How to Build A Killer Drop-Off Menu Part 3

The Language of Your Catering Menu

There is more to a catering menu than just creating a list of packages and menu items, there is a whole look, feel and language that communicates to your customer what your brand and catering service is all about.

The Look – The actual design of the menu deserves some professional help.  What size, how many pages or folds is also important.  Full pages are not conducive to grab and carry so slimmer is better Four to five inches in width and 11 inches long is a convenient size.  I really like a four-fold design which gives you eight panels.  If you’re content is larger, and you will use a multi-page format, then the size should be smaller, a more compact package.

Great food photography is necessary, high definition, professionally taken with some varied backgrounds and shots of specific food items, along with a mix of individual items and shots that are artistic in nature. Use a background of varied colors and textures, have some shots that are multiple items, as in a group eating setting, this can be a good front page photo.  A menu with strong photography is visually exciting and creates appeal, even hunger while looking through it.  There are many different artistic approaches to mix and match photos with the actual menu content and descriptions.  Look at companies that have a great program and learn from their examples.

The Content – Starting with the first page, you are looking for strong brand awareness and one amazing photo of your food.  Prominent logo placement, prominent placing of the word “Catering” on the front page.  The last and only remaining information you need is the URL to order online or your website and a phone contact to order.  (I generally do not put store phone numbers on the catering menu. if you have not centralized your phone ordering, you should do this.)

 The six or eight panels are my preference because it allows for a nice and clean inside layout of your offerings, basically one or two per panel. Start with the best sellers, packages that drive the best margins. Then group the less profitable parts of the menu in the last or final two panels, Ala Carte, drinks, and desserts are examples.

Put what you want to sell in the first panel or at the top, 80% of your sales will come from just two or three of the packages.  It is not exactly the 80/20 rule but you will see that your customer will gravitate to what is simple to order and is in the middle of your pricing structure.

For each package create a brief description and what is included.  List the types of packages next and provide specifics about serving size, what comes standard and then the choice options.  If you have food that is written in another language or is language that is not common or familiar provide a couple words to describe.  If your customer doesn’t really know what the food or item is they generally will not order it.  Provide an add on item at the end that would be complimentary, like a salad or a dessert.

Make sure you provide plenty of white space, menus that are text dense are hard to read and navigate.

The Language – Always write the content for your menu so it reflects your brand, always keep the tone and spirit of your brand in context.

This is a menu that must convey that it is easy to do business with your company?  Your catering menu should be clear in how to order, therefore you put this on the front page. The layout and writing needs to be organized, clean, simple, direct and provide descriptions as needed.  Does your menu look or feel busy, cluttered, dense, if so pull out things or increase the size, there is no prize for trying to fit everything into a specific number of pages. 

There are two other parts of the menu that you need to write in a business-friendly way. 

One – The operating statement, this is basically a description that you provide that gives a quick summary of why you are a good business partner, what do you value, what can they expect when working with you. 

Two – What are the rules of engagement.  This provides some details that may not be needed but when they do come up you have them in writing.  Here is an example.

  • We accept last minute orders and order changes

  • We can accommodate special requests, please inquire for specifics

  • Delivery fees start at $_______. Larger orders or long travel times may increase charges for delivery

  • Minimum order amount of $100

  • Please place catering orders the day prior for best service and availability

  • Same day orders cannot be guaranteed

  • Cancellation requires 2-hour notice or cancellation fee of 50% of order value

  • Prices and offering are subject to change

  • Before placing your order, please inform us of any food allergies in your party

  • Consuming raw or under cooked meat, poultry, seafood,

Order must be placed 24 hours in advance – When you put this on your menu you are putting up a barrier to growing your business.  Catering relationships are built on trust, gaining this trust, and keeping it will come through the value you add, your consistent competence and high service levels, an ability to be flexible. 

Assorted Is An Option – Customers want easy, and unless they are ordering for a group with specific food preferences, like vegetarian or gluten free making specific choices is not important.  Make sure you have the option for assorted in areas where it is possible, if you can set this up on your online platform then great if not then have this parameter figured out ahead of time and make sure it is consistent.

A Final Step – Get customer feedback on your drafted menu before you print it up.  It is amazing what you won’t see, you are now too close to the process and asking some of your customers to provide feedback will give you valuable insight, promise you will make some final changes after you get their feedback.  If you really want to have some fun and build some buzz on your menu and program host a menu tasting party, the money you spend for the food, staff and alcohol is worth the opportunity to get feedback, build relationships and in most cases,  you will see a quick increase in your orders from those that attend. 


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