2. ▪ Part 1: BeforeYou Get Started
▪ Centralized Interactions
▪ Part 2: Operations - Dedicated Resources
▪ Part 3: Operations - Defining Your
▪ Labor Planning
▪ Integrated Order Flow
▪ The FinalYards
3. The following presentation is written and
presented by Cater Cult LLC. Cater Cult is a
consulting firm with a purpose to help fast
casual restaurant brands build off-premise
We provide catering sales, service and
operations advice to both small and large
restaurant groups looking to build sustainable
The following material focuses on how to create
successful catering operations in a fast casual
style restaurant environment.
For more information or to schedule a free
catering business review go to:
You can also see what we are working on by
visit us on social media.
4. Catering is an amazing revenue source. Before you
embark on a path to grow this channel it is important
to understand the needed commitment in resources
to create a successful and sustainable sales channel.
Hiring people is what most think of first, but the
processes and systems that allow people to be
successful is even more significant, more
challenging, and often under estimated.
Instead, ask yourself an important question, is your
leadership team aligned? Does everyone know and
understand what is required in resources and
energy? If you are not sure, not a problem, you are
in familiar territory. Let’s take a few minutes to
review some of the basics of catering that will
provide some additional perspective.
Successful catering programs contain five points,
leading, selling, centralizing interactions, operations
and marketing & brand. Each point is critical and
dependent on each other.
Leading – There are two parts to this, the alignment
within the executive team and the dedicated
leadership to handle the day to day.
Everyone on your team needs to be in alignment on
catering as an opportunity, if not it fails, maybe not
right away but your team and eventually your
customers will know that you aren’t aligned.
1. Why Alignment - A catering strategy is intertwined
within every department in your business. Executive
leadership will participate and be asked to provide
resources to catering. Your team needs to understand
how catering will impact each area, what decisions will
change or be influenced because of catering.
2. The financial structure is a great first example, will it be
a separate revenue center, maybe even a separate
P&L. Marketing must create and integrate content
creation, materials, outreach, brand, promotions,
surveys, new stores openings. Picking real estate will
take catering sales potential as part of the equation.
Operations will have to adapt, grow and partner on a
daily basis, and impact will be felt with IT, accounting,
food safety, training, HR, payroll, basically everyone
3. This is why a real strategy is a priority and including
the strategy into your companies DNA will ensure it is
successful. Does your current strategy have this level
of detail and integration?
4. Why Leadership - Who is in charge of the sales, the
service, the synergy, the execution, the team? If you
don’t have that skill set, you can also hire it, there are
many experts in this field that can provide you the
guidance on leadership.
5. In a prior role I was the Director of Operations and also
in charge of a sales team and catering program. There
was a lot to learn but I owned it 100% and that made all
Planning, setting goals, leading the team, measuring
progress, listening to customers, and making
adjustments to our program became a daily activity. If
for any reason you are not prepared to do this, do not
start, you could do more harm than good, find another
revenue stream that better aligns with current
Selling – Catering sales growth doesn’t just happen,
build it and they will come is nonsense. Dedicated,
active, structured, focused, measured people and
systems is what cranks out sales growth.
Here is where dedicated & active really matter. Who
is going to go out there and sell your menu? I have
seen how it doesn’t work as much as how it does
work. Example – “Oh, I don’t really have the money
to hire someone, so let’s get the GM to do it,” or “let’s
get Marci the great cashier to do this, she will be great
at it.” If this is what you are thinking about, stop, your
not ready. Great results come by hiring people that
have the playbook, used it, had success with it, then
apply it to your business.
THE FIVE POINTS OF SUCCESSFUL CATERING
The key was treating
catering as an equal to my
Ops team. Managing them
just like a store, which is
what they were, a revenue
5. Don’t expect miracles! It takes a salesperson time, 30 days, 60 days, even 90 days to get
results. It goes much faster if they have a book of business
More on Selling – Just a little more discussion on
selling. Selling is a couple presentations on its own
and this is a presentation on operations, but this is
relevant to our bigger understanding.
Selling is a full time job, it takes a serious amount of
focus, motivation and energy that is hard to sustain
when it is juggled with other responsibilities. Hiring
an expert is a great starting point but you have to
1. Don’t expect miracles! It takes time, 30 days, 60
days, even 90 days to get results, I know that isn’t
what people want to hear. It helps if your person
has a book of business. If you decide to use an
internal person, then training will take longer, and
results will take longer.
