Whether you've been catering for years and consider yourself a pro or are just venturing into the world of catering from your pizzeria, a catering menu makeover can make the difference between getting the job or not. A well-planned and designed catering menu can automatically add extra catering profits to your till.

Before you even start to design your catering menu, you must answer the following question: "What is the purpose of my catering menu and how will it be used?" Is it a fancy brochure or a simple price sheet to fax to inquiries? Though you may have multiple uses for your catering menu, it must always be designed to be a piece that sells customers and prospects on choosing you for their catered events. A great catering menu gets the phone ringing with prospects disposed to giving orders, not shopping price.

Here are the NINE steps to your catering menu makeover:

  1. Conduct Catering Recon: Just like all great commanders do their homework before heading to battle, you must know what your competition is up to. Collect catering menus from your pizza and non-pizza catering competitors. You must know what prices, menus and packages you are being compared to. Understanding your catering marketplace allows you to attack niches not being pursued.
  2. Pick A Pricing Policy: If you've read some of my previous PMQ articles, you know I'm a big advocate of per-person pricing. There is nothing more difficult for a secretary than having to calculate how many pans of salad to get when it feeds 10 and she has 15 guests. Make it easy to pick packages at the low, middle and high end of the pricing scale to appeal to the different buying styles.
  3. Know Where Your Logo Goes: Nine out of ten catering menus that my consulting clients send me for critique have a large logo plastered on the top. Your customers care about what you can do for them, not who you are. Put the logo at the bottom and save the top for a headline that communicates the "big benefit" they'll receive. One caterer touts, "Last Minute Orders Never A Problem." Identify your strengths and communicate it with a powerful headline on top of your catering menu.
  4. Image Counts: Make sure the graphic artist you use to design your menu has been to your restaurant and seen your other marketing pieces. Your menu must match your image and positioning in the marketplace. A gourmet pizza operator is going to want to invest in nicer papers and capture an upscale look. A catering menu designed on Microsoft Word and printed on cheap copy paper will not properly communicate customer expectations, resulting in lower sales.
  5. Different Formats For Different Jobs: You may decide to print full color catering menus to use on deliveries to corporate offices for lunch or for your dine-in crowd to take with them. That same format will make for a solid black sheet on the other end of a fax machine. Have your artist design a different catering menu for the different uses. If you'll be mailing your catering menu, you may want a tri-fold brochure that will fit into a #10 envelope or act as a self mailer. You may decide to put an abbreviated catering menu on the back of all your box toppers. The second side of the paper is cheap to print.
  6. Use Pictures: Color food photography sells. Use it to sell your catering. Table shots, catering action shots and platters of your delectable specialties will get the phone to ring. Use captions under your photos to communicate the benefit your customer will receive: "Imagine you and your co-workers being able to actually enjoy your catered lunch when Leonardo's handles set-up, serving and all the clean up."
  7. Include Extras To Upsell: I like to create packages with the basics and upsell drinks, desserts, wings, paper products and other items. Make sure and put your "extras" section at the bottom for your customers to consider.
  8. Use Testimonials: What you say about yourself is self-serving. What your customers say about you is the gospel truth. You may use a testimonial as your headline, place a lot of them on the back and even include photos of your customers to go alongside. Testimonials are the single most powerful selling tool in your arsenal.
  9. Guarantee Your Way To Success: Caterers are chosen more for avoiding embarrassment than for the quality of their food. A well-crafted guarantee lets them know you put your money where your mouth is. On more than one occasion our "120 percent Guarantee" was the deciding factor in closing catering jobs for over a thousand guests.

Each year the race starts anew. The slate is clean and your profit and loss statement starts at zero. A little pressure on yourself to outdo your best keeps this business fun and exciting. I hope these ideas inspire you and guide you to the best year ever!

You now have the tools to create or recreate a catering menu that will get you sales. Make sure everyone involved in the menu creation process has read this article. It's a great checklist for your catering menu makeover.