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Outside Insights | By erle dardick

Why Catering Is Crucial
How to start a successful catering and delivery business.
Delivery and catering business in restaurants

Every restaurant—from high-end fine-dining to quick-serve —should be in the catering and delivery business. The reason is simple: Catering and delivery will add valuable revenue streams to your dine-in business. While the nuances of execution are substantially different than dine-in, you’ve already got the key ingredients in place: a loyal customer base, an established brand, and a kitchen. There are only a few angles to consider, ensuring that you make the most of this opportunity.

Why cater? People will always need to eat, but they might not always be able (or want) to make it to your dining room. Your loyal customers will love to be able to sample your fare at the office or at home, and you will find new customers ready to do the same. Plus, the next time they go out to eat, you’ll enjoy top share-of-mind.

Preparing food for off-site dining will make your kitchen more productive by leveling out the peaks and valleys associated with on-site demand. Not only will you get more mileage out of your kitchen assets but you’ll get more output out of your staff as well.

Catering orders can be up to 10 times the ticket value of dine-in orders. A table of four might ring up a tab of $100, but a table of 10 will easily spend more than $250 on what will likely be a higher-margin menu as well. And you still get to have the family of four on-site. The only limits to off-site dining possibilities are your own resources.

First, think of catering and delivery as a separate business unit. This means you have to market and staff it differently than you would your dine-in business. Everything from the lag between order and consumption to payment to gratuities works differently. You would do well to dedicate resources just to catering and delivery, perhaps growing to the point where you even use a separate kitchen to meet demand.

Restaurants serious about catering can build this revenue stream up to the point where it represents 30 percent or more of their total sales. Imagine how much would that add to your business.

Catering orders can be up to 10 times the ticket value of dine-in orders.

Next develop a dedicated catering and delivery menu. Not every item on your dine-in menu is well suited to off-premise consumption. While some items won’t withstand the challenges of drop-off or delivery—like apple pie with ice cream—others might need to be modified to appeal to large groups.

Also be sure to get the word out. Your new business must be well promoted, both in store for your loyal customers but also outside where you will appeal to new customers. And don’t forget your imagination. You can get very creative in promoting your catering business—table cards, newsletters, print media, online, etc.

While promotions can go a long way to strengthen your business, providing on-time delivery, quality, value, and a memorable experience are the foundation of your future catering and delivery success.

Erle Dardick is CEO of MonkeyMedia Software. Contact the company by email at or online at