2. Use a CRM, not Salesforce, keep it simple and low
cost, HubSpot, ZOHO are two that I have used.
Automation is why, organization is even more
obvious, spreadsheets are ridiculous when tech is
at your finger tips.
3. Put together a Campaign calendar, its critical and
smart. It gives your team reasons to contact
people, it can also be a lot of fun. I have done
contests, give a ways, donations to charity, held
events, all in line with what is going on in the
world and peoples work or home life.
4. Build a menu that works for different groups, price
points, occasions. Make it simple and flexible,
packages with simple choices is what every admin
wants. Do research!! No guessing, get every
competitors menu, order food from your competition.
5. You need selling tools, menus of course but flyers,
fish bowls, samples, this is where marketing can be a
6. Finally, you have to measure performance, both sales
and activity, do it frequently, set clear goals, coach
and teach. Set a budget, measure against it and LY,
do the same for activity; how many calls, emails,
Central Interactions – Own Your Customers! What does
this mean? Well, it means that your team is the one
having the interactions, your company owns their data,
your company dedicates specialized resources that are
focused on creating great interactions with your
customers, including interactions after the initial sale,
interactions that continue. In other words you build a
trusting relationship, not a transaction.
Here is where and how you do this.
Set up a central place where orders come in. This starts
with a single phone number dedicated to catering, if
customers call the store they are directed to the #, no
exceptions. You can even route this at one of the stores,
as long as an expert answers it, all the time.
Where else do orders come from? Online ordering.
This is where the call center or Catering Order Center
pays off, when you have 3rd party consolidators and
each has a different way to transmit orders you can
better handle the order flow from one place, then run
it through your own proprietary system so Ops gets
orders from one place.
Better yet, if you can tie this into your POS then you
are a big winner, you can celebrate this one, your
doing better than most.
There is a lot more to centralizing but getting the
order flow set is what matters most. It works well at
any size, one unit or hundreds of units.
Quick Summary before we move into Ops Excellence.
Your Executive Team is Aligned
There is dedicated leadership and accountability
You hired a sales person and put in place the
systems and tools to support, patience included
You set up a dedicated phone #, person to answer it
and a way to distribute orders in one format.
Great – Let Get Started
6. "Coming together is a
together is progress.
Working together is
7. You’ve checked the boxes on the last page, your team is aligned, you
have some dedicated leadership, a sales team, and you have
centralized your services. You may have noticed we didn’t discuss
marketing & brand. This was purposeful, its important, but it isn’t as
integrally tied into the operations as the other points, so let’s leave this
for another conversation.
Checklists are a great way to do a quick evaluation, so here is one to
help understand where your operations are right now. Even if you
don’t have a catering program this checklist will give you a starting
point on what areas you can start to work on now.
Whether you have one store or 2,000 the principle pieces are the
Score 10-20 : Barely Doing the Basic
You have some systems and resources engaged against catering, but
you haven’t begun to tap into its real potential — you could be doing
more harm than good.
Score 21-35 : Getting There
You’re on the right track for solid operational execution, but you could
be doing a lot better.
Score: 36-50: Truly Strategic
You understand that having strong, organized systems and dedicated
resources is the only way to compete in today’s competitive
LETS FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR CURRENT CATERING OPERATIONS
8. The Driver can make the difference between a
repeat and loyal customer or a customer that never
orders again, it happens everyday. Customers
know this as much as anyone, they have a higher
than expected tolerance for average to poor service,
so if you excel in this area you really stand out.
Although not specifically mentioned these roles are
highly dependent on the stores leadership or MOD
to be fully engaged and helping the team execute.
There is also dependence on support from the
central ordering center, which will help with last
Your Operations Catering Team is how you turn your
current program into something special. Operations
must have specific roles with defined
responsibilities to see success that creates trust with
Trust, this is really what you are selling, it’s about
more than the food, since your client has a different
need than your dine-in customer. Catering
customers are buying an event, and if that event isn’t
successful it reflects poorly on them. This creates a
different level of angry, recovery is harder because
the disappointment is bigger. Getting another order
will take a lot of energy and usually free food on
your part to win back.
