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The Path Gets Clearer Everyday

Over the past few years, prior to Covid-19, the term catering has been increasingly used by many foodservice operations to drive revenue for their non-catering operations. These include QSR’s, Grocery Stores, Contract Dining and Restaurants.  This increased availability of catering has greatly affected off-premise caterers, banquet-only facilities and hotels.

In the past, each of these require different operational processes, staffing models, menu design and technology applications to get it all done. If not simplified and streamlined, the potential of long-term success coming out of this will be challenging even if things go back to normal.

The common trait among all of types of catering has traditionally been a manual world, reliant on staff and the long-running thought processes relying on repetitive and inefficient tasks. These processes drive long hours, low margins, and disconnected data, requiring continual training and typically end up relying on a small group of individuals to hold all the knowledge.

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In the short term, the industry at large is now completely dependent on the reopening guidelines of their local jurisdiction and what defines a gathering by number of people and rules on the self-service of food and beverage. These are two conditions for which we have lived on for years. Serve more people with less staff and a highly interactive personal engagement between staff, food and guests.

How do we navigate this with all health indications leading to a long recovery for mass gatherings? The approach is the same for all industries, it is a realistic phased approach to a new normal.

Here are some phased recommendations for the road back when guests can gather in groups of more than 10.

Phase 1

Shure up your systems to leverage the technologies that you already have:

  • Your Own On-line Ordering Platforms to Eliminate Third Party Delivery Fees
  • Video Conferencing Protocol for External Sales Functions
  • Transform to a Paperless proposal and storage process for all documents
  • Prioritize Your Menu for Delivery and Drop-off with easy ordering and minimal customization
  • Reconfigure staff spaces such as warehouse, kitchen and administrative offices for physical distancing
  • Update and Optimize Catering Software for integration with other systems to reduce manual data entry.
  • Restructure and update all food safety protocols as previously directed by local health authorities
  • Write a Reopening Plan to Electronically Communicate to those who will be returning to work
  • Restructure Terms & Conditions of contracts to provide flexibility to both customer and company as the market adapts to create a partnership of sale

Phase 2

Develop service and food presentation systems that are geared for groups of 20-100 guests whereby it promotes a welcoming comfortable guest experience on limited budgets.

  • Promotes Individual Portions by offering seated service over buffets
  • Limit offerings to seasonal and Market Dependent options
  • Adjust Staff to serve individual portions verses self-service or passing during receptions
  • Redesign Food and Beverage Stations to promote food safety and demonstrate safety assurance to the customer
  • Re-train staff on Physical Distancing service and movement in larger crowds
  • Tailor Uniforms to provide protection for staff while creating a more inviting social experience than just face masks and latex gloves
  • Reduce the Number of components on plates such as excessive garnishes and finishing by promoting more straight-forward cooking focusing on simple well executed food

Phase 3

When larger groups are permitted, market conditions such as supply chain, economic conditions, competition and demand will be clearer. To anticipate this:

  • Create Collaboration between sales and culinary to sell menus and service that are flexible and cost affective
  • Focus on the Customer Experience
  • Fully Incorporate and Add Technology to integrate all departments focusing on remote office, data management, on-demand staffing and efficient production
  • Continually Manage food, beverage and services on a regular basis to keep menus updated, exciting and executable to your highest standards
  • Create partnerships and collaborate with others to grow the industry as a community as we all have the ability to survive collectively

John Reed

Owner, Custom Culinary Solutions, Chicago, IL

John Reed is a professional chef with over 30 years’ experience. He is the owner of Customized Culinary Solutions, a culinary consulting firm located in the Chicago Northshore area. He works with restaurant, catering, and foodservice companies to provide the highest quality food possible. His contributions include menu and recipe development, emerging concept development, and transition management for companies introducing culinary and production software programs. His company specializes as an on-demand culinary department supporting out-sourced culinary project management.

An active member of the ACF, he has earned certifications as a Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator, and American Academy of...