How to Cater Virtual Parties

Even though shelter-at-home and social distancing rules are still in effect, people are continuing to hold parties – virtual birthday parties, happy hours, and game nights included. A virtual party involves video chatting with friends or family via an online platform such as Zoom. With virtual parties comes an opportunity for virtual catering.

Catering a virtual party may seem like a strange task, but it could be a good source of revenue for your restaurant. This type of catering is like catering a normal gathering – you’ll need to implement a catering program and market it to potential customers.

Implementing Virtual Catering

While there is no one size fits all guide to virtual catering, these tips can help you implement a successful virtual catering program.

Modify packaging to individual serving sizes.

As caterers, you are used to bulk packaging that serves large groups. Now, it is time to think about packaging designed for individual serving sizes. That means smaller clamshells and takeout containers, individually wrapped utensils, and smaller takeout bags. Consumers want their food to be protected, so consider using tamper-evident labels or peel-and-seal bags to give customers peace of mind their food hasn’t been tampered with.

Offer catering delivery and curbside pickup.

Because virtual parties are not hosted from one meeting area, delivery or curbside pickup is necessary to get your food into the partygoers hands.

Create a promo code for virtual parties.

Creating a Zoom Party Promotion will entice individuals planning a virtual party to choose you. This can be as simple as implementing promo code like ZOOMPARTY, which gives the customer free delivery for online orders. You can also offer a percentage off their whole order, or something fun like discounted desserts.

Promote your alcohol selection.

In certain states, alcohol laws have been altered to allow for take-out and delivery. If you are in one of these states, promote your adult beverage choices as an addition to virtual parties. A promo code like ZOOMBOOZE could give customers a free appetizer with an alcoholic purchase. You could also promote a happy hour for select drinks. Just make sure to check your local and state laws regarding the promotion of alcohol.

Create themed catering packs.

Help your catering audience come up with ideas by creating themed virtual catering packs. Encourage a Tiger King watch party, complete with tiger drawings on your packaging and animal print napkins. Cater to your reality TV lovers with a Bachelorette party pack, complete with rose-shaped cookies.

Virtual party catering themes:

  • Netflix watch party
  • Virtual family reunion with name tags
  • Birthday pack with balloons, hats, and candles
  • Board game bash with links to online board games

Include fun add-ins.

Virtual parties may not be the same as an in-person baby shower, birthday celebration, or watch party. However, you can help to make your catering customers’ party a little more special. Throw in some fun additions like party hats for the gang or photobooth props for virtual picture taking. Also consider creating a party hashtag that includes your restaurant’s name, so you can see pictures featuring your catering.

Virtual party catering add-ins to consider:

  • Decorations/party hats
  • Photobooth props
  • Fun placemats or cups for catering drinks
  • How to use Zoom info sheet

Don’t forget the kids!

Include kids in the celebrations by offering coloring pages and crayons, or other forms of crafts to keep them busy. You may even consider a dessert party add-on, complete with a dessert, some frosting in a decorating bag, and sprinkles. Encourage parents to post the creations on social media by offering a 10% off coupon for future purchases in return.

Marketing Virtual Catering

Like everything else, your virtual catering business must be marketed properly. We’ve rounded up some great restaurant marketing ideas for virtual parties.

Create local ads.

Using features available on platforms such as Facebook, you can make ads targeted at your local customers. Create enticing graphics that feature your promo code and distribute to your local online customers. You can even place these ads in neighborhood gathering groups or target specific demographics. If you know that your normal happy hour attracts teachers from nearby schools, you can target teachers within your delivery radius.

Reach out to influencers.

Influencer marketing has not gone away considering the pandemic. On the contrary – influencers now find themselves in front of a larger audience with little to do beside scrolling on social media. Reach out to these individuals and offer them deals in exchange for promoting your virtual catering on their social platforms. Mommy bloggers, YouTubers, and Twitter aficionados can help spread the word about your delicious food and your great catering promotions.

Consider a direct mail campaign.

Direct mail isn’t dead. In fact, it’s a great way to get directly in front of your customers when they have to stay home. Sending out mailers promoting your virtual party catering options will get your customers to start planning a virtual party – and you’ll be top-of-mind when it comes to catering.

The way we think about catering programs must change given the current climate. Designing catering programs around virtual parties is a great way to boost catering sales while dine-in business decreases.