Contract caterers are taking on the high street

Fruit Stall

At the invitation of renowned contract caterers CH & Co, WBC paid a visit to one of the Charlton House business and industry sites, to see that it’s not just independent retailers on the high street using WBC’s gift packaging and retail display products to increase sales and improve margins throughout the year. Despite the obvious challenges that literally ‘feeding the masses’ can incur, this award winning corporate caterer is offering gift bags, hampers, and even meals to take home, as well as add-on services like farmers markets and wine and beer tastings. It’s about more than just feeding a busy work force; for them, it’s about offering greater choice, quality ingredients, a more comfortable eating environment, and of course ensuring they maintain ‘bums on seats’ week in week out! Here we consider some of the ways corporate catering can take advantage of its largely captive audience.

Since 1991, parent company CH & Co and their subsidiary businesses has gained the reputation for being one of Britain’s most trustworthy corporate and commercial caterers. They provide food services and in-house catering management for a host of recognised brands. They utilise their gifted team of Executive Chef’s, led by Michelin-starred David Cavalier, to feed the mouths of Royalty at recent Jubilee celebrations. Most of all, they champion healthy food initiatives for many busy city professionals.

And it doesn’t stop there. Like any typical retail environment, the challenges of maintaining repeat business while a vast numbers of competitors wait just outside the door, is a daily challenge. Staff are finding innovative ways to increase customer spend while maintaining the interest of a transitory and often ‘time poor’ clientele. It requires a creative eye for event management, design, and merchandising. We met with Co-founder Robyn Jones and Creative Director Judy Roberts who showed us how gift packaging and retail display have been instrumental in helping them achieve their impulse purchase objectives.

Gifting & Impulse purchases in a catering environment

By increasing gift and accessory offerings at the till, profits can be built on daily. Bags for life, cotton shoppers and printed jute bags can be a fantastic way to pick up last minute impulse purchases and increase incremental sales. As well as your lunch, Charlton House offers customers extras such as meals to go and even essentials like toothpaste and shampoo. Need to carry it all home? With a handy bag for life on display, suddenly shopping is made easy. Busy professionals have little time to pick up that nearly forgotten birthday present or Anniversary gift. Offering ready-made hampers at the till increases profits and solves a whole lot of headache for your customer that they’ll be thanking YOU.

Creating Seasonal ‘Hot-Spots’

Charlton House capture the imaginations of diners every week by rotating and changing their retail display stands. They capitalise on seasonal events like the Diamond Jubilee, Wimbledon and the upcoming Olympics dressing various ‘hot-spots’ according to a theme. It also allows them to use point of display and signage as an informative way to display price, seasonality and provenance of ingredients, while remaining current and topical.

Merchandising & Display

The stainless steel surfaces of many kitchen sites can be very clinical and cold in appearance. By using retail props from the PropShop like antique fruit crates, union jack bunting and foliage, Charlton House has softened the dining environment, creating a more comfortable setting to work and eat in.

Add-on Services

Charlton House engages with diners by starting a regular farmer’s market on the premises. Baking fresh bread and inviting their suppliers to sell directly to customers is a novel idea because it adds value and increases their reputation, not to mention directly affecting footfall. They run wine tasting nights and tastings with brewery’s, they package up specialist beers into gift packs as well as sauces freshly prepared on sight – all sold on to staff or added to ready-made hampers. One week Charlton House made fresh pizza which staff could buy and take home to cook. Another week, ‘blank’ cupcakes were on offer and staff could choose what was written on them, while the kitchen iced them to go! Always, the freshest food made from top quality ingredients.

So you see, we’re learning that gifting is not the sole domain of gift shops and high-street retailers, many of our customers including contract caterers, commercial food distributors, bespoke catering companies and facility management are finding creative ways to increase uptake through gifting too. Take a look at our retail and merchandising solutions, stop by the PropShop or give our team a call to enquire about our branding facilities on 08000 85 85 95

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. James Hayward at 3:03 pm

    It had never occured to me that corporate caterers operate in a similar way to an independent. Some really good ideas here and very insightful to read about new uses for WBC products. I hope this encourages all retailers, whatever size they are to make the most of all areas to help drive incremental sales. On ‘Independents Day’ I think it is quite fitting to highlight how easy it is to adapt a space in to a feature at any time of the year.

  2. Albacore at 4:49 pm

    Interesting article and it does demonstrate how contract catering companies need to be more proactive in today’s tough economic climate. Everyone needs to get more creative to stay competitive.

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