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Necessity is the Mother: How to Grow Catering Sales in 2021

Michael Attias Dec 16, 2020
Michael Attias

We have all heard the quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

This year has put this quote to the test. As a company, we have had to pivot and invent things to help us and our clients survive this pandemic.

Recent CaterZen Online Ordering Software Updates

We focused a lot of our programming energy on making our online ordering platform more robust:

Upcoming Software Updates

We are close to launching the ability to create delivery zones, as opposed to being restricted to zip codes or radiuses.

And we are days away from launching a label printer that can print prep items, menu items and/or modifiers. As a lot of you are focused on individually boxed meals, these labels will be great.

As much as I would like to take credit for all the great ideas I’ve had over the years, I must confess I am a better thief. To be politically correct: a creative copier. The bank doesn’t give you a bonus deposit if you came up with the idea all on your own.

Looking for Software to Book Catering Events in 2021?

Before I share some best practices for COVID pivots, I want to solicit some feedback.

Mark Cuban, the famous shark from Shark Tank and outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavs, was featured in an article last week talking about what he thought the post-Covid environment would be like.

To summarize: He sees the “work from home” trend continuing as it benefits both the employer and employee. So there will be less of a demand for office space.

However, he does see events picking up. As co-workers will no longer have office time to connect and bond over, he sees companies planning monthly or bi-monthly employee events. They’ll be key to building a culture and camaraderie.

From happy hours to company luncheons to parties to outings, corporate executives will probably funnel some of their office rent into paying for these valuable team building events.

That’s where you, I and CaterZen come in.

CaterZen was first created to handle drop-off catering. Over the last three to four years, we have added a host of tools to help with full-service events (like unlimited BEO Templates, Graphical Proposal Templates, and Electronic Signature Contracts).

Now we want to tackle the ability to promote and book event space. From private party rooms at restaurants to golf courses, event venues, etc., our clients have been asking for a way to book and manage rooms.

Our vision is to provide a filter-based online portal where your clients can enter their requirements: number of guests, service style, etc. and see which rooms you have to meet their needs.

Your prospects would be able to see pictures of the rooms, maybe even a 3D view of a room set up in different ways, and they’d be able to complete a lead inquiry form with details for your sales department.

On the back end, the system would handle booking the room, room logistics, handling deposits, etc. It would work in conjunction with our other software features.

We Need Your Feedback!

This is where I need your help. If you have meeting/private space for events, I would love to get some feedback on what you’d like to see in such an event booking module. I want to take all of the great ideas out there and add them to our system. That way, we can provide a one-stop solution.

If you have any thoughts, please send me an email at or book some time on my calendar at:

9 Effective Ideas to Pivot to Grow Your Catering Business in 2021

Now back to our many clients who have definitely thought outside the box to cope with the challenges of COVID. My hat goes off to them.

My favorite quote is, “You back the jockey, not the horse.”

And CaterZen World has some of the best jockeys on the planet.

As some states go back into lockdown, I wanted to share some strategies to keep in your back pocket.

1. Gift Cards

Joe Carolan from Casa Mia sells gift cards online.

Thanks to our new Menu Time Rules, you can create a special menu for Gift Cards and require a specific time to get them.

A strategy I used at Corky’s was “Buy $100 Get $20 For Free”. The free $20 Gift Card costs you the food cost. This is a great way to generate extra cash flow in January.

2. FedEx Food

While at Corky’s in college, I helped the owner create a rib shipping program.

Joe Carolan sells crab cakes and FedEx’s them all over the country.

I remember reading an article at the beginning of the pandemic about a coffee shop that roasts its own beans. They were shipping more beans a week than they had sold in coffee pre-pandemic.

Thanks to Instagram and Facebook posting and ads, you can turn the entire country into a customer.

3. Holiday Family Meals

Jamie Tallman with Jack Stack told me they decided to sell entire Thanksgiving Family Meals and hit it out of the park.

In the light, you can offer bulk meals all year long for families who don’t want to cook.

One client is delivering meals on certain days of the week to certain neighborhoods.

With our new Menu Time Rules, it’s so easy to set up.

4. Grocery Items

I believe it was Frato’s who sold rolls of toilet paper.

Other restaurants and caterers are repackaging bulk items they buy from their food vendor for families like whole steaks, seafood, and other grocery related items.

5. Cooking Classes

Fairway Market puts on a virtual cooking class. The ingredients are delivered or picked up by clients, similar to having dinner delivered by Hello Fresh.

The big difference is eatertainment. You get walked through making your dinner with a chef via Zoom. It’s a fun break from quarantine and Fairway can charge a premium for the food.

CaterZen client Adam & Joe Know Lunch set up a page where clients can buy meals for first responders and healthcare workers.

7. Boxed/Individually Packaged Meals

Should your area go into lockdown, target any essential businesses/services who may want to feed their team. Though many businesses may shut down or work from home, there are a ton still operating.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Kroger ordered pizza from Donato’s for 12,000 employees.

8. Meal Subscription Services

Similar to bulk meals for families, being the go-to place to handle family dinners 2-3 nights a week is a major benefit for families not interested in cooking. You will want to offer a wide variety that you rotate weekly to keep your customers coming back. It’s all about the repeat sale.

9. Alcohol

From bottles of wine to make-your-own margarita kits, I have seen restaurants adding pick-up and delivery of adult beverages to their take-out offerings. If local zoning permits, you may consider the same.

Survive the Pandemic (and Beyond) with Customer Relationships

With the COVID vaccine coming out this week, I hope and pray we can get back to normal sooner, rather than later, and avoid a lockdown as devastating as earlier this year. My wish for you is that this list of pivot opportunities is filed away to be unearthed by your descendants a hundred years from now.

One thing I do know is that the best “jockeys” in our client base always find a way to get through the tough times. They know how to sell their way through problems that may arise.

Dan Kennedy, my marketing mentor, once said, “You don’t get a customer to make a sale, you make a sale to get a customer.”

A sale indicates a one-time event. A customer represents a potential lifetime relationship with ongoing sales.

We buy from those we know, like, and trust.

If anything is to be learned from this pandemic: work on your relationships with customers. Nurture them via email, direct mail, and social media touchpoints.

Give them plenty of reasons to buy from you over and over again, to trust you with new products and services you may offer.

Because I can guarantee you that our clients that fared the best this year had a great relationship with their customers.

Get Started With CaterZen

To learn firsthand how CaterZen can help you grow your sales, set up a demo with our Director of Enterprise Sales, Nell Herman, who can provide a personal walkthrough of our integrated catering software, and/or answer any questions you might have.  Schedule a demo here.

If you'd like to jump right in and take the software for a spin yourself, you can sign up for a no-obligation free trial, where we've pre-filled data so you can see the value right away.

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How is your business coping with the crisis?  Let us know in the comments!

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