Events catering is a different beast to static food businesses. If you’re an established events caterer, how can you further improve your operation to become more profitable’ Or, if you’re a current chef looking to expand into events and align yourself with a catering business, how do you get a grip on the events catering landscape and understand the processes that can make or break it behind the scenes?
Find out how a smoother back office management can make your business much more efficient (and your life as an events caterer much less stressful!) by:
- Exploring the common challenges facing events caterers, both new and established
- Seeing how software can help your operation run more smoothly
What factors can affect the success of events caterers?
On or off-site?
Are you an on-site caterer with your own facility’ Or are you a mobile caterer who’s always offsite at far-flung events’ Or will you be doing both’ Kitchen management and costing can be wildly different between static and mobile: can you work out how to switch your financial analysis between the two types’ For example, if you’re currently one or the other, have you thought how your food can be costed differently to ensure success when you branch out to the opposite side?
If you’re an off-site caterer, you have additional overheads to factor into your costing. You may need to account for the cost of delivery, whether it’s vehicles or mileage, mobile equipment operating costs, or costs like pitch fees. Will you need to reduce your food costing accordingly to make up for these new overheads?
If you’re an onsite caterer, you’ll need to consider the cost implications of your kitchen location: from rent, to suppliers’ deliveries and even your travel radius.
Occasional events have variable attendance and other competitors
If you’re catering at an event like a horse show or county fair, you’ll need to know how many people are likely to attend, how many other food competitors there are, and how many people usually buy food. Can you actually afford to do the event’ NCASS has a really useful article on this here.
Restaurant-quality menus that are scalable
Patrons are increasingly expecting restaurant-quality food, but in very large numbers. So how do you work with scaling up and down yields, and balance this against a tiered pricing structure where cost per head drops as numbers increase?
Menu adaptations to suit the setting
Imagine you’re catering at a period stately home: there are health and safety restrictions that mean no fryers on site, and you have to avoid all foods that stain like wine and tomatoes. How can you adapt your menu if you suddenly have to tweak all your ingredients to respect an unfamiliar setting, and still make a profit?
Economies of scale largely mean that clients expect to pay less as the numbers go up. But it’s not just tiered pricing that can be tricky: event organisers often have very strict budgets to operate within. Have you got an accurate picture of your finances so you know whether you can do the event within their budget’ Unless the PR payoff is huge, there is little point doing an event if you’re going to lose money on it.
It’s now a legal requirement to provide allergen information for customers, even at catered events – whether it’s written or verbal. With the ever-increasing prevalence of serious food allergies, food allergic (FA) customers may find it difficult to eat out at events. If you are catering at a planned event such as a wedding, where dietary preferences will be known beforehand, then you can plan allergen-free dishes in advance and assure FAs that they’ll be safely catered for. But when you’re doing a more speculative event where you don’t know your customer base – how can you cater for everyone whilst alerting any FAs to the dangers of any potential allergens in your various food products?
Fluctuating work schedule
Unless you have a regular contracted event gig, there will be busy times and quiet times. How will you keep your food business ticking over without costly wastage?
Last-minute changes are a fact of life to an event caterer – and that may be to guest numbers, or to menus. Uncertainty can have a very real effect on your bottom line: how do you quickly make changes to costings without access to real-time, accurate data?
As events caterers, you will often work off-site, either by transporting cooked food to the event from your kitchen premises, or having a mobile kitchen (or kitchen equipment). Both of these have significant consequences for your food service, and how you manage your business. You may also have multiple stock locations for logistical convenience.
Running out of food can – and does – happen to the best of us! Of course, if you’re an ad-hoc offsite events caterer, such as a mobile outpost of a popular restaurant in the catering tent at a show, then the variable nature of these events means a food shortage is more forgivable: it could even be preferable to do a booming trade and sell out, instead of going home with surplus food.
What software products are right for events caterers?
