Tag Archives: Restaurant Management

Building a Catering Companies Brand Image

by Stuart Leventhal

There’s no such thing anymore as ‘spare no expense’! Today, even corporate giants, staples of business and industry icons are counting their pennies. Certainly caterers need to be able to put together respectable meal packages that fit into their clients’ budgets. But, planning your catering marketing strategy around having the lowest prices is a grave mistake. You are in an industry that thrives on prestige. You want your company name and brand to be known for playing an important role in throwing the best parties and events in town!

Becoming known as the go to budget caterer will limit your customer base extremely. There will be tons and tons of potential customers who will never want their events, parties and reputations sullied because they are associated with the cheapest catering service in town. Remember, as a caterer, you service celebrations. Celebrations usually honor someone or something; a person worthy of praise, a happening of distinction or an over and above accomplishment. If you were the party thrower, would you want everyone talking for years about how you hired a low budget catering company to cater your boss’s prestigious award banquet? Or worse, never being able to live down how bad the food and service was for your favorite Aunt and Uncle’s 50th anniversary bash that you planned!

No matter how inexpensive you make your catering service, you cannot afford to advertise, promote and market low price as the selling point. Catering is an industry where reputation means everything. The more you advertise how cheap you are, the more you tarnish your reputation! Instead, shout about how good your food is and how ideal your services are. Cultivating a classy, professional and reliable image then take that message to the streets! I’m assuming, of course that you already serve great food, have great menu choices and most importantly deliver great service.

Yes, everyone today is faced with a discretionary budget. Celebrations, events and parties, which you service, are considered frills. Today’s small and medium business owners have cut down considerably on the number of meetings events and parties they throw out of necessity to maintain their bottom line. This means you have to work harder to establish yourself as the premier caterer in the land. No longer can you sit back and rely on repeat business from your long time loyal customers. During these economically challenging times it is more important than ever to wage war with your competitors in order to draw in as many customers as you can.

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We already talked about how lowering prices will soil your reputation and be the long term death of your business. And, increasing advertising is too costly during slow times. Besides, traditional advertising methods are no longer working. People are no longer responding to commercials like they did in the past. Today’s caterers need new methods for reaching their customer base and innovative techniques of persuasion if they are going to grow their profit margins and succeed in today’s market place. When your owner or upper management is asking you to cut the advertising budget and ordering you to scale down traditional commercials on a large scale, what can you do? You are being pestered to raise profits and grow customer counts. Your back is against the wall! The question is, are you going to fold and throw in the cards or rise up to the challenge? Yes, you can do everything your bosses are asking of you and more! How?

Every marketing plan today, catering included, must prioritize leveraging the most modern networking tool in man’s history, the internet. The technological information super highway is loaded with plenty of efficient marketing methods. Many are low cost and a lot are even free. The number one internet promotional method based on effectiveness and cost is social media. Now is the time to grow your presence on the web. Leveraging the proper social marketing avenues will expand your reach quicker and more effectively than any other form of advertising or promotion paid for or otherwise. Your catering business will grow and you’ll save money as you cut out the old, much more costly, traditional advertising; TV, radio, newspaper ads and the yellow pages that are not working anyway.

Evidence shows that today, people go online to search for goods and services rather than pick up a phone book. People want to know where they’re going and as many detail they can get prior to heading out the door. That is why catering businesses need to create an online presence if they are going to attract new customers and retain their regular customers. People are getting used to the convenience of having instant, available information, online customer service, plus the ease of phoneless order placing.

You don’t need to hire someone with a degree in internet marketing, you don’t need to sign up for night courses in internet marketing and best of all you don’t need a large budget. But, you do need to get started now before your competition passes you by!

The secret to growing profits in a catering business is developing your ability to find clients then convince them to hire you. Promoting online is not difficult or expensive. But, getting good consistent results can be confusing and even mysterious. If approached properly, internet marketing can be learned quickly and accomplished with a minimal amount of time and money invested.

Yes, I realize that most caterers do not have the knowledge or the time to invest in mastering online marketing. Some of you may choose to hire someone to implement your online promotions for you. Of course, like anything else, that option will cost you money that really isn’t necessary to spend. All that is needed is a little determination to learn something new; a new skill that I promise will earn you dividends for years to come. The internet is not going anywhere. It just keeps getting bigger and more efficient.

