Fabulous Outdoor Party Lighting Ideas
Although winter is upon us and the idea of an outdoor event makes us shiver, spring and summer are just around the corner. In fact, as a successful caterer, you are probably used to booking parties at least six months in advance, which means you (hopefully) have reservations galore for the spring and summer of 2018. Therefore, it’s time to start planning outdoor evening events – the kind of parties that put everyone in a relaxed, festive mood. With the right lighting, your outdoor event can be an unforgettable smash hit, with minimal effort.
Lighting: The Main Ingredient to a Successful Outdoor Event
Great food, friends and relatives are the main ingredients for a fantastic party, but ambiance also factors into success. While an indoor event requires painstaking décor, an outdoor summer party just about creates its own atmosphere. Nonetheless, it’s possible to boost the “wow” factor of an outdoor event with just a little effort and creativity. With the right lighting you can make an event magical – and truly a night to remember.
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All About Chafing Dishes
A chafing dish (from the French word, chauffer, which means “to make warm”) is a portable and essential piece of equipment in the food industry. For catering businesses, the chafing dish is the foundation of any food presentation. They are also essential in restaurants that specialize in buffets with hot dishes. Chafing dishes (a.k.a. chafers) are made to keep food warm – from two to six hours – and they are the most affordable and convenient way to heat your delicious buffet items.
What is a Chafing Dish?
A chafing dish is a multi-layered apparatus: it uses chafing fuel to heat a large, shallow pan of water, which in turn heats a pan of food above it. The food in the pan stays hot, and the indirect heat, along with the water, keeps it from scorching or drying out. Electric chafers and induction chafers are other types of chafing dishes that don’t use fuel, but still use water as a medium to transfer heat, and are great for permanent buffets (like in restaurants).
Continue reading Why the Right Chafing Dish is Essential to Every Catered Buffet
Attracting New Customers vs. Nurturing Loyalty
Once your restaurant is up and running – after the first marketing push, through the launch, and on into steady business – the focus of your advertising should constantly be changing. Whereas once every customer was a new customer, now you are welcoming regulars: repeat customers for whom your restaurant is a home away from home. The question is, at this enviable point, do you continue to invest in trying to attract new customers, or do you focus on maintaining your loyal diners. Or both.
New Customers First
According to LoyalMarketing.com, in an article entitled, “Customer Acquisition vs Customer Retention,” it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, yet customer acquisition is still the primary focus of most businesses in general, and restaurants in particular. Loyal customers, and their repeat business, are the cornerstone+ of long-term success because it is so expensive to find new customers. Nonetheless, if expansion and growth are a goal – and of course they are – new business must be a top priority. To continue to grow your business you’re going to need more people frequenting your restaurant – and lots of them. Although you want to maintain a relationship with your existing customers, it will always be important to bring in fresh business in the form of new customers.
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A Guide to Takeout Containers
In today’s mobile society, even the most elegant restaurant has to be prepared for the takeout crowd. Today, smart restaurant owners make it easy to order and pay for takeaway food with the help of apps, smartphones, and online ordering systems. What this means, though, is that restaurants have to be stocked with all sorts of takeout containers.
Take-out containers have come a long way from the bulky white Styrofoam boxes of years gone by. In recent years, the demand for a new and improved travel food container has graced us with a variety of sizes, shapes, and uses. Today, containers come in all types of materials, shapes, and sizes – including reusable containers – and the trick is finding the right ones for your business.
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How to Choose Restaurant Seating
Although you may think that it’s your food that keeps customers in their seats, it’s not just that. Sometimes, it really is the seats! Many factors have to combine to create a restaurant that diners find appealing and that they keep returning to. And while your chairs, barstools, sofas or other seating options may not be your #1 priority, it can make or break your customers’ dining experience. Seating is worth a second look.
Things to Consider When Choose Seating
Planning the layout and seating capacity of a restaurant dining room involves more than just setting some tables and chairs out in a room. To start with, for safety reasons, you must comply with occupancy limits set by state or local fire codes. In addition, you want to make your restaurant’s patrons comfortable.
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Restaurant Health Department Inspections
Restaurant owners generally view a visit from the health inspector as an inconvenience – or worse – as opposed to an opportunity to learn. Most restaurant owners dread health inspections; however, as we previously discussed, preparing for these inspections means that there is no reason to fear the inspector’s visit. Proper food storage, careful personal hygiene, meticulous attention to cleanliness, ongoing training, and self-inspections are all part of the “before.” Now, we’ll talk about how you should act during, and after, the health-inspection process.
