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National Restaurant Association - Caterer to restaurateurs: Stay true to brand for catering success

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Caterer to restaurateurs: Stay true to brand for catering success

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Restaurateurs who take on catering as an extra revenue stream should remember one thing before diving in: don't deviate from your brand and stay true to the food you're already known for, one industry expert says.

According to Patrick Cuccaro, general manager of Affairs to Remember, an upscale catering firm based in Atlanta, the secret to catering success is to remember customers come to them because they want a taste of the restaurant at their catered affairs.

"Most often, restaurateurs forget that the very customer who hires them for catering is usually one of their good brick-and-mortar restaurant customers," Cuccaro says. At a minimum, it's somebody who knows and loves their food when they're inside the restaurant. Often, that person is a regular customer who not only knows the taste, but also the color, texture and even the right temperature of the food."

Cuccaro, who holds a four-session "boot camp" for restaurateurs at Affairs to Remember, says catering can be lucrative for restaurateurs, but if it's done incorrectly it also can have a negative effect on the restaurant's business.

"Restaurateurs have expressed intense interest in catering because it is a healthy, growing segment," he says, but "unfortunately, all too often restaurateurs jump in head first, lose money and potentially damage their existing brands. Then, having failed to execute, they retreat from catering. That is something that wreaks havoc on our industry's image."

Because of this, Cuccaro, who also serves as chairman of the Georgia Restaurant Association, created the boot camp to help restaurateurs better understand and execute catering programs. He focuses on showing restaurateurs how to transfer a restaurant's branding to its catering business, how to avoid catering disasters and pricing, among other topics.

"When my restaurant buddies would talk about catering, I could see they tended to be mystified," he says. "Based on that, I called some of the best caterers and restaurateurs in the city together, and we sat around and talked about what made us successful. We also asked the restaurateurs what was most daunting when it came to ... catering. We organized all of the information, filled in a lot of blanks ... and started the boot camp."

Today Cuccaro says sharing Affairs to Remember's best practices with restaurateurs is an opportunity to create a better customer.

"Being a transparent organization, we feel that sharing these best practices makes everyone better in the long run," he says. "We're about creating a larger pie, not just dividing it up differently."


Pictured top, right: Patrick Cuccaro of Affairs to Remember

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