When I look at restaurant menus and packaging for catering, it’s easy to determine the brands that do it best. Both can act as a means to extend your brand out into the community with the right ingredients in place.

As we forge ahead into 2020, catering continues to provide a big opportunity if done correctly, and that requires both the menu and packaging be done right and to your brand standards.

For starters, it takes a limited and well-defined catering menu for restaurant operators to correctly scale their off-premises programs. This means putting together menu items that are a direct reflection of what your core items are. You have to be able to push and sell high-profit menu items that can transport well and that maintain their integrity throughout the process. To do this, stick to your high-margin items.

If you have a famous dish, make sure you offer that as well and stick to a limited menu. You don’t want to overwhelm your customers with too many options. Overall, your main job should be to bring your food to your customers wherever they are and bring value to your catering customers.

One brand that I see doing this well is Old Carolina Barbecue, a concept that seems to understand who their core customers are and how to reach and market to them through catering. Their menu is simple and their packaging is on-point with the right kind of branded materials. They stay true to their portion size, understand how their meat and side items travel, and use this knowledge to package their products in a way customers can easily use.

For example, Red Robin serves their burgers for catering in its Big Red Box and their customers know to expect it when they order. Other concepts, such as Moe’s Southwest Grill, uses a branded taco bar that highlights each ingredient that can be used to create and personalize each guests’ taco. And they use a chafing set to keep menu items hot. They know their food is best when served in this way and it adds an extra layer of service when it comes to catering.

Through packaging, restaurants now realize it’s a huge way to brand their products and represent their brand. And it has to be done across every aspect of the catering experience. This means carrying bags for main and side items, cups, napkins, and even forks and plastic silverware. If catering is core to your strategy, you need to invest in it and develop it the right way. So, packaging has to be as much of a consideration and your menu, order process and delivery experience.

For brands looking to get into off-premises, you have to look at catering as a strategic way to grow sales. Do a cost analysis, look at the numbers and see what you can afford. Do a sampling of a new menu item to see if guests would like it. Customers should never be dissatisfied with the quality of food that you’re giving them. And if they are upset about the quantity, then you should reconsider how much you’re giving them for the price. Make sure you feed people and make sure you feed them well. Don’t try to be what you’re not; own your brand and make sure you give your food enough lead time to be cooked and served well.

Overall, have the right menu items and have packaging that makes sense for those items.  Without the right menu, the packaging will fall short so make sure they both make sense for what you’re trying to offer. 

Aaron Hoffman is the CEO and co-founder of DeliverThat, a third-party delivery service provider that is the industry leader in restaurant catering delivery and setup. As CEO, Hoffman has been responsible for driving DeliverThat’s expansion into 40-plus major metros across the United States and Canada. In addition, he has grown company revenue from $100,000 in 2017 to more than $3 million in 2019.

Outside Insights, Story