As with all entrepreneurs who open up their own businesses, caterers need to find ways to market themselves and grow their business. Most caterers and foodservice establishments have traditional market segments they target.
But what happens when the traditional sources for business run dry?
One of the largest caterers in the Silicon Valley is Cosmopolitan Catering, located in Sunnyvale, California. Their high-volume, crazy-busy, well-orchestrated operation is run out of a new and efficient, spacious 22,000 square foot facility. However, life wasn’t always the way it is today.
There were many times when Joe Schumaker, owner and founder, nearly threw in the towel after the economy took a downturn in 2008. It was clear that the wedding market they specialized in was no longer enough to sustain their operation and if they did not switch gears, they would soon have to close shop. After much thought, Joe had a lightbulb moment– to target B&I’s (Business and Industry) and the recurring lunch business.
Location, Location, Location
Silicon Valley was the perfect place to do so with its high density of tech businesses within relatively close proximity of each other. It turned out to be the best decision Joe ever made. Today, Cosmopolitan Catering is more than just thriving. It provides lunch and cafeteria services to a plethora of companies with between 300 to 1600 employees–40 to 50% of whom dine in their cafes every day.
In this highly competitive tech arena, companies compete against each other for top talent. Free gourmet meals or heavily subsidized meals and other benefits are a way to attract and retain this talent. Food clearly plays a very important role in everyday life here. For caterers wanting to explore B&I’s as a potential market, be prepared to:
- Meet the demand and volume of each company
- Produce high quality food consistently
- Offer good variety with healthy options
- Properly plan and manage the logistics of production for on-time delivery
Those Who Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
While culinary creativity is a given for anyone entering the catering field, caterers also need to think about the science behind their production process. In the case of Cosmo, they faced the real challenge of keeping pre-cooked dishes tasting as fresh as if they would have been prepared on location. When the cooking crew starts work at 6 AM they spend some time reviewing the menus for each of their locations then allocating tasks to certain teams—whether to make wraps, salads, side dishes, soups or hot entrees. Food gets loaded into the transport carriers by 9 AM and don’t get served until noon. For this reason, selecting dishes that hold well is very important. “It’s not like a restaurant where you can turn around and cook something a la minute. You actually have to cook with the intention of it staying hot for hours on end before it’s actually served to the guest,” shares Joe. The art of cooking, holding and transporting food without damaging its integrity is a testament to the culinary team as well as the equipment that Cosmo relies on—UPC400 carriers. Cosmo’s wall of carriers holds pans of food, soup urns and appetizers.
Each Cosmo client has designated carriers that keep food hot or cold safely for the ride, usually between 20 minutes to an hour away. UPC400’s are the backbone of their business along with an assortment of other Cambro tools. “Where the Cambro products come into play for us in transport is that they’re there, ready to load. They fit the size of the pan that we’re using…they have all the things figured out—that’s already been done and designed. All we have to do is open the box, put the food in and close the box. That really helps us be on time and be prepared. The biggest challenge we have is on very busy days do we have enough boxes in house? That’s always the challenge. Worse case we make a phone call and get some more boxes in here! That’s how this works,” states Joe.
Cosmopolitan Catering continues to grow year after year, now with a staff of over 165 people. Catering to the B&I audience has clearly changed Joe’s life and the course of Cosmo’s business. Watch Cosmo’s success story:
If you think tapping into the B&I market makes sense for your operation, contact your Cambro rep for the right tools you need to be successful.