With so many families gathering together at home, end-of-year corporate parties, and festive events, offering catering options can boost your holiday sales and ease stress on your customers.

According to industry research, nearly 30% of Americans plan to order catering this holiday season, and almost 40% plan to host a party in a bar or restaurant. That’s a sizeable audience to consider, so ensure you’re not leaving money on the table and develop a holiday catering plan.

Make a List, Check it Twice

Plan out the basics before getting into themes, décor, and promotion. Menu, staffing, and budget should come first. Work with managers to train and schedule staff, determine packages and pricing, assess equipment and other rental needs, review numbers from previous years to guide your process and budget, and ensure that curbside, delivery, and booking platforms are all streamlined. Consider service style for different party types: boxed meals or platters for corporate events, passed canapes for an upscale cocktail holiday party, or heat-and-serve dishes for large family gatherings.

Holiday Helpers

Assembling a catering team that includes a coordinator, a kitchen lead, and seasoned servers is the first step in the process to help operations run smoothly. Your catering coordinator will be the first point of contact for potential customers, so appoint someone at the management level or a seasoned server who’s looking for a little more responsibility.

For servers, catering is a whole different world from in-house dining. The pacing and logistical needs feel much different from a night of waiting tables in a restaurant. Your FOH catering team should be specifically trained on setting up and breaking down events, passing hors d'oeuvres, refreshing platters and serving tools, and working any action stations you may have as part of your menu. Tap into temporary staffing help if your catering demand exceeds your current staffing capabilities. Qwick, a staffing platform from one of our One Source partners, can help with that.

Festive Flavors

Let your culinary creativity really shine for your holiday catering menu. Develop a menu that is seasonal and festive but reflects your existing offerings that can be executed both on- and off-site. Having too many options on a catering menu can be overwhelming, and since most people don’t order catering regularly, they’ll appreciate having a strong, clear menu.

Focus on items that you know sell well, based on your current menu and data from previous years. Eye-catching appetizers can be a way to upsell catering customers who want to provide something for their guests to snack on. Baked brie with cranberry and crackers, charcuterie cones or a graze table, and crudité cups are all upscale, but easy to put together. Or serve up hearty comfort food with Luigi® Toasted Cheese Ravioli with marinara, pesto, and spicy ranch for dipping. Buffalo seasoning is gaining steam on menus as well, so fire up party guests with an item like PIM® Buffalo-Style Chicken Meatballs from Performance’s exclusive private brand.

Take-and-bakes are smart because they involve minimal effort on the customers’ part and help you determine early on how much food you’ll have to make. Pastas like baked ziti or Roma® Cheese Lasagna Rollettes, casseroles, pies, or bagel spreads with all the fixings for brunch are all great catered options that are cost-effective and sell well.

For the ultimate Italian feast, serve vibrant antipasti, caprese, and a hearty Bolognese or pumpkin sage risotto with Roma® Gourmet Beef & Pork Meatballs for the main dish. And don’t forget the sorbet palate cleanser and tiramisu!

Offer upgrades like festive drinks, both alcoholic and non, linens, centerpieces, flowers, and more. Think about your target audience and consider what they want, whether it’s canapes or family-style platters, and plan accordingly. Keep in mind options for vegan, vegetarian, and those with allergies, and clearly mark them so they know what they can eat!

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