If you operate a pizzeria that makes deliveries, guess what? You're in the catering business. You may not consider it catering, but it is. You may not call it catering, but you should.
Focusing on the corporate drop-off catering sector can easily generate an additional 10-20% (or more), in revenue that can put your business over the top. Demand in this market is on the rise and poised for future growth. Delivering, (catering) to businesses accounts for 33% of a $12.8 billion-a-year industry.
More good news: Industry experts are emphatic that operators who sell pizza should seize the day. They can take advantage of a very under-tapped market.
Starting, or growing, a corporate drop-off catering division from your pizzeria is a savvy strategy for increasing your bottom line while incurring minimal additional expenses. Whether you are located in the heart of a financial district or on the outskirts of suburbia, focusing on the following five areas will help you get started:
Create a separate corporate catering menu. Piggyback off your existing menu, focusing on food that will transport well. Calzones, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, and pizza are some of the most commonly ordered items. Feature a signature specialty that will generate some buzz and differentiate you from competitors, such as home-roasted sandwich meats, specialty pizzas and calzones, freshly baked breads, locally sourced vegetables, or "the best" chocolate-chip cookies in town.
TIP: Start off small and expand your menu as your business grows.
The pricing structure for your catering menu should be higher than the pizzeria menu. Clients expect to pay more for the convenience and efficiency of delivery. Pricing on a per-person basis rather than per tray; it's simply more lucrative. Typically, most items should be offered family or buffet-style.
TIP: Research your competitors’ pricing structure and consider how you want to position yours, comparatively. You are in the enviable position of offering a product with a significantly lower-than-industry standard food cost.
Establish policies for your delivery area, delivery charges, hours of operation, minimums, advance-notice requirements, same-day orders, special requests, substitutions, cancellations and payment terms. Despite your best efforts, you will still get calls for same-day catering. While these orders can be challenging, the additional revenue can be significant. Use your policies as a guideline, but be flexible for your customers. It makes them feel special.
TIP: Consider offering limited, prep-friendly, time-efficient, menu choices when a client calls with a last minute order.
In today’s market, there are plenty of delivery options. Whatever method you choose, it is vital that your food is transported efficiently and arrives on time. Since your delivery staff is most often the face of your operation, hire responsible, polite representatives, who make customers feel like their delivery is the most important of the day. This will help forge relationships and lead to repeat business.
TIP: If your delivery staff will handle your corporate catering orders, have them bring a copy of their driving record (available online from DMV) when they come in to interview.
Successful marketing may consist of a combination of direct, social, paid and word-of-mouth practices. An effective marketing program is a coordinated, well-planned fusion of sales, service, packaging and promotion. A well-executed marketing program will keep your business fresh.
TIP: Complimentary tastings, at a potential new client’s office, are one of the most effective means of acquiring new business and showcasing your pizzeria's food.
Michael Rosman has owned and operated restaurants and corporate catering companies in Boston for 30 years. He is president and founder of The Corporate Caterer, a Consulting and Lead Generation Company and Membership Website that works with restaurants and catering companies throughout North America to begin or take existing corporate catering divisions to the next level. He has authored three books, Lessons Learned from Our Misstakes, More Lessons Learned from Our Misstakes and Even More Lessons Learned Our Misstakes, which are available through his website, TheCorporateCatererer.com, and Amazon.com. He is also a magazine columnist and national speaker. He can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinions expressed by PMQ contributors are their own.