A self-professed foodie, Richard Bracke loves to dine at new restaurants and try out new food combinations in an attempt to be constantly refining his tastes and palate. Richard currently blogs and writes for EZ Cater who specialize in a wide variety of options for your lunch catering needs.
A lot of people think that the best way to increase their bottom line is to expand their business, or incorporate to cover another niche market. Although those are two great ways to increase profitability they’re not the only way and in reality, not always the easiest to implement. But I have good news, when it comes to catering; one of the best approaches to becoming a more profitable caterer is more efficient logistics. And that can be done by anyone, anywhere!
In short, logistics is the management of resources (food, trucks, tables, chairs, staff, etc.) between the point of origin (your business) and the destination (wedding, corporate lunches, meetings, etc.). The more efficient your logistics, the less you spend, and the bigger your profits.
I’d like to share a few uncommon, common sense aspects of catering with the Better Cater audience that I consider legitimate logistical concerns when it comes to running a successful, efficient catering business. I hope this article helps provide you, the caterer, with a better understanding of the logistics behind this business, and how giving attention to the details now, will payoff later.
Catering and the Law
When it comes to food preparation, transportation, and presentation, the law varies greatly from state to state. What is allowed in one state may not be allowed in another and although legal issues and laws may not seem like a logistical concern, they really are and here’s why. The law controls how, when, and where you do things.
Because laws dictate to the caterer what they can do and how they can do it, they will have a drastic effect on your bottom line if not managed properly. I can imagine a few less than savory examples which include everything from food transportation violations, to a fine for handling food improperly, or worse being shut down in the middle of an event by the health department, because you weren’t aware of how you had to do things logistically.
Make understanding how the law affects your business your first priority. For all the seasoned caterers out there, this will be a known issue, but for those just starting out, heed my advice; it can make or break you! Because really, once you know the law you can plan the most efficient way of employing your kitchen, staff, and vehicles. I mean, there’s no point in sending your portable kitchen to a site if the law doesn’t allow for onsite cooking!
Preparation and Transportation
Although both of these issues seem very different from one another, they’re actually joined at the hip. And here’s why; your transportation affects your preparation, and your preparation affects your transportation. For instance, if you make ice cream at your kitchen, you’ll need a refrigerated truck to transport it to the event.
Another good example involves wedding cakes. If you’re the one providing a really elaborate cake you’ll want to pick a route from your kitchen to the wedding that doesn’t have any steep hills or pot holes. I can think of nothing worse than trying to replace a custom cake, at the last minute!
And this is just one of a hundred examples for out-of-the-ordinary things you need to consider when giving estimates for your services. I know driving a few extra miles won’t steal all your money, but a nickel here and a dime there can quickly burn your profit margin over the course of a year.
Set Up, Tear Down
Having what you need, when you need it is a big concern. If you don’t have it you’ll have to find it and finding it costs money. One of the best things you can do for your catering business is to delegate tasks in a way that allows for efficiency and clear communication, especially when it comes to materials.
Hiring the right employees to help you run your business is a great start to having an efficient business. Pick people who have a great attention to detail and concern themselves with the logistics that apply to catering. If your driver likes driving fast or taking the scenic route it’ll cost you more in fuel. If you have an employee that doesn’t keep track of company materials on site you may find yourself replacing a lot of little items that don’t cost much individually, but together add up to quite the sum!
Purchasing all your own catering equipment (tables, chairs, silverware, dishes etc.) can add to your logistics related expenditures quite quickly. For some businesses owning a lot of different things, for different events makes sense, but for others it doesn’t. Before you take the plunge to purchase your own equipment or supplies do a little research and see if renting is a better option. Not only does this save on the initial cost but it may also reduce transportation, cleaning, and storage expenses.
The Cost of Doing Business
When it comes to catering, the cost of doing business can be high, but there are a few logistics related ways to bring it down and increase your overall profits. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your events.
- Focus on needs, not wants. Just because it’d be cool to have it doesn’t mean you need it. This goes for everything from new kitchen appliances, to bigger trucks and better tables.
- Know the law, save money. Cooking from your house kitchen is illegal in some states, and purchasing a commercial kitchen is really, really expensive. But renting a kitchen, for the smaller catering operations, may be the way to go. Many are made available by the hour, so be sure to look into that.
- If you won’t use it for every event, rent it. This goes for that wedding with the super picky bride who wants to have color coordinated chairs in a color that’s not so useful. Although it’d be nice to own everything you need, renting it provides a less expensive way to pull off an event.
- If you make it, use it; if you won’t use it, don’t make it. One of the biggest opportunities for saving money in the catering business is providing only as much as is needed. Having less than you need is never good but having more than you need is less profit and all waste.
In closing, I’d like to reiterate a few of my points. Having a good grasp on the logistics behind catering is not only necessary, but will certainly help you deploy and utilize staff, supplies and resources more effectively. And effectively in every business, is efficient and efficiency means less time spent working and ultimately more money in your pocket!