If you’re a small catering business or just starting out, you may be wondering how best to establish your operations to ensure you can maximize efficiency, streamline ordering and launch a solid marketing plan. Or perhaps you’re an established operation running your day-to-day operation from antiquated or piecemealed processes, and wondering if there’s better business practices and systems to help. Either way, caterers at all stages of business and of any size can markedly benefit from undertaking digital initiatives. Read on to learn how your catering business can utilize software and technology systems to grow and thrive.
By taking time to review your current processes and procedures, understanding where you’re spending excess hours, losing sales opportunities or even shying away from projects or initiatives because of the amount of manual required, you can begin to understand the types of software and technology that could help digitally transform your business. In the U.S. alone it is projected that the business software market will hit USD $38.6 billion by the end of 2021, meaning the options and availability for businesses to capitalize on these services has never been greater.
For example, if you are finding your customer orders over phone or email are becoming cumbersome and prone to errors, launching a catering-specific eCommerce website could alleviate that strain. If you’re using basic spreadsheet software to manage your accounts, invoices and payroll, you may want to consider accounting software to automate those tasks. Or perhaps you have found a captive social media audience with your customers, but creating, editing and posting content is taking up too much of your time, so a social media automation software could be a smart choice.
Regardless of the type of software and technology you decide to implement, we’ve put together five simple steps to get you started on your digital transformation.
Every caterer’s operations, target market and offering is unique to them, so it is important to take these five steps and expand or revise them based on your specific situation.
This step will take time, as you may have done things the same way for so long, you’ve developed shortcuts that make certain activities feel efficient, or you may just be starting out so you’re unsure where your operational roadblocks could lie.
If you’re an established caterer, start documenting:
From this list, breakdown the themes you see to better understand where technology could help. For example, you may receive complaints from staff that whenever there’s last minute changes to staffing for your catering events, they don’t receive timely notifications or have a singular source of truth for the current schedule. Or maybe you realise you’ve been spending 10 hours every week manually typing your customer information into spreadsheets to keep track of their profiles.
If you’re a new caterer, answer the questions:
When you have these answers, you can more clearly see how your full operations will play out and thus the type of technology you may want to implement. For example, if you want to have a quality eCommerce website for ease of online ordering, you will want to find an eCommerce platform fit to your needs. Or if you will be doing drop-off catering, then finding transportation or delivery software could be beneficial.
Spend time connecting with colleagues or your industry network, learning what software and technology they have in place and any feedback they may have. Additionally, using comparison and rating websites is a good way to learn what actual users of specific systems have to say, as well as easily compare prices and feature suites. Resources such as G2 and Google Reviews are free and offer testaments for many companies and industries.
Additionally, be sure you’ve forecasted your budget to have a clear view of how much you’re able to spend on your desired software, so you can be realistic during your research.
In today’s work world, having secure, accessible file storage has moved from a filing cabinet in the boss’s office to a cloud-based server, allowing entire teams located anywhere in the world to work from a central repository. Similarly, having dispersed communication channels that are prone to issues, such as writing things down, texting or calling, can complicate your business operations by not having a single source of truth or history of communication you can refer back to.
There are a plethora of digital file storage services available, most with a quality free option, such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Box, as well as communication platforms such as Gmail, Slack or Trello.
It’s easy to get caught up in “the hot, new thing” when it comes to technology, but when you’re deciding for your business that can’t be the case. It is imperative to keep yourself focused on your actual business needs, budget and goals so you don’t overextend yourself or end up with a complicated technology setup that you barely use or don’t understand.
Information from the previous three steps should help you realise your limits, goals and needs, which will prepare you to dive deeper into your research and begin contacting the companies you’re interested in for free trials or demos.
Lastly, after you’ve completed your business analysis, researched common catering technology, established a baseline for digital file storage and communication, and decided on the software you’ll implement, you can finally set up your chosen systems! This is an exciting and important step, because you have finally reached the actualization of your business digitalization.
After you’ve got your systems set up, create process documentation, troubleshooting and even make a “cheat sheet” with important details or contacts for each software. When that is done, schedule training with your appropriate team members and empower them to practice and own systems they’ll be using frequently.
When digitizing your catering business, you are effectively partnering with the companies that offer the technology and software you adopt. And as any business owner knows, choosing the right partner is an extremely important decision.
FoodStorm has been delivering world leading, all-in-one catering software for over 15 years, bringing passion and expertise to every partnership we enter into. Contact us today to learn how FoodStorm can help digitally transform your business, grow sales and delight customers.