Now, every business is going to have different levels
of catering sales, so although these roles may not be
full time they still need to exist as designated roles
with clear expectations. There are three critical
roles that are required daily.
1. The Builder – This role is first because no
matter whether you have one order or ten,
someone in your restaurant needs to have
knowledge of the catering menu, how it is put
together, presented and understand how to read
and organize the orders.
2. The Router – This position must be separate from both
the Builder and Driver, I have seen many try to combine
the builder and router roles and this will cause mistakes
in your orders within a day or two. The secret to a great
operation is the separation of tasks, allowing fresh eyes to
review another's work eliminates mistakes. The router is
responsible for the organization, timing and last check of
every order. Routers can also help assemble orders,
bringing together hot and cold items, sides, sauces,
utensils and coordinate logistics with the driver team. In
many cases the MOD may take this role.
3. The Driver – Well, whether they walk, bike or drive, it is
just easier to refer to them all as drivers. They “drive”
the order to your customer. More importantly, they are
the one person to actually interact with the customer.
This is a critical role and will have a huge impact on how
the experience turns out. Here is what you should insist
on with drivers.
• Well groomed, professional in look and
• Friendly, helpful, smiling, positive
• Knows the menu & how to set it up
• Can handle demanding, and needy customers
• Responsive and good communicator, asks for
help and anticipates problems
Yes, this is a lot and that is why they are some of the best
employees in the store.
IN STORE PEOPLE RESOURCES
The delivery driver is the only person on
your team that has personal contact with
your client, so they must be your best
✓ Day Prior set up procedures is what
ensures success of catering execution
more than anyone thing.
✓ Add a trained builder as part of your
closing team to execute order
organization, container labeling and
even packing sauces, utensil packs for
existing orders and last minute orders
9. Use a signature packaging component to highlight your
brand and service. Examples could include logo’d
serving utensils, A product description sheet like a large
table tent, special sauce bottles in a bright color.
The bottom line is packaging is more than just a container
to hold food, it is creating an image and even a story
about your food and service.
Upgrading Your Presentation – One the best ideas that I
have seen is adding a packaging upgrade kit to your
menu. Now you need to have a menu that has some hot
food, a solid group of options and can be set up in a buffet
fashion. The basic premise is that you will have
customers that need or want to provide a higher quality
presentation as they host guests in their office. This is
usually law firms, consulting companies as well as other
companies in finance or investment.
The options can be simple white plastic containers or
using something like balsa wood, it should also include
some upgrades on utensils, napkins, as well as having
special dishes for sauces. You can decide on whether
this will all be disposable or using something like
melamine that you pick up later. There are pros and cons
to either, but it can add sales with customer that wouldn’t
use you as well as added margin on the mark up of these
Packaging – The presentation of your food is one of the
most impactful aspects of your catering program. When your
driver has left the building you need to make sure your
brand is well represented.
When deciding on the right packaging there are a number
of factors that need to be considered. First, are you serving
hot food? If so, then your packaging must be compatible as
well as the tools used to transport your food. Warm food or
even cold food destroys the customers experience. When
we talk about the staging in the restaurant, we will discuss
this in more detail.
Finding packaging that works with your food and menu is
going to take some research to find the right manufacturer,
sizes, shapes and material. Some recommendations on
packaging are as follows:
• Presentation matters so stay away from cheap
containers, avoid foil pans unless you use chaffing
dishes to hold hot food.
IN STORE EQUIPMENT RESOURCES
The bottom line is packaging is more than just a
container to hold food, it is creating an image
and even a story about your food and service.
✓ Labor added to execute incremental catering
sales usually runs about 6%-8%, this includes
the builder, router and driver hours, along with
the extra production.
✓ Labor on Dine-In sales is 15%-20% so you can
see how catering adds high margin profits.
Where you execute your catering orders is going to
be based mostly on square footage or prep space
within the restaurant. If your box is small and
production of food is happening centrally, doing
catering at the unit level is not feasible and should
be executed within a production hub. Most
restaurant concepts that have a menu with catering
potential have enough space, and it is highly
recommended that you do as much catering within
the store as possible, it is just good economics.
Catering becomes incremental
sales, you already have the lights
on, the people scheduled, and the
food in process, so adding a
couple extra hours to your
teams workload adds a lot
of value. It is also good
• Use as few containers as possible to
manage scaling your serving quantities.
