How to Start Off-Premise Catering at a Restaurant

candy in a candy dish
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Catering is a natural extension of owning a restaurant and it makes sense to build your customer base beyond your dining room by bringing your food to your customers.

Off-site or off-premise catering requires organization more than anything. You need to make sure you have everything – from equipment, to food, to cleaning supplies, to transportation - ready to go. Unlike catering from your restaurant, you won’t be able to run to the kitchen if you forgot a carving knife for the roast beef or ladle for the gravy. It is the all the little details that count when you are catering off premise.

Having the right equipment is also vital for off-premise catering. You can only borrow so much from your restaurant, without it impacting service there. Along with the basics of plates, glassware, and flatware, you will also need a way to safely transport food, keeping it hot and/or cold. Cambros (big insulated coolers) are an ideal way to transport food for catering.

It is equally important to consider your location when catering off-site. Is there running water and electricity? Is there a kitchen, and if so, how big is it? As your catering business expands, you’ll find that catering in different locations means no job is exactly alike, even if the menu is the same. For example, you may have a full commercial kitchen at your disposal for one wedding while the following week, you have to bring everything precooked and heated in Cambros. That changes the logistics the job. You need to have all the cooking done beforehand.

The menu you offer for catering will most likely differ from your regular restaurant menu. Some items are better suited for large crowds, like stuffed chicken, pasta, vegetables, and dips, while other items don’t hold up as well, such as nachos or delicate seafood. As you write your catering menu, try mixing old classics, like cheese and crackers, with some of your signature dishes to set you apart from the competition.

Marketing your new catering business will be easy since you already have a built-in clientele in your restaurant. Quick and easy ways to spread the news of your off-premise catering services include menu inserts, table tents, and flyers. You can also promote it through your social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Be sure at every catered event you snap a few photos for your restaurant website. Try building a few boards on Pinterest, geared to brides, showcasing any wedding catering you have done.

Lastly, you should make sure that you have all the necessary licensing and permits for any catering job. Your business insurance should include off-premise catering and if you are planning on serving alcohol, you will need to apply to the local town office for a permit.