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Restaurant Resource Center

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Tis the Season: Holiday Catering for Restaurants

A cozy table for two might be your restaurant's usual specialty, but as the holidays roll around, it’s all about the parties. Filling up the function room on a regular basis is a great start, but you’re necessarily limited to the amount of guests you can physically host without having to stuff anyone up the chimney. If you’d really like to expand your capacity to make the most of the holiday season, your restaurant should be providing holiday catering for local companies.  In being able to deal with corporate catering, you could transform your whole business and potential for profit this holiday season.  

Market Positioning

Anyone can order a platter of cold cuts for their holiday staff appreciation party and call it a day. If a company is looking for professional catering, they want a higher-end, boutique experience. Your restaurant is successful for a reason, and it’s imperative that you find a way to translate these qualities and your brand as a whole.

Menu

A slimmed down version of your usual menu is an absolute must for keeping your sanity. Limit available choices to options you can confidently deliver under any time constraints and to options that will travel and/or reheat well. If you can revamp a signature dish to meet these standards, it will make a great centerpiece to the catering menu. Don’t forget to add a few holiday twists where appropriate. How much flexibility you offer clients is up to you and will depend on the venue.

Food Safety

The stringent food safety standards you enforce in your kitchen are only the beginning. Preparing, transporting and serving food off-site introduces a new layer of complexity. Extra training and specialized equipment are necessary investments to ensure a high level of safety.

Capacity

Chances are you don’t have a separate catering kitchen and staff to deal with this side of the business, so you’re going to have to take into account the regular holiday volume and figure out where catering orders are going to fit into the larger picture. Who is going to prepare the holiday catering plates and when? Who is going to actually attend the events, supervise and serve? Careful menu planning and booking well in advance will help with this. The last thing you want to do is slam an already overstretched chef and wait staff with double the expected workload at one of the busiest times of the year.

Moving operations from your familiar surroundings out into the wider world is a big leap. Any full-service event is really the equivalent of setting up and breaking down an entire restaurant in the span of a few hours. Even if you’re only providing hors d'oeuvres, many of the elements you take for granted in your own establishment need to be completely reimagined for corporate catering events. It’s an exciting, creative challenge for any restaurant, and it’s the best holiday gift you could give your business.

Krista Wolfe is a marketing project manager for Quill.com where she writes to help small businesses, teachers and healthcare professionals make more informed decisions on office essentials. She also writes on our new community blog, Café Quill, about a wide range of business matters such as leadership, productivity and work-life balancing. Krista lives in Chicago and you can find her on Google+ or LinkedIN.

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