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Websites for your start-up project

Question:

Do you recommend any websites containing start-up menu selections, tools, etc. for catering?

– Adam Andrews, General Manager, 4th Street Filling Station, Winston Salem, NC

Answer:

There are many advantages for restaurants to diversify into catering, if you feel you have the capacity.  To name a few:  guaranteed number and limited menu for functions, deposits in advance to help with cash flow, the ability to expand the number of covers you can serve by doing off-premise events, the potential to maximize productivity during off-hours, the ability to make one big-ticket sale to complement the hundreds of smaller sales made in the dining room, and the ability to show off your food, beverage and service to your client’s guests, who in turn can be converted into regular restaurant guests.

While the skills of operating a restaurant and a catering operation are similar, many restaurants I’ve worked with struggle, in particular, with calculating food quantities and pricing catered events, sourcing and budgeting for catering-specific needs such as tents, dance floors, and portable lavatories for off-premise events, recruiting and training temporary staff for events, and marketing themselves as a caterer in addition to a restaurant.

You ask for information resources that can be helpful and there are a few that I love. 

  • Check out the forums on Catersource.com, which have “caterer to caterer” discussions on menu items and a host of issues.  They also have an article archive and vendor network.
  • Leading Caterers of America, a membership organization founded by Bill Hansen, author of Off-Premise Catering Management and owner/operator of Bill Hansen Catering has a vendor network and additional resources for caterers (login required)
  • While not catering-specific, a lot of what you’re looking for in terms of menus, recipes, and online culinary tools can be found at GigaChef.com [JD4] , one of my new go-to sites

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