So, what do we have to do?

Local internet marketing means getting your catering business on the web and in as many places as possible, to create a positive professional online presence. You first need a website and then some marketing tools which will help people find your website. First we create a website then we rank your website well in the search engines like; Google, yahoo and Bing. What is important to note here is that the closer we move your website to the top of the search engines list of results, the more people will click on your link and visit your catering information on your website. A basic course on this can be purchased for $5 at:

http://a.5rr5.co/s/3pfaph

There are also numerous businesses you can pay to handle all your internet marketing needs. How you choose to set up, grow and maintain your internet presence is up to you just know that neglecting or putting off your internet marketing campaign can be deadly to any local business, especially a catering business. Besides your website, you will need to create a customer engaging blog with which you communicate with your customers on a regular basis. Free advice on blogging can be found here:

http://anewtale.com/blogging.html

It’s easy and free; if you write the blog post yourself, which I highly recommend. Although you can also contract out your blogging which won’t cost much if you hire a computer savvy student.

A social media course as well as free tips and other tools to help you increase the traffic to your website can be found here: http://anewtale.com/tweeting.html

The real trick to internet marketing is to structure your website, blog and social media accounts to all help build your email campaign. As a local catering operation it is much more effective to email your catering list a coupon, for example, than to post the same coupon on your website or blog. Your blog course, website building course and social media course will teach you tricks for capturing your visitors’ email addresses. Once you build a large email list you can contact your catering customers at your own convenience. A good email building course can be found here:

http://a.5rr5.co/s/3p62k2

*re-cap – The three components to a successful internet campaign are; setting up a website, maintaining a blog and engaging in social media. The mission of these three tactics is to gain prospects contact information, especially their email address so we can contact them at our convenience. The easiest, most effective and cheapest way to maintain contact with our customers is through a properly launched and maintained email campaign.

*More tips and advice about each of these important online marketing methods as well as other online promotion and advertising ideas and tricks of the trade will be coming soon since we need more room to do each of these important subjects justice.

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Ways for Restaurants to Increase Sales

By Stuart Leventhal

First off, let’s make it clear that gaining sales does not equal gaining profit. A restaurant needs to be running on all pistons before it considers going after bringing in more sales. But, alas that is a whole other topic. For this article we are going to assume every little aspect of the restaurant you own or manage is running like fine clockwork and you feel the whole staff from front to back is ready to handle additional business. Many restaurant owners and managers think; more advertising, more promotion, more community awareness is the cure all for a slow restaurant. Wrong!

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Attracting more customers to a mismanaged poorly run restaurant is like pouring fuel on a fire. You are pointing a spot light on incompetence. Showing off your faults is never a good sales building strategy. Do you really want to brag about the fact you have a rued impatient hostess? Let’s face it, the best form of advertising for any restaurant is word of mouth. Do you want them talking about your waiters who can’t answer a simple menu question like, “Is the seafood casserole spicy?” Are the words coming out of your customers’ mouths, “Don’t eat at Julio’s!” or “The service is so slow in there.” or “Last time I ordered takeout from Chen’s, my food arrived late, cold and they forgot my brown rice!”

 

If those lines remind you of your restaurant, it’s time to get your act together. Don’t bother reading further, because the added traffic these tips will bring in will only add to the problems your staff can’t handle already. You think you have issues now? Wait until you see the mistakes a poorly trained crew is going to make once you double or triple their work load. Lesson #1 – Fix the problems in your restaurant and your sales will increase on their own. Customers will come back! Customers will notice the improvements and speed of service and shout your praise! Customers will dine with you more frequently! And the word of mouth will flow like magic!

 

Now, let’s get into the business of restaurant sales building. First we’ll talk about the basics so everyone is on the same page when we sit down to build our new sales building plan. Sales building plan? Yes, we are going to need a plan that spells out our objective, goals and each step we intend to implement. Why? Because restaurants get very busy. The best of intentions get miss laid, brushed aside, de-prioritized in a fast paced restaurant atmosphere. Also, we are going to want to delegate tasks and responsibilities out to our staff, if we really want to make an impressionable, noticeable, impact on our sales growth. Therefore, we need the plan formally written down, if we intend to hold people accountable for doing their part. We will want to track our results, so we know what is working best. Then, we can put all our efforts where we get the most back from our time, labor and money spent.

