A Restaurant Worker Hands A Customer A Bag Of Food
A Customer Looks Over Their Restaurant Menu
Holding A Phone To Order Food
Three Containers Of Food In Plastic In A Row
Restaurant Customers Toast At A Crowded Table
A Restaurant Server Brings Food To A Table
Customers Chat Around A Table
Take-out to take-off

Catering, online delivery, and orders for pickup have all exploded onto the restaurant scene in the past several years to forever alter its landscape. Whether the trend continues to surge or if its growth begins to taper off, one thing is for sure: it’s not going away. Consumers now fully expect these options and if you don’t offer them, it’s likely to draw irritation, particularly from regular customers who want your product in between visits. Perhaps they’ve been bragging to their coworkers or neighbors about your food and they’re dying to share but can’t round up the whole office to drop in for a visit. 

This is one of the ways an on-point catering arm of your business is so crucial in this day and age. It can expand your reach and reputation far beyond its usual geographic radius. But before you go down that road, you need to think through every element. A solid catering/online ordering program is not just a matter of packing everything to go. Many of your items will not travel well. Others will need to be deconstructed and reconstructed with different standard operating procedures. 

Launching this facet of your business is going to take strategizing, assessment and problem-solving skills largely equal to when you opened your restaurant. Packaging and standards will need to be developed and team member training implemented. 

Before you launch into this vast new revenue generator, carefully consider these six strategic steps to building your off-premises sales now. 

Know your menu

Having a genuine understanding of what you’re selling will help you make sales in many ways. For one, knowing the product will boost your confidence and morale, and you’ll be able to get excited about what you’re selling. This excitement will reflect in your sales approach, and the customer will feel good that you’re enthusiastic about your menu offering. Menu, ingredient, and allergen knowledge will also allow you to overcome any objections the customer may have. Study the website, your menus, and even packages and prices. 

Meet the customer’s needs

Basing your sale around what the customer wants and needs and the solutions you can provide to fulfill those is a great approach to ensure customer engagement. Once you understand where they’re coming from, move forward with that information to present them the best options possible. When the customer notices that you’re focusing on their needs, they will be more confident to continue to build the relationship and loyalty. 

When gauging a customer’s needs, you must be very inquisitive. Once you’re aware of what they’re truly looking for, provide customized solutions specifically tailored to them. Offer to send multiple quotes based on their budget. Typically, three quotes with varying menus are ideal. 

Always consider what’s next when you approach a sale with the assumption that the lead will be ordering from you, you set yourself up for success. Your mindset going into a sales call or tasting will play a huge role in determining the outcome. You can always assume that somebody inquiring about your product is looking to buy it (or something like it), and they want the best offer. When offering your products, steer away from asking the client if they’d want something. Instead, assume that they already do and provide them options. 

Elaborate on features and benefits

Your features are physical parts of your product or service. For example, your in-house delivery or utensils can be considered features. Your benefits are intangible things that your client will gain from using your product or service. Understand what you have to offer a client and do your best to help them understand as well. Be excited about both your features and benefits in order to engage your client and promote your product or service. 

Learn from experience 

When a lead calls to speak to you, they’re expecting someone who is an expert in your industry. For this reason, you’ll want to use your experience as an advantage when making a sale. If a customer is unsure or inquisitive, use this as an opportunity to present yourself as an expert and relieve their concerns. Tell them what you’ve noticed has worked in the past, or what other customers really enjoyed. Presenting yourself in this way will make the lead feel secure in taking your recommendations. 


Upselling is a great technique to get the customer to want more than what you initially offered. You may have locked in the sale but going the extra step and mentioning that just for a little bit more, they can also have that special add-on. This would be used in the case of gift card promotions. For example, orders placed within a certain time frame and over a certain dollar amount with receive a gift card. The extra cost is almost nothing to the customer in comparison to the purchase they’re already making, but it is a big deal for you and your company. 

Upselling is an effortless way to boost a sale. Remember to stay informative, and don’t push it if the customer isn’t interested. They’re already making a purchase, so before you’ve upsold you’ve already done everything right. 

Always think about the “bookends” of the meal—appetizers, bread, dessert and beverages are typically high-margin items which enhance the customer’s experience and allows for a larger sale. Make sure to ask if they would like to “add any dessert or beverages” to their orders. Highlighting any of these specialty items will go a long way. 

Working through customer objections 

You should always anticipate that a customer may have some concerns or objections about what you are trying to sell them. Be prepared for this situation by brainstorming what a customer may be troubled by. Once you have predicted a few objections, you can prepare a valid, positive response that will eliminate any challenges the customer might have presented. There are a number of things that a client can object in your proposal, but the most common two are the pricing and the options. Be prepared for responses like “that’s too expensive” or “I don’t want that.” 

Understand that an objection simply means that the customer does not have the necessary information to agree. Be empathetic with the customer and explain why your product or service would indeed benefit them. Provide other, maybe less expensive options. Work through the objection without letting it halt your sale.

These six steps are the first on your path to a potentially lucrative, long-term, reliable revenue stream. Execute with care and follow up with an in-depth playbook with best practices and standard operating procedures spelled out in detail. This will be the foundation for training your staff and developing a strategic sales and marketing plan. 

All facets of the business will need to be addressed and evaluated, including front of house, back of house, management, marketing and sales. Once everyone is on the same page, you can continue to expand your catering and outside sales offerings optimum capacity. Keep in mind your usual restaurant traffic flow to ensure satisfaction for your in-house and outside customers. If every element is carefully thought through and address, there are no limits! 

Monica Challingsworth Lyons, founder and president of Huntington Beach, California-based Eustress + Demeter has been an expert in hospitality, leadership, and sales for more than 14 years. She’s curated a record $25+ million in catering sales alone, working with restaurants ranging from individual locations to nationwide chains. Eustress + Demeter has successfully designed, implemented, and executed extremely successful sales and marketing programs for some of the top names in hospitality and private equity. The consultancy is committed to developing powerful relationships customized to the sustainable financial success of each of its clientele.

Expert Takes, Slideshow