Branch Out Your Restaurant Business with a Catering Menu

If you run a restaurant or food service business, your main goal is likely to get small groups of customers to come in for sit-down or take-out meals. But have you considered the lucrative possibilities of catering for holiday parties and other gatherings?

Adding a catering service to your business can have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line: For example, after launching a national catering branch last year, the restaurant chain Dickey’s Barbecue reported $2.6 million in sales for the catering division alone.

Here are a few ideas for getting a catering service off the ground:

Promote your catering services. There’s a chance that your customers might call on you out of the blue to ask if you’ll cater an event for them — but you’re likely to get a lot more business if you make it clear that you’re ready to serve big groups and (if possible) deliver the food. Print out menus for your catering service, and prominently display them alongside your regular take-out menus, and create a special section of your website dedicated to your catering menu.

Portion your menu for crowds. So how should you package your catering menu? It’s common to serve your food in shareable portions that can accommodate larger groups of people. For instance, the restaurant Mainely Wraps offers a catering menu with sandwich platters designed to feed 10 to 15 people, soups served by the quart, and half- or full-pan baked options such as lasagna, lobster mac ‘n cheese, and chicken parmesan. You don’t need to offer your entire menu for catering; if certain dishes cannot easily be converted to crowd-sized portions, it’s probably best to avoid them.

Get the supplies you’ll need. You’re likely to grow your catering business more quickly if you can deliver dishes on-site, so make sure that you have the equipment you’ll need to do so. It may not be necessary to invest in a catering van, but you’ll want to purchase some large coolers that you can store in your trunk, as well as plenty of disposable platters and serving trays to place your items in. You may also need to consider hiring someone as a part-time delivery driver.

Nearly all types of small businesses can grow their income streams by diversifying — and, for restaurants, launching a catering division can be a lucrative way to take your company to the next level.