 

*Now, don’t bail on me just because you heard the word money! I got plenty of great advice coming for building your restaurant sales that cost you nothing but some time invested to implement.

 

The easiest way to start your new restaurant sales building plan is to copy and paste portions of this fine article and portions of other fine articles on this website. Share them with your team. Post the stuff you like on your walls in the break room. Pass out whole articles at your weekly and monthly team and management meetings if you wish. That is why I wrote these tips in this easy to share format.

 

Setting GOALS: When you make your sales plan be specific. Post the past two years sales figures for the upcoming 3 months. Leave them posted in plain sight of all the staff and management and fill in the current sales for each day, week and month right next to the last years’ figures, as you get the new numbers. Do the math and post the difference good or bad. Leave comments about why you feel the restaurant got the results it got. For example say; this went well in the back of the house but… Or, this week I saw improvement with this and our sales reflect everyone’s extra efforts. We messed up here and our sales numbers show the loss! It is important to praise and criticize everyone as needed based on whether you are meeting, exceeding or failing to achieve your posted goals. Talk about what you can improve on during your weekly meetings, shift meetings, one on one coaching and during counseling sessions

 

  1. We obviously wish to increase the number of new customers. Attract more customers, gain more sales. This is the generally the most dominate goal of any good sales plan. Naturally most of our efforts will be dedicated to finding and finessing new potential customers to try us out. But, you should realize 80% of additional sales growth on average comes from the existing sales base. So, if you are looking for results quick, always put most of your efforts into marketing to your existing customer base. And, that leads us to our next two goals.
  2. Convincing our current customers to come back more frequently. That may mean, talking our lunch regulars into trying us for diner. It may entail, developing a specially priced family pack take home menu, packed in microwavable containers with fast reheat instructions supplied.
  3. Enticing our current customers to spend more. Upsell! Upsell is the big restaurant word. It means, if someone orders apple pie, are your waitresses and waiters automatically replying, “I can heat that up and put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top for just 75 cents more.” Or “Would you like to add a side of our Sicilian style meatballs or our hot Italian sausage to your eggplant parmesan? How about a slice of carrot cake to go?”

 

It is much easier to squeeze more money out of your existing customers than it is to get new people to try out your restaurant. So, therefore, part two of this article is more geared towards teaching you how to do the harder stuff, attract new customers! But don’t forget the 80/20 rule – You will gain more bang for your buck if you go after the 80% which are your current customers. So, invest in keeping the customers you already have happy. After all, building long term customer loyalty is our ultimate goal!         (Continued in part two)

    

*If your restaurant caters or is considering catering check out this website for great catering sales advice: http://www.cateringsalestips.wordpress.com  Adding catering or expanding a restaurant’s catering services is a fantastic way for any restaurant to build sales and profit. Here, you’ll find out the effective ways to grow a strong catering business.

*If you are having trouble creating your business advertising copy or sales and marketing text try browsing through some of the business writing tips at: http://www.anewtale.com/business.html

Developing Your Catering Sales Specialist

by Stu Leventhal

Sales people should specialize in a type of customer. They should work towards being an expert at servicing their particular niche. Never assign territories to your catering sales personnel based on location, instead assign customer niches. One sales rep can specialize in Wedding Affairs, another business lunches, another children parties and celebrations. Whether they are selling on-premise catering events or off premise parties and celebrations does not matter either. What matters more is who they are selling to. A Catering Sales Specialist specializes in selling to a certain type of purchaser not a certain style of food, a price bracket or catering technique such as buffet style verses full service events.

Your sales person has to be armed with a full arsenal of options when they walk into a prospect’s domicile. They need to be able to talk with confidence and authority. They must be able to handle any objections at the time they pop up. They need to be able to offer suggestions. If price is the issue maybe we’ll cut out a few of the frills and go to serve yourself buffet style instead of us supplying the waiters and servers. It is easier to train and teach a sales person how to handle one type of customer at a time than expecting them to be able to sell all the very many various types of catering to everyone and anyone. Of course if you are just getting started with catering then your sales force may be one individual. Frequently during catering start-ups that individual is you. Whoever your Catering Sales Experts are they will have to be organized into thinking in terms of niches and niche marketing.

