The thin margins of the restaurant and food service industries requires deep dedication to keep patrons happy and increase ROI. Catering has to deal with even tighter margins, as it needs to balance food service alongside event planning.
In order to cut down on overhead and improve margins, catering software helps restaurants and food retailers plan events, invoice clients, and provide delivery and pickup options to customers from one unified platform. Automating many of these tasks can help caterers save time and reduce expenses.
Restaurant management software covers some of the same features, though there are additional tools necessary for running a successful catering business. For instance, those systems are generally designed for point-of-sale, in-house food service. In contrast, software designed specifically for running a catering business can track sales, starting with quotes all the way through invoice collection, build custom banquet event order (BEO) templates, and calculate food delivery logistics.
Some event management software is enough for catering operations. However, the implementation of a catering-specific software can provide many useful features to your business:
One of the most important aspects of food service is the relationship between restaurant and patron. In such a competitive industry, it is up to satisfied customers to keep a restaurant afloat. With catering, this relationship is even more important, as one well-received event can lead to repeat business and referrals. In fact, a single large-scale event can make more for a catering company than daily sales at a brick and mortar food vendor. Catering software with CRM tools smooth interactions between your business and customers.
The ability to generate custom quotes with software can increase overall efficiency, as customers can receive detailed information on their potential orders faster, shortening the turnaround for them to accept or decline. For example, someone looking for a caterer and party planner needs to know upfront exactly what your catering service is capable of. A streamlined quote process can automatically alert them to what you have to offer rather than wasting both your time.
Many restaurants have expanded their catering services in the wake of COVID-19 offering online ordering to facilitate contactless sales. Catering software makes it possible to take orders either online or eases over-the-phone communication with customers by automating the quote process on your end. Catering companies can even collect e-signatures on event proposals and invoices to reduce in-person meetings and streamline acceptances.
Apps for catering businesses allow for even more flexibility when it comes to online ordering. Potential patrons can simply press a few buttons and have an automated quote on the way. Having custom apps available to customers on various mobile devices makes it easier for them to place orders even outside of traditional business hours.
In addition to allowing online ordering, more catering services are now available for pickup and delivery. To do this, catering management software offers ways to calculate additional charges based on specific order details, such as total distance traveled, travel duration, or other options.
Additionally, catering software finds ways to save on deliveries. Route optimization tools find more efficient routes which cut down on travel time, reducing wear and tear associated with high mileage. You may even discover opportunities to expand your delivery radius by optimizing routes.
With razor thin margins, cost is incredibly important when selecting software for managing catering services. Perpetual license and monthly subscription services (SaaS) plans are both available, though this can cause long-term price differences. Some options are $68 per month while others extend to $125 per month. Depending on the nature of your catering services, it may be better to buy outright or continually rent.
For example, if you primarily cater for weddings, a subscription-based payment plan can ensure your software is capable of handling an influx of new customers each wedding season. If you have a smaller service which focuses on local, repeat corporate events, you may be fine with a smaller software package with a limited customer database.
Next, consider what features will benefit your business most. Do you need additional modules in addition to catering? For instance, food safety and traceability software can both protect your business from food-related liabilities. If you are looking to integrate with your current systems, there may be a fair amount of custom integration needed to create the link between your current systems and the new modules. Many offer a free trial period.
As mentioned previously, a major trend in catering has been the rise in online ordering, pickup, and delivery services due to COVID-19. Even as restaurants and traditional dining establishments reopen, it’s no surprise customers still want the convenience of online ordering for catered events. This has perhaps been the largest trend in the entire catering industry.
However, other common trends of the year include an increase in:
There has also been a noticeable decrease in large-scale corporate catering events as more businesses allow companies to work from home. Catering systems which can accommodate these changes have more success than their competitors. As these trends continue to evolve, stay ahead of the curve by utilizing catering management software at your business.