As many of you have done, I started in the food business by opening a restaurant. Mine was a glorified Chicago-style hot dog stand named Wales on Wells located in the Marquette University area in Milwaukee, WI. We rented a 700 square foot space on Wells Street and since my father-in-law’s last name was Wales and he provided the initial loan, you can see how the restaurant’s name was born.
My wife and I never even considered catering until a customer asked if we could come to his house and bring food while he and his friends watched the Packer’s game. That somehow worked, and eventually customers asked us to cater picnics and Milwaukee Brewer tailgate parties. Since most of our Marquette clientele left for the summer, outdoor catering was a natural fit for us as it filled in a big revenue gap. We jumped on this opportunity and soon we were catering over 150 outdoor events each summer!
Since we sold hamburgers, brats, hot dogs and similar items, converting these to a catering menu was easy. If you have a restaurant and want to become a drop-off caterer, it is not difficult to take the things you already serve and morph them into a drop-off catering menu.
First, let’s consider the meals you need to have menus for. Most corporate caterers do the bulk of their business at lunch. The second most popular meal is breakfast, and while many caterers do a substantial number of dinner-type events, these are usually third on the list. Of course clients may call you for many other types of deliveries such as afternoon snacks and even cocktail parties, but let’s deal with these later. Today, we’ll start to consider what you need to present a basic breakfast menu.
Most dropped-off breakfasts can be categorized as hot or cold, and when you are just beginning, you do not need a fancy or extensive menu. As you become comfortable with menu items and you see what your customers like and/or request, you can add to your offerings.
The most common breakfast ordered is the Continental Breakfast. While there are obviously many variations, a good place to start is here:
Catering Cafe’s Continental Breakfast:
- Fresh Fruit
- Assorted Juices
Some caterers even like to keep it simpler by putting the Danish, donuts and scones into one area called sweets. You may have other menu items like cinnamon rolls, for example. Regardless, I’m sure you understand the concept.
Another description that allows you more flexibility based on your inventory, is a rotating assortment of fresh baked goods.
You do need to include plates, napkins, flatware, cups, etc.; some caterers charge for these and others do not. As we progress, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different pricing philosophies.
Building menus is not that difficult if you start simply and add as you get deeper into drop-off catering.
By the time we are done with this series, you will have a solid foundation for a great menu. We will discuss pricing, customer ordering guidelines, supplier perks and relationships along with many other subjects. Next week we’ll get start to consider the many types of hot breakfasts you can offer, and how you can successfully build that part of your menu.
If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.