If you’ve not tried software yet, or you’ve been let down by the limitations of an inferior product, let us explain how our Saffron software can help with your event catering business:
What’s the best product for this?
How it can help
|On or off-site||Finance Centre module||Software can’t make this decision for you, but our Finance Centre module can help you get a very accurate snapshot of your current finances, such as overheads and trading results, which can help you make the decision.|
|Occasional events with variable attendance and other competitors||Purchasing module, Recipe and Menu Management module,
Finance Centre module
|The Purchasing module allows flexible ordering, with adhoc templates. Make sure your food is accurately costed with the Recipe and Menu Management module – so you can see whether the event is financially worth attending. Report on trading results and spend vs sales vs budget with the Finance Centre module.|
|Restaurant quality menus that are scalable||Purchasing module, Stock module, Recipe and Menu Management module||More supplier orders means more invoices, more deliveries and more stock taking, which the Purchasing module can take the admin hassle out of – even matching up your documents. The Stock module gives you line-by-line and summary stock control, so you can always keep on top of that ever-expanding store cupboard. Increase your yields quickly and easily, with automaticallycalculated costing by the Recipe and Menu Management module.|
|Menu adaptations to suit the settings||Recipe and Menu Management module||If you need to build and store adapted recipes and menus, the Recipe and Menu Management module can help you make changes to your dishes without having to re-cost them all. You can also record recipe specifications, ensuring the standardisation of preparation methods.|
|Lean budgets||Recipe and Menu Management module||Need to know where you can make savings’ Accurate costing is enabled by the Recipe and Menu Management module, from costing per portion to how much each dish is contributing to your profit.|
|Special diets||Saffron Allergy Web Portal, Recipe and Menu Management module, Allergens and Nutrition module||Providing allergy information becomes easy with the customer-facing Allergy Web Portal, working in tandem with the Allergens and Nutrition module. Useful as both an authoritative point of reference for staff, and for customers to check for themselves, it gives updated allergen information down to stock level, which is transmitted to Saffron each night by major food service providers such as Bidvest and Brakes. Need to substitute an ingredient to make a dish allergen-safe, or suitable for vegans’ The Recipe and Menu Management module can help.|
|Fluctuating work schedule||Our complete Saffron package, which includes these modules:
Recipe and Menu Management module,
Allergens and Nutrition module,
Finance Centre module,
|If you’re struggling to keep up to date with your stock, recipe costings, or trading periods, you might need our complete Saffron package to make your life much easier! From transfers and waste, income analysis, user-defined trading periods (for which you can get trading results at the click of a button!) and even petty cash management, Saffron is here to make your operation more streamlined, whether you’re in a quiet or busy period.|
|Sudden changes||Recipe and Menu Management module,
Finance Centre module
|If you’re up/down 20 covers for an event, don’t worry. You can easily reduce or increase your yields and the costs will be recalculated by the Recipe and Menu Management module. Suddenly got some special diets to cater for’ Get up-to-date allergen information from your suppliers’ databases with the Allergens and Nutrition module. The Stock module helps you track the knock-on effects to your inventory by very accurately valuing your stock, moving stock between different cost centres, and detrimenting your stock via EPOS. Need to know how a sudden change affects your profit’ The Finance Centre module can integrate with your EPOS and produce real-time reports.|
|Being off-site||Recipe and Menu Management module, Saffron Connect barcode reader with the Stock module||Tweak recipes so they’re suitable for travelling or being made off site, including specifying standardised preparation and cooking methods, all with the Recipe and Menu Management module. Do multi-site or remote stock takes with the Saffron Connect barcode reader and the Stock module.|
|Food shortages||Purchasing module, Recipe and Menu Management module||Use the Purchasing module for flexible ordering, POs by email, and automatic updates of your recipe costs and stock value. Make sure you’ve planned your yields and how much your recipes are costing with the Recipe and Menu Management module.|
Want to know what our other Saffron customers say’ Read our case studies here to hear how other businesses use it.