Because of the complexity of full service catering, and the number of moving parts involved, catering has been a target of opportunity for many technology developers over the years. Back in the very early pre-Windows PC era, there were companies developing floppy disc based ordering systems for corporate delivery caterers, and the earliest catering management software programs were written in COBOL, the very first modern programming language.
The descendants of these and other catering specific systems are still with us to this day. The vast majority of full service caterers use one of the very fine catering management software programs currently available, and nearly all caterers use a computer based accounting program. Many caterers also use an online staffing system, as well as some menu costing applications.
But there are many software programs and even apps available, including those that weren’t developed for our industry, many of which offer great opportunities for gains in productivity.
Room Measuring Apps – how many of you have needed to measure an event space to determine its capacity? Remember the rolling measuring wheel? Well, now there’s an app for your smartphone that will measure the room and generate a floor plan for you to export and work on with your computer.
Vehicle Tracking Systems – most delivery catering is during the lunch day part, and almost all caterers struggle with how to maximize their delivery revenue without adding more trucks and delivery people. Now GPS based vehicle tracking systems offer a great way to analyze deliveries and increase productivity and therefore revenue.
Time and Attendance Apps – back in the early days of handheld devices, before the wide use of the mobile web, party staff time tracking was often done by entering time into a Palm Pilot using a stylus, then downloading the next day back at the office. Now the state of the art is a smartphone based system that give the managers a real time view of how many staff are clocked in, and where they are.
Food Costing Software – accurate food pricing is based on accurate food costing. Among the breakthroughs in this area – direct links to the pricing from purveyors, which enables completely up to date pricing. Many of these systems also provide nutritional analysis for catering items, another information service that more and more clients are interested in.
Online Ordering Systems – for corporate delivery and retail caterers, online ordering systems are a great productivity enhancer. Giving the clients control of their orders, while also providing historical and billing data should offer a competitive advantage, particularly in the corporate market.
iPad Based Party Sheets – some caterers are now distributing their captain and chef information on company owned iPads – clearly a step up from the old manual systems using a clipboard.
Even with all of these new products, we expect that in five years, there will be many new and exciting technologies on the market to help caterers manage even more effectively.