Start with sizes for 10, 15 and 20 people,
then double or triple the use of containers
vs. adding larger sizes.
• Find products that allow for brand
placement, either on lids, use of stickers, or
maybe using special containers for sauces.
10. Off Site Events – If you are going to add resources like
bags, boxes, and carts, you can also consider what you
need to do off-site events. This is a big topic so to be
more specific, I am referring to off-site events that are
indoors, usually at someone's office of related office
event. These are great money makers, and better than
normal margins, even when you add in the labor
needed to run the event. Add the following items and
you can do these events which range from $1,500 to
$5,000 in sales.
Wire rack chaffing dish, usually about $7, along with
gel fuel (methanol). Plus, real serving utensils, spoons,
tongs and finally the aluminum dishes with lids for
transportation and usage on chaffer trays.
To manage and save costs, designate one location as
your primary place to produce these events, then you
only need one set of equipment. Plus they do take
practice and a team that you can teach.
Delivery Equipment – Getting your food to the
customer is generally a straight forward operation, with
the right equipment. Now, I am also assuming that you
have employed your own drivers and here is the basic
equipment to get the food across town or across the
street. Some do it fancier, but this gets it done
There are three amazing tools, they work great in both
urban and suburban market places. What is great
about all three of these products is that they can be
used on foot or with a car. If you are doing bike
delivery you need a hot bag that can be swung over the
shoulder or worn like a back pack.
Tool #1 – The Cart – I love this cart since
it is so flexible and has the ability to
carry more food than any other
cart I have used. Ditch the
tiered carts with a shelf
on the bottom and top.
Also, you can fold it up put
it in the trunk and
bring it with you,
try to do that
Tool #2 – The Box – I don’t
see this used much but it
adds an incredible
dimension to transporting
food. First, it is protective
so you can put a lot of
different things into it with
out worry if it is going to
IN STORE EQUIPMENT RESOURCES
. Second, it is stackable, so put this on the bottom
and stack your hot bags on top. You want to send
$5k worth of food across the street this is the
packaging to have.
Tool #3 – The Hot Bag – These are generally
ubiquitous if you are serving anything hot, so you
may already have these. A couple important items to
consider; quality really counts, heavy use is standard
and once they get beat up you need to replace.
Dirty, torn up bags don’t exactly demonstrate that
you take care of your food. Also, make sure the bags
are in your brands color, include large logos with
key catering phrases, and phone numbers are added
to the sides.
Like the hard containers, measure your food
packaging so you purchase bag sizes that fit well,
especially when it comes to popular order types.
I refer to catering food transported on carts
with out any outside packaging containers,
like plastic bags, hot bags or other
containers as Naked Catering. IMO this is
not appealing and usually means there is
little brand recognition while in transport.
Also, look at the drivers of naked catering,
they usually also look unkept. Presentation
at all times reflects on your brand.
11. “A bad system will
beat a good person
every time .“
W. Edwards Deming
12. Catering adds complexity to your
operations, but it can be made
exacting through a process of great
systems that your team can duplicate
over and overIf you have read about Edward Deming in school you
know that the experiments and processes created
by him changed manufacturing forever. His belief in
systems helped popularize how to duplicate work
over and over again with the same exacting success.
You hear his phrases all the time, or at least versions
of them. Most of us don’t realize where they
originated from but here are a few you may have
His insight that the process or system had more
impact on performance and quality than the person
engaged in them has incredible relevancy to
running restaurants. Through the careful
development & consistent execution of systems any
difficult or complex task could be completed with
success, thus reducing the dependence on high
We are all familiar with the challenges of hiring and
retaining top talent so building systems that allow for great
execution with regular people is part of what makes
duplication of restaurants possible. Catering can be
complex and difficult, but with the right process and
systems it can be made exacting and consistent.
The Process – There is a process, it starts with projecting
your sales, calibrating your resources, managing the
orders flow, and getting it out the door. There is a system
for each aspect, some are simple, others more difficult.
Each system is a step in the process that ensures
replication as sales goes up. Each ensures you can deliver
your best every day.
Here is a quick overview:
• Projecting Sales & Labor
• Production Systems
• Order Flow
• The Final Yards
Projecting Sales and Labor – Most good operators create
weekly sales projections independently from store
budgets. A strong system for projecting will break down
sales by revenue channel and even by day part.
