering. It is a good way to boost sales and expand your customer base. Because of the high volume of parties from mid-November to New Year’s Day, it’s easy to find your restaurant overbooked and understaffed. Avoid these common pitfalls and more. Check out the basics of holiday catering for restaurants.

Update Your Holiday Catering Menu

Food prices change over time and if you are working off last year’s holiday menu, make sure your prices are reflective of current food cost. Look through the previous year’s orders to see what was popular with customers and what wasn’t. Also check out current food trends for fresh ideas for the holiday buffet table. Once you have tweaked your menu, print up fresh copies and distribute them to local businesses and chambers of commerce.

Decide on Your Catering Policies

Don’t wait until the holiday season is in full swing to decide what your restaurant can and can’t offer. For example, do you have enough staff and equipment to catering off-premise jobs? And if so, how big a job can you cater? 25 people? 100 people? 500 people? While you want to take advantage of the many opportunities presented by the holiday season, you don’t want to overextend yourself or your staff and do a poor job. Also decide on any fees for deliveries, minimum head counts and how far you are willing to travel. If you plan to offer bartending services, be sure you have the proper licensing and insurance to serve alcohol off premise. By establishing clear restaurant catering policies and procedures first, you can avoid upset customers later on.

Start Marketing Your Catering Services

Following Labor Day people’s thoughts turn toward autumn and the coming holiday season (walk through any Wal-Mart the first week of September and you’ll see Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff on sale.) This is the perfect time for some inexpensive in-house advertising for the upcoming holiday season. You can start by distributing holiday catering menus with take-out meals and display them prominently throughout your restaurant. Call last year’s customers and offer to book their holiday party in advance. Many people will be glad you took the initiative, knowing they have one less thing to worry about.

Hire Enough Staff for the Holidays

The holiday season is not a time to run a skeleton crew at your restaurant. Lots of businesses hire extra staff for the holidays, including restaurants. If your calendar for November and December is looking full, consider hiring a few extra people- with the understanding it is just a temporary position for six to eight weeks. You may be lucky and find a few individuals, such as stay-at-home parents or college students, who’ll come back next year or fill in during other busy catering jobs.

Have the Right Catering Equipment

Along with enough staff, make sure you have the proper catering equipment for both on and off-site catering jobs. And make sure you have enough equipment to do multiple jobs. Nothing will derail a Christmas party faster than not enough silverware. If you find yourself running short on equipment, you can rent pieces from a party supply store or buy good quality disposable equipment and place settings. Investing in a few large scale catering items, such as chaffing dishes, glassware or a Cambro each year will allow you to take on more businesses. Check out this catering equipment supply list to help you get started.

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