From an early age, it was clear that Emma had found her calling. She was destined to take the catering industry by storm. By the age of ten, she had established a sacred family tradition of planning and preparing elaborate birthday dinners for her parents and both of her younger siblings.
Two weeks before each of their birthdays, she mailed handmade invitations announcing the celebration. Two days before the feast, her mother would take her to the gourmet grocery store, where they would shop for ingredients for the menu she had thoughtfully planned.
When the big day arrived, she would set the table with the special-occasion china, including fresh flowers cut from the garden and beautifully inscribed name cards, always seating the guest of honor at the head of the table. The meals themselves were nothing short of culinary masterpieces. Four times a year, she would create a very memorable night for her family.
Over the next ten years, Emma's driving focus was learning the food business. She worked in every position imaginable, from dingy diners to white-glove service catering companies. When she wasn't at her job, she'd usually be reading an industry-related magazine, watching a cooking show, or experimenting with a new dish. After high school, she attended a renowned culinary institution and graduated with high honors.
Emma was on a mission to have her own business. A few days after her twenty-fifth birthday, she found the perfect place for sale. After a month of cleaning and reorganizing, Emma's Café and Catering was ready to open its doors.
The day before the grand opening, filled with a mix of anxiety, excitement, and pride, she contacted her favorite instructor from culinary school. She wanted to share her big news and to ask a question.
"Ms. Cordes, if you were to give me one piece of advice before I embark on this journey, what would it be?"
Ms. Cordes paused, breathed a heavy sigh, and said, "Get into a different line of work . . ."
* * * * *
Urban Legend? Perhaps. However, chances are you can relate to the message. Our industry has a well-earned reputation for being long on hours and short on profit.
Do you ever feel overworked and underpaid? Corporate drop-off catering can change that. Whether you are a novice thinking about starting a new division, or a seasoned veteran wanting to take your corporate business to the next level, the market is ripe for both entry and growth.
Did you know that the corporate sector accounts for about 25% of the $9 billion catering industry?
Do you ponder if a drop-off division would affect how your brand is perceived?
Have you ever thought, "I'm not a sandwich caterer?”
Guess what? It's time to think again. Not only do industry analysts agree that demand in this segment is on the rise and poised for continued growth, but they concur it is still an under-tapped segment of the industry. This is good news. It means there is a lot of business waiting to be captured.
Consider this scenario. Suppose Emma decided to go into business as Emma the Famous Egg Caterer. Envision that she delivered complete breakfasts that featured a choice from six egg dishes: Omelet, Benedict, Florentine, Frittata, Poached, and Egg & Cheese on Croissants.
Here's the rub. The corporate market has literally millions of consumers interested in her services, but they want their eggs either scrambled or hard-boiled. However, Emma the Famous Egg Caterer doesn't offer these styles. Why? Maybe she feels they are not sophisticated enough? For whose tastes (or ego)? Her own? In fact, she is not maximizing her businesses potential, and she is leaving money on the table for her competitors. The real question should be: Why Not?
She has an operating facility that is licensed, equipped, and staffed. Some significant expenses (e.g., rent, insurance) are fixed costs. She is located within proximity of a business district and suburban office park. Why not give the people what they want?
Does your full-service catering menu or restaurant offer chicken and beef and salmon? Have you ever considered that these foods can create gourmet sandwiches such as parmesan-crusted chicken breast on an artisan roll? Or a marinated beef with creamy horseradish sauce rollup? How about teriyaki salmon filets as the centerpiece of an entrée lunch salad?
Have you cultivated a reputation as an upscale full-service caterer? You can do the same for your corporate division. Plenty of companies that regularly order catering have deep pockets and will pay more for a quality product. Alternatively, if your style is more casual, there is always demand for standard, no-frills sandwiches and salads at lower prices. Whatever the case, each division can cross-promote the other, and boost sales. If you have a restaurant/retail operation, it adds another layer of branding and growth opportunity.
When a full-service caterer asks, "Will offering corporate drop-off services affect my brand?" the answer is a resounding "Yes! Expanding your scope of services and filling a need in the marketplace will enhance your brand."
There is no greater testimonial or positive word-of-mouth advertising than a client saying, "I use Emma's Catering for everything. Last spring they catered my daughter's wedding; last month it was a surprise party for my husband; and they deliver box lunches to my office twice a week."
The number one reason more full-service caterers, restaurateurs, grocery stores, and even food truck operators are entering this market segment is the golden goose of corporate drop-off catering—repeat business.
This is not an unusual phone call: "We need fifty deluxe box lunches ($15 per person) delivered Monday through Friday next week at 11:45 a.m., and beverages, coffee, and an afternoon snack such as cheese and crackers or veggie crudité ($7 per person) delivered at 3 p.m."
Let's do the math:
($15 + $7 = $22)
($22 x 50 people x 5 days = $5,500)
Not a bad jumpstart going into a new week, right?
Does your full-service catering business take a noticeable dip in January and February and/or July and August? The corporate sector is steadier with less fluctuation. This is not theory. It is fact. If you commit to starting or growing a drop-off division, you'll be amazed how those traditionally slower months will get busier.
With a plan, you can create a foundation and corporate drop-off customer base within six months. Within a year, you will be asking yourself, "What took me so long to get on this train?" If you have an existing base and aspire to take it to the next level, measurable growth can happen even sooner. There are tried and true systems to make both scenarios a reality.
The forecast for the corporate catering sector is very encouraging. 2015–2016 is an ideal time to get in the game. Demand in this multi-billion dollar sector is strong and growing. If you are looking for ways to boost your bottom line, generate a new revenue stream, and enhance your brand, corporate drop-off catering is your ticket.
Michael Rosman has been in the catering and restaurant industry for over thirty years in the Boston area, where he built a $1.8 million per year corporate drop-off catering operation. He's the founder of The Corporate Caterer, a resource membership website, coaching and lead generation company. To learn more about starting or growing your corporate catering business, visit www.TheCorporateCarterer.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 781-641-3303