Using LY (last year) and adding trending comp sales as a %
works great. For catering a similar system works well and
gives a solid historical base to work from. But when
planning at a more detailed level, which is by the day, then
a focus on average orders multiplied by average order $$
is even better. This really hones in on the curve of sales
through the week.
Depending on your business your curve will vary but
the more common trend is Sunday to Saturday, with
peak days running Tuesday through Thursday. This
would only be different if you are heavily into social
Using a daily sales value allows you to plan out
expected production staff, supporting staff, and
delivery drivers. Since 80% of orders will come prior
to the actual day of business you can make final
adjustment the day prior to get even more accurate.
Production Systems – These are both systems as well
as tools and when used together create the accuracy
and consistency needed to execute at a high level.
Take your daily sales estimates and use these for the
production of food, depending on your menu for
catering, you may have a separate catering prep
sheet. In this case your system may be much more
closely tied to actual orders and the food chosen.
In many fast casual concepts the basic menu items are
the same for both dine-in and catering, and therefore
using one total sales number works fine.
SYSTEMIZING CATERING OPERATIONS OVERVIEW
13. The Build Book - or Catering Spec Book is the core tool for
accurate production. These will vary based on menu but most will
follow an outline on the following specific areas.
1. Package Type
2. Person Count
3. Food Item
4. Container Size
5. Weights of product in the container
CATERING BUILD BOOK
Item 20 Person 25 Person 30 Person
Meat 1 12 inch 60 oz 12 inch 75 oz 16 inch 90 oz
Meat 2 12 inch 60 oz 12 inch 75 oz 16 inch 90 oz
Side 1 80 oz 40 oz 80 oz 50 oz 80 oz 60 oz
Side 2 48 40 oz 80 oz 50 oz 80 oz 60 oz
Side 3 80 oz 60 oz 80 oz 72 oz 12 inch 84 oz
Salad 1 12 inch 39 oz 12 inch 47 oz 16 inch 55 oz
Sauce 1 1 8 oz 1 8 oz 2 8 oz
Sauce 2 1 8 oz 1 8 oz 2 8 oz
Sauce 3 1 8 oz 1 8 oz 2 8 oz
Bread 80 33 ea 12 inch 27 ea 12 inch 32 ea
BUILD CHART BUFFET PACKAGE
Weights – It is no mistake that weights are listed for every item
that comes in any bulk style container. Every kitchen should
have a large accurate digital scale that your builder can use.
No estimating, no filling till it looks good. Follow this simple
rule and your COGS will always be in line.
Pictures – No build book is complete without a great set of
pictures to go along with the detailed specs, there should be
a picture of every item in its container so your team can see
the finished product.The build book will have a chart like the one below for every type
of catering package, this one is for a buffet package but you will
want the same for sandwich packages, lunch boxes, dessert trays,
and ala carte items. Basically if you have it on the menu there is a
detailed chart of specs on how it should be put together.
FAST FACT -
✓ Food cost for
be lower than
✓ Rule of thumb is
5% lower as a
minimum but can
run as high as
14. Order Flow – How customers order food is where any order
flow starts, the more options the more difficult it is to
manage, and ensure quality interaction and execution.
As a restaurant or catering company you have many ways
for customers to order.
Internal Flows include customers calling via phone or
ordering through your own online ordering system, via web
or mobile app. These give you the most control and cost the
External Flows include 3rd party restaurant consolidators, 3rd
party delivery companies and 3rd parties loyalty apps. Each
of these have their own process for how orders get to you,
but none of them integrate directly so you usually need a
device or website to get orders. This all becomes
complicated quickly. You must avoid using 3rd party
devices at the store whenever possible, below is an
example of what you should try to avoid.
3rd party consolidators have their purpose and place. The
biggest benefit is you gain exposure and sales that you may not
normally be able to obtain. In the case of 3rd party delivery you
don’t need to hire, train and pay people to deliver food. There
are also many downsides. You won’t have the customers,
meaning they are someone else’s customer, not yours. Plus,
you lose control of the quality of the delivery experience.
