Although more people are eating at home, they haven't ditched their favorite restaurant brands. If you're an operator that offers delivery or catering, you're likely seeing an influx of football season-related orders showering down on your busy front-line employees. Afterall, what's a football party without tons of great food?
Slim Chickens, which has more than 50 locations in 11 states, is one brand that takes catering very seriously. In fact, it's seeing catering orders pour in from online, app-related, mobile phone and other entry points.
"We see the most catering sales generated from tailgating parties," said Greg Smart, Slim Chickens co-founder and director of national marketing and menu innovation. "This includes parties at the game and also at home."
Smart gave us the lowdown on effective restaurant operation at this very busy time of year. See below.
Q: Has the brand done any research into which cities or regions tend to generate the most football-related catering orders?
A:No, (but) we operate restaurants in cities with NFL and college football programs and those markets are the best for football-related catering. … Having large college football programs … we plan by reviewing the football schedules when released with our operators to forecast catering orders and labor needs to accommodate the extra sales. Allowing pre-orders weeks in advance for upcoming big games helps the restaurants prepare as well.
Q: What type of special staffing considerations do you have to have in place to handle a heavy catering load along with on-site and other types of orders at your locations?
A: We staff extra front-of-house, back-of-house and off-premise team members to help with the extra sales volumes. Once you have year-over-year comparisons for football schedules it makes it easier to plan accordingly.
Q: What's the biggest concerns for most catering customers? For example, are they worried about having enough food, overall cost, warmth of the offerings or all of the above?
A:Correct timing of pick-up or delivery for the guest is the main concern. Food quality and hold times are another concern.
Q: Are employees you hire to handle catering different in their approach and strengths than those you hire for onsite and other positions?
A:Yes. We look at catering as another business channel and the job descriptions are different from (that for) our restaurant team members. Successful catering requires an outgoing, sales-minded personality (to) lead the initiative and we look for people who meet those criteria.
Q: Does catering business tend to be cyclical in scope and size?
A:We see a fairly stable business with catering and sales increases are typically correlated to an increased sales effort.
Q: What are the primary concerns for cook staff when it comes to catering items and overall flavor and presentation quality?
A:For us, the cook staff's primary concerns are related to pick-up and delivery times. Meeting the needs of our off-premise guests while also taking care of guests in the restaurant can be a challenge for the kitchen team.
Q: What are the biggest factors that tend to cause problems with football-related catering?
A: If there is any “problem,” it is that the amount of football-related catering tends to fluctuate with how good the local team is and how many fans are attending.
Q: What would you tell other brands considering adding catering to their services as far as where to start and what to definitely consider?
A:I would definitely suggest exploring catering in your local market. Take a close look at your menu items and determine which items “travel” the best and build your catering offerings around these.
There is very little room for error in building a repeat catering business. Guests need to trust the brand will meet their needs for that special occasion. If those needs are not met the first time they are not likely to give the brand a second chance at catering.
Companies: Slim Chickens
Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.