Catering niches are generally defined by the type of event being planned or celebrated; birthday parties, holidays, weddings, seminars, business luncheons, retirement parties and family events and gatherings like graduations, welcome home or religious celebrations. Also defining the niche are the types of attendees being served. Children’s events are designed totally different from events where the guests are all professional business men and women. Social and religious celebrations where family and friends will be attending have to be designed to please all age groups and taste buds. Your sales pitch will be tailored differently for each of these markets.

No one person can possibly know everything they need to know about every conceivable party, event, celebration or occasion that comes up. But you must be thoroughly knowledgeable about what your organization can do and can’t do. Sure nothing is written in stone and a good catering organization must be able and willing to bend and get creative if they wish to WOW customers and guests and foster that fantastic word of mouth advertising that really can’t be purchased. But, the catering specialist also has to know their establishment’s limitations too. Never promise something you aren’t absolutely certain you can deliver!

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To sell off-premise catering, you don’t need tons of innovative ideas and you don’t have to have exceptional presentation skills. Sure experience counts, doesn’t it always? But, we’ve all been to parties and plenty of family gatherings, business and social events. Your customers will come to you already having at least a vague idea of what they are looking for and wishing to achieve. As the parameters you are working within reveal themselves; what the occasion is, the date and time, number of guests, your customer’s budget, your passion for planning events and natural enthusiasm will have the catering suggestions popping out. Together you and your customer will build a great buffet, set up a stunning evening gala or put together a convenient, economical and healthy themed professionally organized business box lunch or luncheon.

Most importantly, you MUST display a professional demeanor and attitude when communicating with social, corporate and institutional clients who are shelling out large sums of money. Speak with authority and confidence.  Understand the importance of consistently offering exceptional customer service. Sell the benefits of your service rather than price. Catering sales can come in many forms; social functions, corporate events, home parties. There are institutional clients, high end formally served and catered galas and simple pick up platters. Whatever the event is, your job is to sell your customers peace of mind.

Model your catering business around ease of ordering. Make it easy for customers to contact you. Do you have online ordering yet? It may be a good idea to Invest in a twenty four hour answering service. Being known as the reliable go to caterer for last minute special catering needs could be the determining factor to landing large corporate and educational institution accounts which frequently plan events with very little lead time. Design your menus so they are easy to understand and it doesn’t take a math genius to figure out the final bill amount. Once the sale is initiated, stay in constant contact. There are always last minute changes and you want to be made aware of them as early as possible if things are going to run smoothly on the day of the event.

It’s easy to grow catering sales when you concentrate on becoming an expert at selling to one particular niche at a time. Develop and execute a marketing plan, on how to maximize revenue and sales based on the current market trends in your local and your immediate competition. Set your catering business apart. If there are already three kosher caterers within a five block radius of your facility then it might be hard to break into the Bar and Bat Mitzvah market. Yet, perhaps there is an opening for a vegan caterer in your immediate vicinity. Finding a supplier who manufactures all natural, meat alternative products and putting together some tasty organically grown vegetable platters, wheat and whole grain pita sandwich trays, add some all natural, zero meat, zero dairy, casserole meals served with brown or wild rice and featuring entrées like stuffed cabbage and vegan chili could be a way to capitalize on an under serviced market. “All the taste and nutrition without the saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics and preservatives could be your mantra.”

*Your Catering Sales Specialist should establish and maintain contact on a regular basis with all area hotels and convention centers, banquet sales departments and event planning services departments through presentation and cold calls in order to obtain referrals and promote your current catering programs. They should promote your establishment, services and products with local community groups, tour operators, area hotels, destination companies, convention & Visitor bureaus, political meeting planners and other relevant groups. They should network with other businesses that service parties and events like; disc jockeys, entertainment and band managers, flower shops, party supply an party rental companies. You should offer referral incentives.

Marketing pieces, promotional literature and an advertising campaign needs to be developed to targeting specific purchasers in each catering niche. Investment and Insurance communities, corporate catering, employee appreciation events, galas and seminars, schools and daycare centers all need different, specific marketing developed. To sell to businesses, your emails and literature must speak directly to the VP of HR, Facilities Managers, Office Managers and Assistant Managers most of who are delegated the chore of planning their bosses business catered events.

