How to Tell If You Should Start Catering

How to Tell If You Should Start Catering

People love your food, and they want it outside your restaurant, too.

You have a restaurant, and people already love your food. Some of your customers have even asked about catering options.

As a restaurateur, you have a built-in clientele at the ready. But is a client base enough to start your catering business?

Opening a catering business tied to your restaurant can add extra profits to your business. Yet, there are some things to consider before taking the plunge. (tweet this)

In this article, we look at how to tell if you should start catering. Let’s look at what you need to begin.


The most important thing to consider is whether or not you have the resources to manage the added work.

Catering can take a lot of time, especially when demand is high. This means having enough people to handle it. Things to think about include:

  • Who will manage the catering operations?
  • Do you have enough servers to handle it? You might consider hiring specific team members for your catering service to ensure it runs smoothly every time.
  • Can you afford to invest in additional uniforms or aprons for your servers?
  • Do you have the resources to handle the extra supplies, food, and staff?


Another especially important consideration is space. For example, you have busing Saturday nights, and now you are adding a catering gig to your Saturday schedule.

Can your kitchen handle all the extra preparation?

You also want to make sure your kitchen is large enough to handle any size of catering order. Remember, some of them will be quite large.

In addition, do you have adequate space for extra refrigerators and freezers to handle the extra inventory and food prep? And do you have space to put orders before they are delivered or picked up?

You might find that adding catering limits your restaurant’s capabilities, so be sure the tradeoff works for you.


Many of your larger catering orders will expect you to deliver the food.

Do you have a van or large truck that can deliver large orders? If not, you’ll want to procure this before you open your catering business.


Running a restaurant is very time consuming, and so is adding a catering business.

Do you have time for it?

You will find that catering can utilize your kitchen in your off hours and even in your slow times. Are you prepared to work those extra hours, or do you have someone who can?

You want to figure out how catering will fit into your work schedule, so you make sure to give the time it needs to grow.

start catering

Do you have the extra services customers might want?

Extra Services

In addition to the food preparation, you might even find your customers want you to provide plates, silverware, glasses, linens, and tablecloths as well as serving dishes.

Can you offer these services? If not, is there someone you can partner with who does?

As a caterer, you want to be able to meet your customers’ needs and provide the best service possible.


The next thing you want to look at to tell if you should start catering is your in-house systems.

You’ll want a specific catering menu, a way to generate bills, contracts, and policies and procedures in place including deposits and cancellation policies.

Do you have this plan put together? If not, you’ll want to work on this before you open for catering.


Do you have a catering business plan in place? How about your catering pricing structure?

You want these things laid out so you know if your catering business can be profitable. Know what you’ll mark your services based on the cost of the food and materials as well as staff time.

Do make sure you cover all of the resources you’ll be using.

Now let’s look at some of the best reasons to add catering to your restaurant’s offerings.

Reasons to Start Catering

  • Catering can really drive your profit margins. It is especially helpful during your slow periods or off season.
  • When you have customers put down a deposit, you have a healthy cash flow to order what you need.
  • The operational costs are often less because you don’t need to provide the staff. Sometimes you don’t have to supply servers either as the venue takes care of it.
  • It can drive your employee retention by giving staff something different to do. They can also earn extra money during your off season. Your staff will enjoy the diverse types of work you can offer, so they’ll stick around longer.
  • You can be creative. Catering lets you broaden your menu and new ideas. It can be a fun way to offer the same great food in a little different manner.

Tips for Catering

To get your catering business off the ground, here are a few helpful tips to get started.

  • Hire a catering manager. Doing this puts one person in charge of inquiries as well as the events. This doesn’t have to be a full time person (at least until you get really busy). Doing this allows you to concentrate on your regular restaurant business while delegating the catering.
  • Stay involved with daily or weekly status updates.
  • Keep the menu simple. Don’t try to overthink it or add too many items to your catering menu. Once you grow, you can think about expanding your offerings.
  • Consider how well your menu items will hold up during delivery and if they sit awhile.
  • Study other catering menus for ideas.
  • Pass on all the costs to your customers. Bind all the costs into one per person fee so you don’t look like you’re charging them for a lot of individual line items.
  • Market your catering business. You can begin by putting information in your restaurant, on your receipts, on your social media pages and your website, and in your email marketing.
  • Train your staff specifically for catering. This is a bit different from serving in your restaurant.

To Conclude

Lastly, as you decide if you’re ready to start catering, you want to look at your desire level. Do you want to offer catering? It needs to be something you feel passionate about in order to grow and thrive.

Your people skills may be put to the test as well as your patience. There’s a lot that goes into catering, and it can be great for many restaurants. Just be sure it’s right for you.

Images: NeONBRAND and Robert Mathews on Unsplash

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