[Takeaways] Learning from the pros: How to build non-traditional revenue streams

See the full recording here
This week, three catering and meal delivery leaders shared how they are driving cash flow during COVID-19. 

The discussion is packed with practical information, so please watch the full recording here. Since the conversation primarily focused on meal delivery, we’ve summarized those takeaways below.

Missed last week's session? Catch up here

Meal delivery: pivot, partner, or build

How you build naturally depends on what capabilities you have today. Each panelist offered a unique perspective getting into meal delivery.

  • Pivot: Andrew at Windows Catering already had an established corporate drop-off catering business, which he is adapting to cater to individuals at their homes. This includes changing portions, packaging, and handling delivery to many more locations.
  • Partner: Bill at Bill Hansen Catering and Events never felt it was the right time to expand into delivery until he had the opportunity to acquire Lovables Catering, which already did delivery. Together, they were able to aggregate their customer base and use each other’s operational capabilities. 
  • Build: Lillian at Lillian’s Table, a meal delivery business, was new to the foodservice industry, so she was starting from scratch. She invested time upfront researching and testing to figure out what works. That helped her correctly budget and plan to scale her business. 

Build a business that fits your brand

All recommended that you must stay true to your brand. In all likelihood, those buying your meals first will be your existing customers who already trust your brand. Trust is a valuable differentiator, especially in these uncertain times.

But how do you stay true when you’re also meeting different customer needs? Here are some ideas discussed:

  • Create a new use case. For Andrew, they're still serving corporate executive lunches, but delivering them to their personal homes instead of to the office.
  • Add budget-friendly items. Instead of replacing items, add a few items to offer a range of price points. For example, Lillian created a kids menu, where the ingredients allow her to sell it at a lower price point. She markets the menu as a way for parents to get a break from cooking every meal.
  • Discount to specific customers. Bill offers a discount to hospitality workers. Not only does it support his community, it also offers a budget-friendly option without discounting every meal.

Ultimately, you have to know when to draw the line. It helps to stay close to your customer and to trust your gut.

Now is not the time to stop marketing

Interestingly, none of our panelists rely on third-party platforms like UberEats or Grubhub to acquire new customers.

Since they already have an existing customer base, they use word-of-mouth and promote regularly on social media, through email, and with their sales team. Andrew offers small gift cards to encourage referrals. And while everyone has reduced their workforce, they’ve kept some of their sales team to connect with existing and potential clients. 

For those with corporate clients, Andrew has found some eager to donate and help feed those in need. A ‘win-win’ could be partnering with them so they fund the meals that you provide to the community. Or even set up your own community meal brand, like what one Dallas restaurant group did. They're helping others set up their own for free here. Whatever you decide to do, what’s important is that you don’t stop selling. 

Dodging delivery challenges

The panelists discussed various logistical and operational considerations (watch the recording for more). All panelists cited that traffic is the trickiest factor. Here are some quick tips to get around it. 

  • Set realistic delivery windows
  • Schedule delivery times during non-peak times
  • Group orders that are geographically together
  • Gather client expectations upfront, so they are ready to receive the order

To help get customer details, we’ve collected examples of order forms and sales sheets here.

*Kudos to Catered Creations, Windows Catering for sharing.

“Building a bridge to the future”

Bill shared that while they are actively pursuing revenue streams now, the intention is not to change his business altogether but to help cover operational costs and to keep his staff working. So at the same time, he’s focusing his team on building a client base for when we’re ready to host events again. This can include building goodwill in the community, continuing to book business for later in the year, or even re-imagining how events can change altogether during these times. 


Mini-weddings anyone? 


We’re grateful to have our panelists share their experiences with us today. Here’s how you can follow up with them directly:

Here are resources and templates to start your delivery/drop off service.

Catering and event associations have a depth of resources and community events. Check regularly for updates.