*It’s worth the time spent, developing relationships with receptionists and administration assistants who do most of the ordering and organizing of business and corporate events.

Investing in specialized catering equipment designed specifically for servicing a particular type of party or event can set you apart from all your competition in that sales niche.  Also, not cutting corners when it comes to employing the highest caliber of staff and spending money and time to train your staff so they operate at a much higher level than all the other caterers in town can be a very beneficial strategy.

It is easier to become the best at one, two or three aspects of catering than trying to compete in all the many different catering niches at the same time. Being known as an expert in one or a few catering functions is far better than being known as just another caterer. Mediocre caterers close most of their sales by discounting and haggling. Their customers have zero loyalty and zero respect for them. Expert caterers, have customers who rave about their experiences working with you and your company. Word of mouth spreads quickly in small communities especially when you are in the business of servicing large parties and events. Concentrate on throwing great parties and giving your customers great, exceptional experiences and everyone will want to know who the caterer is! The best advertising in the world is having the whole town talking about you, the caterer who handled the Smith Wedding!

Want more catering and restaurant advice check out: http://www.philadelphiarestaurantconsultant.wordpress.com

For great business sales copy writing tips go to: http://www.anewtale.com/business.html

Marketing a Restaurant’s New Catering Service

by STU LEVENTHAL

Once you know you have restaurant operations in line, meaning; your kitchen staff, food servers, managers, hosts and whoever answers your phone are trained and ready to tackle the addition of large bulk sales orders, you are now ready to begin ramping up your catering sales efforts and implementing your new, catering marketing plan. Let’s start by making clear, setting the sales team loose, pushing for more sales and marketing are two distinctly different things. Yes sales and marketing are closely associated and often work hand in hand with one another but they are really two totally different concepts which require you to construct two totally different plans. Sales people sell! Let’s not confuse that with marketing. We want our sales people; knocking on doors, making telephone calls, conducting onsite tours and business meetings and presenting off premise demonstrations of our products and services 100% of the time. Your ‘marketing’ is there to assist the sales force. Your new marketing plan will concentrate on positioning your products and services in the community and separating you from and raising you above your competition. Your sales team will use your new marketing pieces and newly branded messages to sell easier and sell much more.

Sales people usually work on commission and bonuses so we don’t want to be the thing that is holding them back from doing their job. Selling! That means marketing has to be done for them. Now, I’m not talking about taking out a high priced radio add that shouts, your restaurant now caters. That is called advertising. Plenty of upper managements bulk all their advertising, sales and marketing together as if they mean the same thing. Marketing entails positioning your sales people so they have everything they need to go after a particular market. For example, you need to design the sales tools to attack the business lunch market. A different catering menu is needed. People eat lighter and usually healthier at business lunches than dinner buffet style catering. You may also need to hire some day time delivery drivers and get them trained on how to load, transport and set up your new business menu items.

Want your sales people to go after day care centers? You need a whole different kids’ menu, a healthy themed kid’s menu, if you want day cares to be able to sell the idea to parents. Creating coupons for the coming super bowl party weekend is a marketing strategy from its time of inception. The coupons are advertising tools. Putting together the special menu items into interesting, tasty party packages then pricing them to sell is all marketing. Deciding how to get the message out there is marketing. Handing everything over to your sales people with the orders, “Sell!” is our goal. You design the marketing stuff then pass it off to the sales team and say “Go get them!” Your additional advertising also supports the sales team.

Many management regimes make the mistake of leaving the marketing up to the sales people. No! If they make phone calls, you give them their scripts to say, already written for them. Of course they can modify it to fit their own personalities. But, you still need to give them a well thought out, well developed script for any niche you want them to go after. If they are knocking on doors, you give them a package to leave; coupons, menus, maybe food samples etc. Keep your salesmen and women selling! Let them earn their commissions. Create then hand over to your sales force all the tools they need to do their job and your sales will ski-rocket.

RESTAURANT CATERING (101)

RESTAURANT CATERING (101)

When a restaurant is considering adding a new catering service the first things to do are design or re-design all the advertising tools that will be promoting the service inside the restaurant. We need to let the customers know we now cater! That means signs, posters, new menus and notes on all the pages of the menus. Depending on the restaurant’s theme, you may want table top displays that advertise the new catering service on every table, counter and especially ordering surfaces. A display catering table is a good idea for a visual they can’t help notice. Set up a mock buffet with buffet pans and a nice, fresh flower center piece. Add stacks of take home catering menus and a fish bowl for customers to drop their business cards in as they try to win a catered meal for their office. This will help you gain leads to pass on to your sales people to contact.

