Catering to the graduates

Build your business by offering hassle-free pizza parties to high school and college graduates.

Graduation season is almost upon us, and that means hungry teens and twenty-somethings will have a can’t-miss excuse to throw a party. For high school and college seniors, graduation is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication; it’s also a turning point that marks the transition into full adulthood and a new life. Such a milestone occasion calls for a celebration, and that generally involves eating with friends and family.

Pizzerias can take advantage of this opportunity by creating graduation specials, hosting graduation luncheons or offering catering services for those planning their own parties. Here’s how to offer a hassle-free pizza party-to-go for your customers as they embark on their journey into adulthood:

  1. Start with the menu. Develop catering menus with packages designed and priced for large groups. For example, bundle pizzas with wings and beverages to cover all the bases. Think like a student and offer the sort of fare younger customers like at reasonable prices. Post the menu on your pizzeria’s website, Facebook page and other social media sites. As high school and college graduation dates approach, make sure to promote your catering option through social media and feature photographs of your best catering menu items to get clients’ mouths watering.
  2. Go where you’re needed. Be prepared to offer both off-site catering and large to-go orders for your clients. Make your staff available for in-home or backyard catering for families or, if you’ve got a private dining room or banquet facility, invite them to hold the event in your restaurant.
  3. Distribute promotional packages. Put together small kits with your catering menu, a promotional flier and a letter to parents that outlines your offer. As graduation season nears, contact local PTA groups and ask them to pass out the kits to parents. In exchange for their help, give them coupons for free pizzas or offer to cater their next meeting. Also contact the local schools’ administrative offices and ask them to help spread the word. For example, they may be willing to include your menu and letter in the informational packages that are usually mailed to students prior to graduation. Offer to donate food for a school luncheon or fundraiser in exchange for the administration’s assistance.
  4. Reach out to local universities. Place a banner in the Student Union and advertise in the school paper and other local publications that target the student crowd. If possible, feature your menu in a display ad. Make a big push to your fans on social media as well. Contact fraternities, sororities and other student groups and schedule a time to make presentations and bring samples of your food at no cost. Get them hooked on your pizza, and they’ll remember you at party planning time. Better yet, they’ll book you for their party on the spot!
  5. Stay in touch. Once you’ve booked a catering job, call the client within 24 hours to confirm the reservation. Make sure that they know what you’ll bring and what you won’t bring, especially in regards to silverware or glassware. Follow up with another call a week before the event and make sure the client is still expecting you. Be prepared to answer any last-minute questions they may have. Your client will expect you to pay attention to detail!
  6. Be prepared. Make sure you’ve got the staff you need to fulfill the catering orders and that everyone knows the schedule. Have all orders prepared on time and make sure that hot foods will be delivered in a timely manner.
  7. Remember the guest of honor. For a party honoring a particular person, include a thoughtful but appropriate gift for the honoree in the catering order. A congratulations balloon or card is a nice start, but also think about giving the guest of honor a coupon for a free one-topping pizza as well.

Of course, not every pizza restaurant has a catering component. If you don’t offer catering, you can still take advantage of graduation season. Simply use social media to promote a special deal for any graduate who shows up at your pizzeria with their newly minted diploma or cap and gown!

Linda Duke is the CEO of Duke Marketing and author of Recipes for Restaurateurs (, a “cookbook” of marketing ideas for restaurant owners, as well as The LSM Diet: Improve Your Bottom Line, Not Your Waistline (, a self-help guide to local store marketing. She publishes a quarterly industry resource, Restaurant Marketing Magazine, and an educational program, LSM-U, Local Store Marketing University. Find out more at

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