This is a casual dining restaurant. Customer can order food for dine-in or take out, usually with in 10 minutes or less. We also do outside catering business, however the volume of the catering busisness is very insignificant. We should be able to do more. From April to October we do outdoor fairs or festivals, particularly on the weekend, within 50 miles of the restaurant (Arlington, Virginia). Our website is: www.ilovethai2.com
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Brook Priest advised on 23 Jan 2012
Expert in Full Service Restaurant Operations, Family Business Dynamics, & Cost Controls
Kyle has provided some very good ideas for marketing your catering services to local businesses. In addition to what he said, I would also recommend that you revise your catering menu online to be more specific as to what your price includes (will you drop off food for an extra cost – if yes, up to how far away? Or is there a delivery charge? Does the per person price include plates, napkins, flatware, condiments, etc?)
Be sure when you are reaching out to businesses that you are dealing with the decision maker. Unlike other purchasing decisions, catering lunches are often times set up and decided by a receptionist or admin person (especially law offices and accounting offices) and so small gifts of appreciation can go a long way in “buying” your way in the door.
For example, a quick google search turns up over 50 (maybe more), law offices within a 2 mile radius of your mall. Consider going around to all these law offices and handing out a coupon for one free dinner, stapled to a catering menu, inviting the receptionist to sample your lunch catering menu. It’s very typical for a legal team to have a working lunch or order lunch in during a long deposition. The easier you make it for that person who is responsible for bringing lunch in, the more likely they will call you.
Next, because you are in a mall setting, and a quick google search indicates a lot of catering competition around you in the Arlington area, you might go about this from a different angle. Instead of trying to compete in an already full business catering field, you might consider adding a “take come” catering component to your restaurant. All this would require would be more “to go” containers, some labels, and a refrigerated display. You selected 4 – 6 of your most popular items and package them family style (in servings of 3- 4) and sell them ready to go. So when mom stops by to pick up something at the mall, she can quickly pick up pad thai and curry to take home to warm up for the family. This is a growing segment of the restaurant industry, and can be a lucrative addition to your sales mix. The nice thing is most Thai dishes are well suited for this because they do well when reheated. Assuming your mall has a lot of foot traffic, this might be the easiest way to increase sales without doing a lot of legwork.
Also, if you want to beat the competition on the market, you need to provide the best service. Your services will distinguish you from the rest of catering businesses. If you aren’t familiar with this business strategy, then you need to hire a company which will help you improve your services and provide quality products. Of course, this will require additional expenses, but if you want to save the money, then you can explore various business strategies online and talk with people who are proficient in this line of work. Offering unique and quality services is an integral part of this business.
Finally, when the season arrives, and you are at those festivals, make sure you have a fishbowl somewhere at your booth, to collect email addresses. Put a sign up that says “We do catering! Enter here to win a party for 12 people”, and have people give you their name, phone number and email address. Hopefully you already are doing email marketing at your restaurant, but if you’re not, you need to start, NOW. You will want to take those names set up an email marketing campaign through constant contact or mail chimp.