When Rubio’s first launched its catering program in 2007, the menu had limited options and operational support. Now with a firm strategy in place and a thriving catering program across its 190 units, the company is well poised to grow its catering revenue as it moves into the future.
We sat down with Rubio’s Marketing Director Kim Zamir and Supply Chain Manager Angela Scheufele to better understand the company’s catering program, where it has been and where it is headed.
1. What were some of the changes Rubio’s has made to the catering program since it first launched?
Angela: In 2011, many members of our executive team had read the book “Get Catering and Grow Sales” and felt we should apply many of the key insights from the book to our catering program. In January 2012, we dedicated a catering business manager to review the catering program from top to bottom and make enhancements to grow sales and profitability.
Kim: The menu was the main place we focused on for enhancements.We added more variety and menu items designed to grow average check. The taco bar is our most popular item and we now offer a deluxe taco bar. The deluxe option bundles a regular sized Taco Bar, a salad and a sweet treats dessert box for a complete catering experience. Having pre-bundled options has increase average check and offers our guests a simple way to order a complete meal. We also worked on expanding our salad offerings and appetizers. We added a salsa bar and a large platter of guacamole and chips. Chicken and steak continue to be our top performers for catering, but we also offer sustainable seafood such as beer-battered fish and grilled shrimp, salmon, and tilapia.
Angela:In the past, many of the food images we featured in our paper menu and online menu were photographed in the actual packaging.We evaluated how we were promoting our food and wanted to better showcase our offerings. Therefore, we now incorporate photography where the food is shown on real dishes and even set-up on an office conference roomtable. We didn’t make many changes to the packaging, but we did enhance the serving utensils and added the Rubio’s logo to our packaging to improve the branding. We think that really helped the presentation.
At the time these enhancements were made, we had catering sales and marketing specialists make calls to all our catering customers. Over four or five months we contacted every guest in the database and encouraged them to re-order. If they wanted to order at that moment, we even took the order for them. By reminding people of Rubio’s, it helped keep us top of mind.
2. What were some of Rubio’s early growth challenges?
Kim: One of our goals was to implement a delivery program to make catering even more convenient for our guests. We ended up partnering with third-party delivery companies instead so we actually don’t manage the deliveries internally. We partner with companies such as Restaurants on the Run, which offers delivery services and all of the orders are routed directly throughtheir systems.
In addition to evaluating our delivery methods, we reviewed our pricing strategy and realized it’s OK to charge the appropriate amount for our catering products. The book made us look at pricing in a way that was different from before.
3. How do you continue to market the program?
Kim: All of our stores have paper catering menus in the store. We also have an e-mail loyalty program called the Beach Club where we send catering messages. We post about catering on social media channels and we purchase digital media during peak seasons to make sure we’re staying in everyone’s consideration set.
We also have big seasonal pushes around Cinco de Mayo and during the holidays. The great thing is since we cater to offices and businesses as our primary customer, it’s a year-round audience.
Rubio’s specializes in offering sustainable seafood so we’ve been incorporating this into our catering menu so it mirrors the experience of dining in one of of our restaurants.
Finally, we have Field Marketing Specialists located in each region and they work with restaurant managers on catering blitzes where they deliver catering menus to people in the community.
4. How have customers responded to the changes?
Kim: We continue to see a strong desire for people to order from our catering menu. Since 2013, we have seen double digit sales growth based on some of our enhancements.
5. What does the future hold for Rubio’s catering program?
Kim: We are continuously seeking ways to enhance our catering program and grow sales and profitability. Key areas of focus for the future will include exploring new desserts and investigating opportunities to maximize our delivery service profitability.