Growing a restaurant can be difficult and that rings true whether you’re trying to expand a brick-and-mortar location or an off-premise operation.
Catering, takeout and delivery has changed the off-premise landscape as brands have come to realize the sales importance each operation brings to the table. An increase in competition — for in-store and off-premise customers — also is biting into sales dollars across all industry segments. This makes marketing and advertising a crucial component when it comes to driving traffic and off-premise brand awareness.
“Many guests never realize they can get large to-go orders or catering unless they see an advertisement, photos, brochures and catering to-go materials in the dining room,” said Linda Duke, founder of Duke Marketing and author of ‘Four Star Restaurant Marketing Cookbook—Recipes for Restaurateurs.’ “Usually catering is the best kept secret that guests have to ask about.”
Restaurant operators who fail to market or advertise their services could be leaving an excess of sales dollars on the table. This makes a solid communication strategy an important tool when it comes growing the off-premise side of the business.
“Getting the word out about catering is an opportunity to increase brand awareness and is a must for sales building,” Duke said. “Every order that is taken out should have another menu and business card in case any person that tastes the food says, ‘where did you get that.'”
Moe’s Southwest Grill relies on digital and search engine advertising and marketing programs to build a solid catering an off-premise business base.
“I would say those are the two big things we spend marketing dollars against,” said Lisa Taylor, director of catering for Moe’s Southwest Grill. “They are the two things that we have found to be most beneficial from an advertising point of view.”
Moe’s also has catering materials at the point-of-sale in an effort to target core in-store customers. The company also created a video highlighting their catering program. In the first few hours of post on Facebook, the video received 32,000 views.
While social media isn’t a big player in terms of driving traffic, Taylor said social channels work to support awareness and engagement. Additionally, Taylor expects social media to become a greater part of their overall marketing strategy as the company moves forward.
“I can’t tell you how many times people say they don’t know that we cater, so advertising for us is also about education and awareness. And, at the end of the day it drives more business,” Taylor said.
In order to fully engage in off-premise growth, community-based sales campaigns should occur to complement other advertising efforts.
Duke said restaurant operators also should set up a catering display within the restaurant to better communicate their off-premise offerings.
“Catering is very visual. Seeing how much food will feed friends at a party is important,” she said. ” If you already have a catering order to deliver, prepare sample trays to take with you to deliver to another business in the same building. After delivering the paying customer’s order, take samples and introduce yourself to other businesses in the building. It is a great use of time efficiency and is very effective in getting results.”
Duke offers the following tips to build on traditional advertising as a way to increase sales:
- Bring extra menus with business cards attached –always be sure to have logos showing!
- Ask for a referral, “Do you know anyone else having a graduation party and needs catering?”
- Send a thank you note to the customer and include a business card – they will refer someone!
- You have one chance to impress the client. Be early and be sure the food is fresh and hot. Customers will advertise for you with word-of-mouth!