Up against some of the tightest margins of any industry, restaurant leaders know now more than ever before that finding new revenue streams is pivotal to the health of a brand. Catering has long been a good way to add incremental revenue to an operation, but when it’s not executed properly, a catering operation can add more headaches than it’s worth—or worse still, a bad catering experience can damage a brand's reputation.
That concern has only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic—caterers have to be agile and thorough in order to deliver the safe experience clients are looking for. Expansion and success in the catering world hinge on being able to provide a product that matches what a brand can produce in their stores, and doing it in an efficient manner, both in terms of time and cost. Now there's the added component of having to do it while displaying those safety measures everyone will be counting on.
“The biggest challenge is keeping the food hot and safe, but also making sure the food is as good as what the brand has to offer in non-catering venues,” says Scott Anderson of Scott Anderson Marketing, a consulting firm for restaurants. “That means it’s important to have reliable equipment that eliminates variables.”
Another big challenge facing catering operations is mobility, or how quickly a team of workers can get food from a kitchen, into a van, out of a van, and into the space where it will be served. There are also food safety precautions to keep in mind, and the traditional method of an open flame keeping the food hot and safe creates yet another aspect that requires time and energy.
“We are always looking for ways to be more nimble, so when Sterno introduced their new SpeedHeat product, we jumped on it,” says Brent Novotny of OnPoint Hospitality. “This is flameless catering equipment, where there is no filling up massive pans of water, or waiting for a flame to heat up. We’ve noticed that some of our repeat customers have actually started requesting that we use the SpeedHeat system because it eliminates the flame usage and is overall just easier for everyone.”
One of the first brands to use Sterno’s new SpeedHeat product was OnPoint Hospitality out of Seattle. They saw an overall reduction in the amount of time it took to get in and out of previously cumbersome catering venues, like office buildings.
“It’s more compact, and just overall more convenient for quicker functions where you are setting up and tearing down within an hour or so,” Novotny says. “Now we can come into someone’s office and almost instantly get their catering ready for them without a flame, and be out the door at the end faster than we could’ve before.”
Anderson believes Sterno’s products give catering brands an edge both in terms of reputation and aesthetics. That's pivotal in the current unforgiving climate generated by COVID-19.
“If my clients are delivering catering goods to their customers, I think it translates well for their brand to be associated with Sterno,” Anderson says. “Not only are they effective and well known, but the products look great, too.”
Anderson and Novotny have both partnered with Sterno for a long time, and wouldn’t choose any other brand to work with, they say.
“Sterno is like Kleenex—it’s the name that is synonymous with a product because of its proven performance,” says Anderson, who has been working with Sterno’s products for over 20 years. “They have products I’ve used for years, they’re priced right, and reliable. They are the go-to company for me and the clients that I have.”
“We’ve had really great experiences with Sterno,” Novotny says. “I can’t compare them to anyone else because they’re the only company I’d ever use.”