Catering is a lucrative market for many restaurants. Catering large parties, such as weddings, anniversary parties, and holiday gatherings is a great way to boost restaurant sales. However, like all parts of the food industry, a restaurant catering business is a lot of work and demands a lot of organizational skills. If done right, a restaurant catering business is one of the best ways to get word around about your establishment.
First and foremost is organization. A restaurant catering business needs to be extremely organized to feed a large crowd all at once. Whether plated or a buffet, organizing and coordinating the back of the house staff with the front of the house is crucial. Before the guests start arriving, go over the menu and time frame for the meal with both the kitchen staff and the wait staff.
A head count refers to the number of people expected to attend the event. Most caterers need a head count anywhere from a month before the event to a few days before, depending on the menu. The head count is the number of meals you will bill the customers for. If a customer says 100 people will be attending their wedding reception, then you charge them for 100 meals. If only 50 people show up (sadly, that does happen) the customer still needs to pay for 100 meals, because that is what you cooked for. It is important that customers understand this before the event; otherwise, they may feel that they don’t have to pay for original headcount since only half showed.
Boisterous parties, such as Christmas parties and wedding receptions can go on for hours, if you let them, especially if alcohol is being served. Have a time limit for all parties. Four to six hours is ample time for most parties. A good rule of thumb for weddings is to begin timing upon the arrival of the bride and groom, not the first wedding guests. This still allows plenty of time for dinner and dancing.
Have a set minimum number for restaurant catering. If the private dining room requires a minimum number of 15 people and a party of four wants to rent it, fine, but they will have to pay an additional room fee. Remember, you are in this business to turn a profit. Setting up the private dining room and staffing it for a small party (one that could easily fit in your regular dining room) costs you money. You need to make enough money off that party to make it worth it. Of course, you can always bend your own rules, if it is for a customer that comes in often.