Should Catering be Part of Your Restaurant’s Business Plan?

Your restaurant business plan may not have catering on the menu, but is it worth a look as another possible profit center? Well, considering that the National Restaurant Association reports that the catering industry is expected to be an $8.4 billion business in the U.S. this year (up 6 percent from last year) … we say – Yes.

Creating a catering department to coincide with your business model could work for you if you’re looking to broaden your brand and your business by providing an alternative revenue stream. Based on guest count per event, menus, staffing needs, overall expenses on the backend are passed onto the guest, and the stability of the catering services cycle (essentially non-stop throughout the year) … all additional appealing factors for adding catering to your operations.

Another plus: there is freedom, versatility, and fun that come from cooking offsite. Bring your creativity and passion (& best schmoozing skills) to someone else’s kitchen and make style and type of food preparation, distinctive menus, and presentation part of your brand. The element of intimacy and kitchen-to-plate connection with guests is priceless from a promotional standpoint, as not only will guests have a different experience than being in your restaurant, they will be more apt to come in to dine in your brick-and-mortar eatery, hire you for another catered event, and tell their friends about you.

If you’re still skeptical, we suggest starting small. Offer your regular diners and guests options for taking home party pans for a convenient way to entertain with delicious food, and then eventually transition to accommodating catering on a larger scale if it’s working for you and the market response has been positive.

Whether you create a workspace within your existing kitchen or expand or build out new space, your investment can grow over time. In the long run, it might be worth a look at how the competition has done it, as catering can offer great opportunities to:

  • Broaden your brand and community profile by reaching out to local business-owners to cater meetings, seminars, team building gatherings, corporate parties, and the like
  • Secure work around holidays by promoting your catering business not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but also create events/menus to mark celebrations such as St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Halloween, Super Bowl Sunday, Cinco de Mayo, etc.  throughout the year
  • Partner with vendors such as a local farm, a well-respected sommelier, a co-op bakery or with an event rentals company to create cross-promotional, specialized events and be a much-referred to caterer for others

Exploring all means of potential profit is always a good option – with strong planning and motivation in place, success can come your way!


photography courtesy of Farmers Fishers Bakers