Catering is the most lucrative food and beverage activity for a private club. This is so because of the economies of scale in serving a known number of guests a specific menu at a set time. Club operators with the appropriate facilities fully recognize the value of catered functions as a means to boost revenues and net profit. Savvy club members recognize that a robust catering operation subsidizes their club’s operation, relieving ever escalating cost pressures, rising dues, and periodic assessments.
Despite the many benefits of catered functions, how many managers put the necessary effort into this greatest of opportunities? With a little bit of effort you can mine the vein of catering gold for your club. Here are some common sense ways to exploit catering to your club’s benefit:
- If your facilities and the opportunity are sufficient to justify the cost, hire a dedicated catering manager to sell and service catered events.
- Establish a catering contract and policies to cover all aspects of the catering operation to include space utilization, minimums, guarantees, room charges, special service fees, room set ups, equipment rental fees, etc.
- In conjunction with your chef, design attractive catering menus, pricing, and a catering sales packet.
- Develop a catering marketing plan to focus action and accountability on attracting business.
- View your catering space the same way a hotel views a room night or an airline views a seat on a flight – as the most perishable product you have. If not used on a given day or evening, the revenue opportunity is lost forever!
- Benchmark your catering operation in detail. At a minimum track your space utilization rates and average revenue per function for each catering venue in your club. Break down your benchmarks into times with similar demand or usage such as weekday (Tues, Wed, Thurs) versus weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun). Track the utilization of your most lucrative venues such as your main ballroom for high end functions such as weddings and holiday parties. Compare year to year benchmarks to track progress or spot weaknesses. Use previous year benchmarks to set sales targets for future periods.
- Aggressively court your membership to hold or sponsor functions for their businesses, trade associations, or as a venue for the special occasions of families and friends.
- Ensure your staff recognizes the importance of catering to the success of the club and that the many “touch points” in planning and execution are seamless, efficient, and with “over the top” service.
- Ensure follow up to all events to guarantee complete satisfaction and continual process improvement.
Bank robber Willie Sutton said he targeted banks because “that’s where the money is.” Club managers need to target their catering operation for maximum use and efficiency for the same reason. While I may be mixing metaphors, don’t neglect the catering gold for a lack of effort to fully “mine” the potential.
Thanks and have a great day!
This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.
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