Fees can also be a big downside of using consolidators, it can
be an easy and fast way to get revenue but the deeper you dive
the less profit potential you have over time, and your
dependency grows to a point that moving away becomes
Bring all your ordering portals into one place through the use of
a single center for ordering. By taking orders from all channels
and routing them into a central location lets you manage and
distribute through one single system (your online ordering
portal) that interacts with your restaurants. (see diagram)
A store operators biggest issue with managing orders is not
losing them or making sure they get to the builder. In fact, its
actually just not knowing they have them, this can happen easily
with multiple portals at the store level.
Second, Pick a Few platforms, not all.
Who are the dominant players? This may be regional or
national but in both cases you are looking to limit the
complexity while maximizing the opportunity to get orders.
Generally, a good rule of thumb, will this platform bring
customers I don’t have access too or don’t have the resources to
CATERING ORDER FLOW – CENTRALIZING
3rd party devices
Centralizing Order Flow
Consolidate all ordering options into one
platform that interacts with store POS or
email. One order delivery method is best.
15. Do you have a process to check
that orders have been received
at the store?
In-Store Order Handling – Orders are now at the
store ready to be executed? Or at least this is what
should have happened, but never assume the orders
sent from the centralized center to the store actually
got printed out or put in the builders area.
You need a process to check that orders were
received and have reached the builders area. This is
a quick and simple process of having your
centralized catering center call each location and
verify all the orders for the next day. This should
always be done as a blind check, where the store
tells you what orders they have, this ensures nothing
is missed. Completed as the last task of the day, 4pm
Once orders have been received and printed there
needs to be a place to store orders so that they can
be prepped and built. The most common format is a
clipboard system. Hang 5-7 clip boards on the wall
one for each day, place orders for each day on the
appropriate board, if they are for a week in advance
place on board upside down. If you work off tickets
a clipboard may not be needed but the same
Day Prior Preparation – The best catering teams
have a solid routine outlining what needs to be
completed the day prior, this is usually done in the
late afternoon or evening since you wont have
confirmation on most orders until after 3pm.
What catering items you prepare the day prior is
going to be based on your menu and preparation
guidelines. The more you can prep ahead of time the
easier it is to get things correct and execute more
In fact, this day prior preparation can help manage
labor in the evening since many restaurants need a
minimum of staffing and this labor can be utilized at
no extra cost.
Here are a few things that all restaurants can prep the
• Serving utensils and place settings. These can be
referred to as pack lists, one for each order.
• Prep and label all needed food containers for
each order. Place in appropriate stations.
• Sauces pre-packaged
• Cold food pre-packaged
Some cold food can be packaged the night before
based on preparation time and quality needs. Most
restaurants want to serve the freshest made food at
all times, but if you already make food and serve it
the next day, these items can be packaged the day
prior to save time and manage labor demands.
Inspection Drives Consistency – Establishing good
habits is never easy but with consistent inspection of
work completed you can expect to get great results
Using a simple checklist for your PM activities works
best since it can be used by your team prior to your
inspection, this allows your team to understand the
expectations and gives you a quick and easy tool to
make sure the work is done. Leave the checklist for
your opening manager.
Staffing – On that same evening, the night prior to each
orders due date, do the following..
• Check staffing levels based on projected sales.
• Adjust production up or down based on actual
• Review number of orders and order times against
THE FINAL YARDS – THE DAY PRIOR PREPARATION
✓ Review staffing vs. catering orders and
✓ Blind verify order receipt at the store with
a phone call from your central order
✓ Establish a check list for work that should
be completed and verify with your
16. The routing sheet is your primary
tool to manage catering order
production and out the door
Setting Up The Day for Success – A quick review of
the following areas will give you the best overview of
where your catering orders stand for the day and
what resources are needed to execute successfully.
Start with your routing sheet or list, which should
have every order to be executed on this day. Take
the list and head over to your building station. Use
the list to check in with your builder, do they have
the same orders, all the orders? How was the work
from the prior night completed? Are they on track
and have the needed people resources to execute
each order correctly and on time?
If this is all on track you want to review your delivery
times, locations and staffing resources.
Once again grab your routing sheet or equivalent
format and review each order.
• Where is it going? How much time is needed and
the mode of transportation, car, walking, taxi, etc.
• What are the building entry conditions? Will you
need to use the dock entrance, estimate added
time based on access.
