Over the past several months catering for both B2C and B2B has almost come to a standstill. Yes, essential businesses are still in need of catered food, but overall, without the ability to hold family or social gatherings and employees still working from home, the need to cater is just a fraction of what we have been accustomed too.
I was in downtown Chicago last week on a Thursday at lunch time, normally this would be a peak lunch day, many of these restaurants would normally have lines out the door, yet even with some restaurants open for basic service like ordering in store for pick up or ordering online or via phone for carry out, traffic is almost nonexistent.
But as the saying goes, this too will soon pass, and we will all come back to some level of equilibrium but even when this does, it still won’t be the same. Customers for the short term and even maybe in the long term will look at gatherings with food differently than before.
I am not the first to call this out, and if you have been paying attention you will see smart brands pivoting to incorporate these changes.
1. Individual Meals – Call them box lunches, individual meals, meals for one or personal meals. Regardless this is the most commonly ordered item for catering. Everyone is concerned with safety and safe is a prepackaged meal for each person, buffets or communal food is going to take awhile to get back on track so move the lunches to the front of your menu and the buffets to the back.
2. Group Ordering – Notice a common theme here? It’s individual meals for groups, and group ordering is the perfect way to facilitate this order. The lines between take-out and catering are blurring, and some of that loss in catering sales can and should be gained through online group ordering. If you don’t have this capability within your online ordering program, I would recommend you make the effort to find software that has this feature.
3. Less Restrictions – It’s a buyers market right now and the best way to improve your competitiveness is to reduce the friction, or increase the availability of your menu. Reduce the minimum of people for catering orders or the minimum dollar amounts to order. Reduce lead times, cancelling restrictions and improve response times.
4. Service, Service, Service – It might be old fashioned, but service is always a critical differentiation and now more than ever. Identify the key service points that you have with customers and evaluate how to improve them. Here are a couple suggestions. If you use phones to take orders, review the interaction and find things to improve. Evaluate, how many rings, put on hold, transferred to another person, quality of greeting, menu knowledge, consistency of interaction between customers, up-selling, efficiency of transaction.
If you have multiple locations, this is a great time to think about consolidating phone orders into a single point with trained dedicated staff, the upgrade in this type of call interaction can be significant and can actually improve not only your service, but labor efficiency in the stores. The second point where most service can be improved on is delivery. Self delivery is preferred by customers, has proven to be a better and more consistent service experience, especially when you put time and effort into their selection and training. Finally, follow up with every customer every time, adding touch-points shows you care and deepens the relationship.
5. Access – One of the top thing’s customers say about why they order from a restaurant is convenience. This can mean many things but make ordering easy in every way possible. Start with clear and obvious order here buttons, differentiate take out and delivery from catering. I still go to websites regularity and cannot easily find how to order. Post your hours of operations clearly, make sure they are correct.
If you are using digital marketing, ensure that they can go from ad to order easily and quickly. If you have not ordered from your own restaurant in a while, do a quick google search and see what happens, if you do not find it easy to order, either do your customers. Finally make sure your menus are accessible and easy to find, check that they are correct, review from different points, like google, yelp, as well as any third-party vendors you may be using. Make sure they are correct, consistent, and priced appropriately.