Off Premise Catering and Holiday Takeout—is it right for your operation?

What we learned during the Technomic Restaurant Business Facebook Live

Sponsored by McCain Food Service

As the holiday seasons approaches many operators, especially smaller independent restaurants, are looking towards catering services both in social and business events. While the opportunity to revamp your menu and profits with a restaurant catering menu seems promising, it’s important to understand if catering is the right fit for your restaurant. Whether you’re a seasoned vet at holiday takeout or looking to add it to your 2018 operations plan, Technomic and Restaurant Business recently hosted a Facebook Live where they discussed the growing trend among consumers for ordering catering for special events, B2B catering benefits and downfalls, and where the off-premise catering and delivery market is headed. Below are some of the top takeaways we found. Be sure to watch their full video here.

If you have regulars, they may be open to catering services around the holidays

Melissa Wilson from Technomic is a subject expert on the food service industry and consumer trends. She highlighted that many consumers who have ordered catering for holidays and special events prove to also be restaurant regulars. Since they’re familiar with your food, a positive restaurant experience for them means they may be willing to spend more on larger orders they can serve at home. However, she cautions operators to make sure they uphold their same level of service and food quality when catering—consumers ordering catering often see these meals as a reflection of themselves and bad service or food could lead to more long standing negative effects in your restaurant.

Make the most of marketing your catering options

One way to boost your catering service and offerings is to market your menu throughout your restaurant. Consider adding a center table flyer or an insert into your menus with your catering menus for different holidays. Consumers are increasingly looking for social catering opportunities for evening and weekend events (Technomic Survey)  and if they’re dining in your restaurant already, you may be a great fit for their next event.

Outside of B2C catering, consider reaching out to retail stores or other businesses in your area for more traditional lunch catering. For instance, if you’re a restaurant near shops, Ms. Wilson recommends going to canvas the neighborhood shops with samples and your catering menus and lure businesses into using you for their breakfast, snack, and lunch options for their employees. Around holiday shopping booms like Black Friday, retail stores and businesses are already looking for a way to keep staff on site and catered meals is one way to help them do that.

Make the most of the residual marketing value of catering

Whether you’re catering a social or corporate gathering, there’s an opportunity to use the catered event itself as a word of mouth opportunity for your restaurant. On top of making sure your service and food are impeccable, Wilson suggests giving an additional coupon or gift to hosts of the event to entice guest to come back to the restaurant. She mentions that since most social catering events don’t include the additional beverage profit, this is a good way to make up for that value by inviting them back in your brick and mortar doors.


Market outside of the traditional holidays

According to a recent Technomic survey, 24% of consumers order platters for Halloween!  What this tells us is that operators have the opportunity to think outside the box when it comes to catering season. Consider traditional seasonal holidays like thanksgiving or Christmas and Chanukah alongside  less traditional times of year like July picnics or even television premieres when making your menus.


consumers are interested in catering for many reason

When it comes to social catering, consumers are interested in three things: value, a unique experience, and convenience. Take a look at your restaurant and the things you’re doing well and working to get better on and truly make sure you’re ready to take the step to off premise catering. As Howard Cannon, President of Restaurant Expert Witness said to Food News Feed, “If you’re not great at hospitality, quality, service, cleanliness, and accuracy in your restaurant I would not go off-site.”