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Many grocers anticipate a return to larger holiday gatherings and bigger catering business this season, after more than a year of limited contact.

5 ways grocers can prepare for the holiday catering season

With in-person celebrations back this year, catering and prepared meals are a big opportunity for retailers

Heather Kirchner joined FoodStorm in September 2020 as Vice President. She is responsible for overseeing the U.S. business development strategy including new sales, customer relationships, marketing and operations support. FoodStorm's end-to-end software solution enables retailers, including Albertsons, Roche Bros. and Mollie Stone’s, to automate their entire catering and prepared foods operations — from ordering and production to payment and fulfillment — and manage it centrally. 


HeatherKirchner_headshot_color-edited.jpg2021 is shaping up to be a year for big holiday celebrations, as people re-emerge after a long period of limiting contact to their immediate households. Catering and prepared foods is a huge growth opportunity for grocers, and those who want to maximize their revenue this coming holiday season need to start preparing now.

In 2020, individual and small family meals were in high demand. In 2021, we’ll still see a lot of that, but most grocers also anticipate a return to larger setups, for parties of 10 or more. Here are some tips to help grocers get ready.

1. Up your e-commerce game. If you don’t offer the option for customers to order online or via a kiosk in-store, get that capability off the ground right away. Last year, the grocers we work with saw more than half of their catering and prepared foods orders come in online. If you don’t have an e-commerce presence, you’re losing out to competitors who do. A catering software platform makes it easy to get online, and can integrate with your existing POS to take care of payments as well.

2. Create full-course, event-specific menus (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, Mother’s Day, Super Bowl, etc.) so it’s easy for customers to click and order everything they need in one shot. Create packages for different-sized groups, from two to 10 people or more. This gets customers excited, promotes upsells and also creates a sense of urgency: “Get your orders in before we sell out of turkeys!”

3. Leverage email marketing and social media to extend your reach for new customers and additional orders. The Catering Team at Roche Bros started email marketing four years ago, and the promotions help ensure that their Thanksgiving meals sell out at nearly every store. They even take it a step further and include the customer’s order from the year prior in the email, so they can easily reorder. And don’t forget social media: In 2020, 25% of all orders that ran through the FoodStorm platform came from social channels like Facebook, Instagram and Google for Retail.

4. Offer individually wrapped items (for extra safety) at an upcharge. This is especially important for corporate catering customers with employees returning back to the office, and is a great way to ensure that your customers feel safe. Plus, the small upcharge can help you grow your revenue. By offering the option of the more classic serving style for catering and prepared meals (on platters and large dishes), as well as individually packaged items, you can ensure you are covering everyone’s safety preferences. 

5. Offer curbside pickup. This was an extremely popular service in 2020, and remains so in 2021 as the market has become used to this convenient and no-contact option. Creating pickup areas and time windows can help with the flow of customers at your stores during peak business hours. Alternatively, if you provide delivery, offering “no-contact drop-off” and communicating that during the customer ordering process can help everyone — customers and employees alike — feel safe.

2021 promises to be a big year for catering and prepared foods, which both tend to be profitable areas for grocers. During a climate of increasing competition, grocers could benefit by finding ways to grow their business outside their center aisle and reach their customers with new offerings. Follow the above steps to optimize your revenue and boost your market share this holiday season.

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