• Special or first time customers? Line up your
delivery staff based on these needs. Example is a
first time customer should always have your best
Now that you have gone through all your orders you
should have a good idea how to route them reserving
the right amount of time prior and hit each delivery
Staging Your Orders – Timing is a critical part of
executing orders with precision. Staging is how you
stack or organize your orders so that they can be
quickly and efficiently put together for delivery.
Staging usually involves the three major aspects of a
• Cold food
• Hot food
Supplies include both pack lists as well as hot bags,
carts, storage containers. These items are all reviewed
the day prior to ensure they are ready and set up for the
Cold food starts with grabbing sauces and prepped
items packaged the day prior. These items were left on
the “catering” staging shelf in the walk in the night
prior. The builder will then review items prepped the
day prior, add the needed cold items after they have
been prepped that morning. Finally they will take all
the cold food and put into either delivery bags or
containers and store in cooler with a label on the
outside designating the customers name and company.
We do both, since one company can have more than
one order so it is important to make sure they cannot
get mixed up.
Cold sandwiches can be produced in advance, up to an
hour and held at room temperature.
Hot food is the final part of all catering orders to be
produced and staging of these items is also the most
Hot food must be placed in containers as close to
delivery time as possible. There are two types of hot
food and they can or should be handled differently.
Carbohydrates, rice's, grains, pastas, should all be made
in bulk, as in produced at the same time for all orders
and then placed in appropriate serving containers and
placed in hot boxes, like an Alto Sham.
Proteins, chicken, beef and pork or others are going to
be more time sensitive. Using your normal preparation
works fine but you need to work backwards when
producing larger quantities to ensure you have enough
time to produce. Best procedures are to have a list or
use your labeled containers to help you prep the meat 15
minutes in advance of each order, package and put into
hot holding units.
Hot sandwiches should be produced similar to proteins.
Based on quantities work backwards on timing with
production ending around 10-15 minutes prior to leaving
THE FINAL YARDS – THE LOGISTICS OF EXECUTING ORDERS
17. The router should always check to make
sure each delivery person has an ID,
phone and in proper uniform.
Routing Orders – Through the coordination of one
person, the router, the final staging, packing and
routing comes together.
Pulling the cold food and pack lists together and
using your order sheet, check each item to ensure all
items for the order are in place. Grab the hot food
from the holding containers and add to the order,
check off each item against your order sheet as you
progress to complete the order.
During this process it is best to have your driver be
your second person, one to go through each item and
the other to check it off on the order sheet. Load up
the order per appropriate transportation, check that
you have two copies of your receipts and have the
order placed to the side and ready to go.
Finally, review the address, contact name, number
and special delivery instructions with the driver.
This process is repeated with each order, as volume
increases additional resources will be needed to help
coordinate either larger orders or multiple orders at
Driver Resources – There are many factors that will
determine the number of drivers that you will need on
any given day. Most obvious is of course the number
of orders, but also the number per time slot, how
tightly spaced these time slots are as well as the cycle
time to get drivers back.
This includes both distance of the destination as well
as the time needed to enter and exit the building
along with the set up time of the order. The process
takes some practice to get the flow of drivers coming
in and going out. Once you understand your drivers
ability, which building require additional time, and
how long it takes to set up specific orders, you will
quickly get a rhythm that you can estimate with good
The beauty of catering is that many or most of the
orders will come prior to peak service times and you
can pull additional resources from your current staff to
help with an order if you find one driver gets caught
up or delayed. Make sure you have one or two
standby people on your team that have been trained to
do catering delivery, this way you will always have
some back up if needed.
Routing Sheet – (See example below )Even with
technology becoming more involved in catering
systems, few can replace the simple and effective use
of a sheet with all your pertinent order information. It
is just like the roster and position chart you may have
for your dine-in team, allowing you to have a road map
at your fingertips.
