How To Design a Killer Corporate Drop-Off Catering Menu

Building a menu to engage the drop off corporate catering customer requires finding a delicate balance between variety & simplicity.  The following are some proven strategies for creating a catering menu that will meet the needs of this specific but very lucrative demographic.

The amount of thought and effort that most put into a catering menu is far from adequate, most know it is important, but it is seen as a tool that needs to be sold versus a solution to your customers needs.  We see companies selling hard, putting increasingly more effort into pushing out the message but they are doing this as a substitute to having a great product.

My experience in too many cases is that the restaurant leadership or owner wants the menu that fits their needs more so than the needs of the customer.  This article is focused on how to create a menu that solves your customers’ problem.  Any other approach results in fewer repeat sales.

Where will your catering sales come from?

Just like you’re dine-in business, catering sales fall into similar meal periods, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  One difference in catering is the opportunity for snacks and or bite size food or appetizer style options. 

Most restaurants that are focused on business clientele find that lunch sales will be the dominate meal period, some exceptions can be made for restaurant brands that have a predominate breakfast category and are know for this day part, but most restaurants will need to understand that lunch is going to be 80% or more of your sales.

What food items should you offer on your catering menu?

One of the biggest mistakes I see when building a catering menu is that there are too many choices.  It is not necessary to have every one of you’re dine-in options on your menu.  If you’re dine-in menu is large then run a p-mix report and look at what sells best, take this information, and apply it to your catering menu, simplicity is almost always the best answer, focus on what sells and leave the rest as special requests.

What do people want to eat?

Best in class menus offer both hot and cold food items as selection options.  A strong combination of hot and cold allows you to adjust to seasonal preferences easily without having to create specials or change the menu.

The American palate is traditional even if the food is not so, this means you need a solid line of proteins, starches and greens incorporated within your menu.  If you are a pizza place or a sandwich brand you need to have a solid group of side items to support this or offer other items within your genre, so you can sell packages.

60% of catering sales can be contributed to sandwiches so if you don’t have a sandwich option then you are basically starting at a huge disadvantage.  Wraps are sandwiches and all sandwiches must be cut in half or more, this allows for per person serving expansion.

Besides sandwiches you need to serve food in a buffet style and this means having options for proteins, starches and salads that can be combined.  Salads whether lettuce based on vegetable style like tomato/cucumber salad are also mandatory items and is a basic expectation for any catering menu.  Proteins and starches must be packaged as individual items that can be ordered in a package or Ala Cart.  Finally, you need some dessert, almost always a cookie at the very least and drinks, with bottled water and a couple simple choices in cans as the best serving size option.

Ethnic food doesn’t always fit into the ideals of American eaters, my strong suggestion is to find a way to make your menu fit what people are comfortable eating. I used to tell my customers that had never heard of Mediterranean food, it is just big chunks of seasoned meat, rice, & vegetables served as a sandwich or a plate.  They got this immediately.

Stay tuned for part 2 coming shortly. Cater Cult has helped dozens of national and local restaurant brands improve their catering menus. Contact us if you would like some help improving your menu.


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