Frequency of Health Inspections
The more complex the food-service operation, the more often the health department will visit. A restaurant where meat and fish are prepared and served could be visited two or three times a year, whereas a coffee house or a small bakery will require inspections just once annually. However, other factors can affect the frequency of an inspector’s visit. If, for instance, you regularly receive low inspection scores, you can expect to be inspected up to four times a year. Similarly, if someone reports your establishment for a foodborne illness, or for substandard operating procedures, the health department is authorized to come out and inspect based on that complaint.
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How Your Restaurant Can Keep Its Competitive Edge
The restaurant industry is highly competitive; even with a star chef and a unique cuisine you may have to struggle to stand out in the crowd. Gaining a competitive edge requires a detailed analysis of the demographics of the surrounding area and the nature of existing competitors. And, even if you are successful at first, new competitors could enter your market at any time to steal your clients. The trick is ensuring that you shoot to the head of the line – and stay there.
Easier said than done…
It’s a Diner’s Market
Diners have plenty of options these days. According to Franchise Times, an estimated 1 million restaurants are open for business in the United States. And, according to the National Restaurant Association, roughly 60,000 new restaurants open each year—and 50,000 close. As a result, the net gain is about 10,000 new businesses in a typical year. However, U.S. restaurant trends in terms of real dollars spent on dining out has only increased by about 3 percent over the last few years, and you and your competitors have no choice but to fight for every one of those dollars.
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Opening a Catering Business – Part II
Earlier, we discussed the first steps you should undertake before launching a new catering business. These steps included researching the local competition, finding a niche for your business, identifying potential customers, and writing a business plan. In addition, we discussed contacting your state’s occupation licensing authorities and health department to find out exactly what you need (the National Federation of Independent Businesses website can help you in that regard). With those preliminary actions under your belt, you’re ready to move on to the next and more enjoyable stages: planning your enterprise.
Creating a Catering Menu with Pricing
Creating a catering menu will help you figure out how much kitchen space you’ll need, what appliances you should buy and install, and how much you can expect to bring in financially. Base the menu on your specialties and what your targeted market niche wants on its plate. Price the items so that you stay competitive but still make a profit.
Pricing, always a challenge, is especially difficult for those just starting out. In general, prices are determined by the time it takes to prepare the dish, plus the cost of the ingredients, plus the profit margin you’re aiming for. Keeping your menu a manageable size, with foods you’re comfortable cooking and items that are made with ingredients you know you can source, are your best options for creating a realistic menu with fair pricing.
Continue reading More Advice for Launching a Successful Catering Business
How to Work with Health Inspectors
How you interact with health inspectors can go a long way to securing the health of your customers and the reliability of your license to do business. If, as a restaurant owner or caterer, you view your local health inspector as a nemesis, the time has come for you to rethink this position. Health inspectors are not your enemy; if anything, they are your partners, and the goal is to work together to prevent foodborne illness and ensure your customers’ wellbeing.
Why Restaurant Inspections Are Important
Health inspections are not designed to cause stress to restaurant owners and caterers; rather, their goal is to ensure safety for your customers. According to Food Services of America, more than half of all foodborne illnesses are acquired from eating at restaurants. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that half of all produce has chemical contamination. Faced with these challenges, it makes sense that the food in restaurants and catering facilities should be stored, thawed, and cooked according to strict regulations, and that the kitchen, freezers, and storage areas kept sanitary and sterile.
Continue reading Train Staff to Always be Ready for a Health Inspection
So… You Want to Open a Catering Business
Even if your muffins are divine and your tempura chicken is to die for, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got what it takes to run a successful catering company. By following a step-by-step, pre-launch plan, however, you can determine in advance how likely it is that you’ll be able to pursue your dream of starting your catering business and making it work.
Research is Your First Step
The first step in launching a catering company is to assess who else is offering catering in your area. Check out your competitors’ menus, their list of services, prices, and – if possible – their customer base. Visit their website and see if you can quickly find their unique selling points. Successful caterers sell more than just food; they also sell the reasons that customers buy food from them instead of somewhere else. To be a successful caterer, you’ll need to promote convenience, affordability, unique menus, and a specific style; food is just part of what you’ll be offering.
Find a Niche for Your Catering Business
Chances are you’re going to start your business by offering “off-premises catering”: serving food at a location away from your food production facility. There are three major markets for off-premises caterers:
Continue reading Tips for Opening a Catering Business and Making it a Reality