First you set up your in-house marketing plan. That is everything you can do to promote your catering business without leaving the restaurant. Table toppers, foot notes on the menus, menu inserts, printed takeout bags, wall signs, posters, and the catering display table (preferably near the door). Remember the 80/20 rule; Statistics show, 80 % of all successful sales gained from a new promotion will be from customers we already have. If we are going to get a quick noticeable start with catering, we need to focus most of our marketing on getting the attention of the customers who are already loyal to us. We need them to buy in.

Once you have the restaurant decorated to promote catering everywhere possible, now it’s time to move on to the outside. Banners, lawn signs, helium balloons and streamers may be enough to start.

*If you are really committed to catering, you may even want to consider changing the main sign from, for example; ‘Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant’ to ‘Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant and Catering.’

Now, let’s think about how we plan to market to the first five block radius around our restaurant. The plan should be to blanket the immediate first few blocks surrounding our restaurant. These are our within quick walking distance potential customer base. We need to own this market! Slowly we expand our circle taking it wider and wider by just adding a few more blocks at a time. If we can, we add a half mile a week until we hit the five mile radius mark. The plan is to really cover and re-cover our immediate five mile neighborhood. We want to hit every establishment, in every conceivable niche this close to us. After five miles we will start specializing. That is when we start going after specific niches with marketing designed to take advantage of the needs of your particular area. We’ll need to evaluate all our competitors and look for the best promotional opportunities. But first we need to mark our turf!

Do you have formal catering order taking forms printed, in strategic places and readily available so the crew isn’t using drink napkins to jot down the new catering orders, customer information and special delivery instructions? Do we have catering containers to pack the new catering orders in nicely and serving utensils to give our customers when we deliver or when they pick up?

All personnel should already be trained to talk up the new catering menu and service as much as possible. But, we need to take it up another level. Customers want knowledgeable suggestions. If you just have anyone who happens to answer the phone taking your orders, many customers will go to where they get that extra special attention. Can you blame them? They are shelling out big bucks. They deserve VIP treatment and to talk to a specialist who knows how to make a fuss over them and their special occasion.  Sometimes, just caring is the only sales advice you need to implement in order to grow your catering sales.

We’ve already talked to death the importance of the kitchen being ready and operating on all pistons before you throw all the additional chores at them by pushing for catering sales. I’m going to assume you have committed leadership and everyone is on board with the decision to add catering. Let’s also restate how important it is to have a trained and knowledgeable staff, especially at the phone order taking level and server levels. These front line positions are often neglected when it comes to training but just being able to take a phone order is not being trained in catering sales! You are losing a lot of money if this is acceptable to you. Not only do you not get add on sales; dessert, beverages, salads; you don’t have anyone pushing the higher profit menu items. But worse of all you lose tons of whole orders because most customer first call around checking prices. A catering specialist knows how to steer the customer into thinking more about planning the perfect party or event. Another problem with just having phone answerers taking your catering orders and not having someone dedicated to catering sales is there is no follow up with the customer after the order is completed. Our goal is to gain customers not individual, one time sales!

*Important – when first starting out, it is not important to offer delivery. You can just have pick up catering until you are ready for this next, very big step. Adding delivery must be well thought out. Yes, delivery can be a game changer as far as building sales but it can’t be gone into lightly or halfcocked. Not delivering a party on time and with hot food still hot will break your catering program. Forgetting to pack the delivery vehicle with service utensils or forgetting the dinner rolls or condiments like butter or salad dressings will be a disaster as far as word of mouth goes in your community. Are you prepared if your driver calls out sick the day of a big event?

You should think of ‘delivery service’ as a special feature you can add to enhance your customers’ catered experiences, down the road. You should plan as a goal to add a delivery service once you hit a specified sales figure that will support a driver’s salary. At first, orders will not justify you purchasing a catering delivery vehicle so your driver will be required to use his or her own vehicle. But you will have to up your insurance to cover the driver and anything else that happens during the delivery situation while they are working for you.