Succeeding in the modern catering industry is not easy, whether you are starting up a new business or trying to expand an existing one. With a growing need for quality, casual and flexible dining experiences, restaurants are finding they have to adapt in this ultra-competitive climate.

Investing in new, smart ways of appealing to customers’ tastes and lifestyles is crucial. We have identified three key ways in which you can steal a march on your rivals by tapping into these growing trends to boost your catering business.

1. Use app platforms to exploit take-out and delivery demand

The food-to-go element of modern dining is growing massively, and you need to be on the top of your game. More people, especially young professionals, want the flexibility of ordering food at any point of the day or evening to take away or for delivery. Clued-up restaurants are starting to invest in digital innovations like intuitive app platforms that ensure their business can cater for this audience that are moving away from the traditional ‘dine-in’ experience.

Automation options that provide swift self-service ordering, faster payments and the ability to split the bill between friends, plus the capacity to offer personalised recommendations and rewards based on buying patterns and quick digital surveys after meals, will drive engagement and popularity. Investing in digital marketing to increase the online presence of your business through Google Maps visibility and location searches, as well as appearing highly on booking websites and boosting favourable reviews, will also target this casual food-to-go market.

If you are increasing your delivery services, you will also need quality, reliable vehicles that will be up to the job and meet demand.

2. Let digital technology enhance your business operations

As well as acquiring the latest technology to improve the customer journey, you can also use digital innovations to enhance your in-house operational activity.

Running a profitable catering business is as much about creating a cohesive system as it is conjuring up top-notch meals. Making use of flexible staffing is key, and digital software packages that allow you to design and refine online shift patterns that can be shared quickly and easily with full, part-time and casual staff will promote communication and collaboration.

Making use of integrated cloud systems can also improve the efficiency of your whole supply chain, allowing you to check and tweak your inventory management and stock replenishment at your convenience.

3. Invest in smart equipment to increase kitchen efficiency

While introducing high-tech equipment to your kitchen may seem like a pricey option, it can often pay for itself in the long run as modern kit can improve food safety, increase speed by automating repetitive tasks, and lower labour costs. It can also improve your offering to customers, helping your restaurant stand out from its competitors.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that sees a network of smart physical appliances communicate with each other digitally to create a remotely controlled environment. In a commercial kitchen this can mean you refrigerator tracking and reordering your supplies rather than you having to do it manually, or the network providing you with instant data such as temperature readings and equipment usage patterns to boost energy efficiency.

Other new innovations to consider are a kitchen display system (KDS) to replace old-style receipt printers and improve communication between your front-of-house and kitchen teams. Smart ovens, such as a cook and hold model that automatically lowers itself to a holding temperature after cooking is complete, reduce energy costs and manual prep time.

Securing the right finance

You don’t have to take a sizeable dent out of your budget to buy the kind of modern technological equipment that you require. You can preserve your working capital by securing an asset finance agreement.

With Portman Asset Finance’s lease finance option, for example, payment terms are flexible and can be tailored to your circumstances. Rates as low as 2.5% are available while costs can be offset against tax. We finance both hard and soft assets, meaning items such as delivery vehicles, high-tech equipment and IT software are all covered.

You will be generating income from your new assets while paying for them, leaving you to get on with what you started your enterprise for – fulfilling your passion and talent for cooking delicious dishes.

If you would like to know more about securing affordable finance to grow your catering company, contact one of our dedicated Account Managers on 01604 321 995. Alternatively you can check your eligibility here or discover more about our catering finance products here.

Portman Asset Finance