THE FINAL YARDS – GETTING OUT THE DOOR ON TIME
ADDRESS COMPANY CONTACT PHONE # 2ND # DRIVER
11:15-11:30 $455.00 123 Wicker Ave Ste 400 Alpha Pharmacueticals Lisa Simmons 312-456-7878 Hector
11:30-11:45 $823.00 333 W. Randall Street Ste 3400 Best Accounting Liticia Jones 312-141-2500 Marcy
11:30-11:45 $331.00 255 S Clarkson Blvd Cramer Electric Joanna Lafonte 312-777-1990 630-560-1212 Jessie
11:30-11:45 $215.00 700 E Jackson Street Ste 5500 Definitive Technology Rosaria Valdez 312-230-3000 Celia
11:45-12:00 $955.00 10 S. Riverdale Ste 600 Essex, Johns, & Barrick Jason Betts 312-878-9001 Tyrone
11:45-12:00 $319.00 100 N Wabath Ave Ste 1100 Feldmen Law LLP Annie Sinclair 312-301-2005 708-555-1415 Hector
Delivery Driver Service Training is a critical
component in building a sustainable revenue stream,
click the Cater Cult logo to contact Cater Cult for
18. Order changes really put a wrench in
your operations, define a process for
how to handle with out incident or panic
Same Day Orders – Receiving orders on the same day
is very common and you can and should plan for this on
a daily basis. Expect 20%-30% of your order flow to
come the morning or day of delivery. Here are the
basics on some guidelines to ensure you can handle
same day orders.
• Anticipate & Prepare – You are going to get same
day orders, based on history you have an idea if it is
usually one or four, make the needed supplies in
advance, especially extra pack sheets.
• Request Permission - As soon as you get an order call
the store and make sure they can handle another
order. You have no idea if they are having any
issues with staff or product. It is ok to ask the
customer to hold while you confirm acceptance of an
• Communicate Quickly - Give the store the basics on
what the order may consist of even prior to the
formal submission, this gives them a head start.
• Confirm Receipt - Once order is placed, call the
store to make sure they got the actual order and it is
Cut Off Times – If you are a fast casual style or QSR style
concept and have this message posted anywhere on your
menus or website, remove it immediately. If you use a
customer or large menu, as well as items that take long
prep times, then you are excluded.
“We require or prefer 24 hours notice for catering orders”
This message or something to the same effect is a sales
killer, it says we cannot or do not want to take your order
because we either haven’t figured out how to handle your
request or don’t want to step up and make things happen.
My recommended cut off time is 2 or 3 hours, and if you call
me and want it in an hour, I will do everything I can to get it
to you, this is how you build your business, Amaze your
customer, exceed their expectations.
Will I make anything for a customer on short notice?
Definitely not, I keep an abbreviated simple to execute
menu for these customers. This helps the store and the
customer get what they want, everyone is happy. It also,
helps train the customer without saying no to their order.
Order Changes – One of the bigger challenges your
team will face are customers that change their orders.
Regardless of it’s a once in a while occurrence or if you
have a customer that changes their order every time, it is
all handled in a similar way.
Rule of thumb is don’t charge catering orders until as late
as possible prior to delivery, this helps avoid the messy
refunds, re-rings and explanations on why they have two
charges on their credit card.
There will be the customer or two that do this frequently
and most will be just because things happen and you do
your best to make it all work out for your customers.
Regardless, have a well rehearsed process to handle
these changes so you can execute the changes and
demonstrate your competence, it all in a days work.
The more you can demonstrate grace in the face of
adversity the more likely you will be the favorite catering
company. Your selling trust!
19. Operations is the heart of every restaurant. It’s
really where all the fun and excitement happens,
growing your team, working with your customers,
and serving the food you are so proud to make.
Adding catering to your concept is a process that
requires real fortitude and thought on the long game
of what you want to accomplish with your brand.
Take the time to get your executive team and
investment team to agree on the commitment. Then
put a plan together to grow each part of the
business, the leadership, sales, your central
services, operations and finally the brand and
message to your customers.
Its an amazing part of our business, think it through
and have fun. Picking the right path for growth is a
big decision, where to spend your investment
dollars or hard earned cash to grow your business is
never an easy choice, sometime the return is not
A conversation I had recently gave me a new
perspective on these choices and helped me to
better understand how a small business person
looks at growth.
You can spend $500k-$800k to open a restaurant, that
is a valid choice to grow the business. The other
options is to grow the existing stores, either growing
my dine-in through a multi-channel marketing effort or
focus on catering.
After reviewing the cost benefit analysis by Cater Cult
it was crystal clear that the best return on my
investment was growing catering.
The first year sales would grow by 100% and my spend
would be 60% of that, so in the first 12 months I am
already making more money than before with no huge
The following year sales would grow again by 100%
and my spend would be 40%.
I know I need help, putting together the sales,
operations, and ordering platforms is complicated and
hiring a full time expert is not affordable.