Companies around the country continue to lure employees back to offices with free breakfasts and lunches. For the restaurant industry, this means it’s prime time for catering.
Catering orders are back to pre-pandemic levels at offices and other workplaces, according to ordering platform ezCater, which has over 100,000 restaurant partners nationwide. The global catering and food service contract market is projected to reach $477.3 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 5.7% from 2022 to 2031.
If you’re not yet optimizing your catering services, the time to start is now. The infrastructure and approach are ready and available in the form of hybrid catering. Using technology, restaurants can manage high-value catering orders in-house while outsourcing the rest to third-party fleets. Four main benefits exist for restaurant brands that go hybrid with catering.
- Ramp up revenue, orders and tips
Catering services present a profitable opportunity for restaurants, allowing them to tap into unused resources during slow periods and reach new customers. Establishing quality catering as a known service can boost brand awareness and increase overall business stability by diversifying a restaurant’s offerings. It’s a wise move in our current macroeconomic climate—and at a time when consumers will abandon a brand that delivers poor customer service and overall value.
Consumers like to reward convenience and experience. Providing fast, seamless catering delivery is one way to boost order value and loyalty. By implementing hybrid technology along with an online ordering platform for its catering business, quick-service restaurant group Illegal Pete’s saw order volume increase 50%, average order value increase 11% and the average tip increase a whopping 930% — all within just three months. Cashless tipping embedded within hybrid catering technology makes it simple to split tips between employees and easier to attract catering drivers with the promise of bigger monetary amounts. You can even use higher, fairly distributed tips as both an employee retention and recruitment strategy.
- Elevate efficiency
Hybrid technology integrates both online and offline ordering systems, making it easier for restaurants to manage their catering services and streamline their operations. With a hybrid model underpinned by machine learning, you can automatically route smaller or less critical orders to third-party fleets and manage the most important ones in-house, in near real-time.
You can also optimize delivery times by comparing estimated pickup times between in-house and third-party drivers and then choosing the fastest option. In addition, going hybrid lets you cross-train staff and drivers to ensure they understand routes, individual customer preferences for entering a residence or building, parking and additional nuances.
- Cultivate better customer experience
A lot is riding on a host/hostess or events manager responsible for catering a party, conference or large meeting. Every detail must be precise, the meal needs to get served at the right time and food must be at the right temperature and consistency. There’s a lot that can go wrong. Said another way, the customer’s success is your success. When an order comes out wrong or gets delivered or displayed incorrectly, it impacts not just the person running the event and the group starving for lunch but also your revenue.
Catering customers are likely your VIP customers, with more significant and repeat orders. You need to give them the white-glove service. In-house drivers will know your menu — and your setup instructions — far better than a gig driver unfamiliar with your offerings. Hybrid catering lets you allocate specific priority orders for self-delivery and then outsource the rest to third-party services at peak times when you’re down in-house drivers.
By rewarding high-value, repeat customers with the fastest, most convenient deliveries, you can boost customer loyalty and retention while diminishing the rising costs of outsourcing. Hybrid catering technology also offers a user-friendly platform for booking your restaurant’s services online, offering greater convenience and a more personalized experience.
- Boost brand recognition
Restaurant operators gain convenience when using third-party delivery services. But relying primarily on outsourced partners comes with risks like unpredictable reliability and lack of control over the brand experience.
Hybrid technology can offer branded driver tracking links to make the delivery experience feel more personalized and consistent. You can also use tracking to promote special deals that increase revenue and repeat orders by familiarizing customers with your business. By tailoring delivery to ensure it’s in line with brand perceptions, your restaurant can stand out from competitors as your catering becomes a quality service with a sterling reputation.
Catering to an increasingly demanding customer requires diversifying your restaurant’s offerings to include catering. By using a hybrid approach, you establish a buffer against rising costs, unreliable labor and inefficiency, so you both make your numbers and make customers happy.
Alex Vasilkin, co-founder and CEO
As a business leader and entrepreneur with over ten years in the delivery space, Alex Vasilkin has a passion for transformative technology that fuels business success. Vasilkin is co-founder and CEO of Cartwheel, the leading technology provider powering the delivery operations of top restaurants like Portillo’s, P.F. Chang’s and Potbelly, where he is responsible for the strategic vision and day-to-day operations that drive Cartwheel’s impressive growth. Prior to founding Cartwheel, Vasilkin launched a restaurant with celebrity chef Govind Armstrong (quickly becoming the top delivery restaurant on GrubHub in LA) and founded delivery service Gourmet Runner (serving hundreds of restaurants in Los Angeles)