Catering Consultant – What is a Catering Consultant?

What is an independent catering consultant, food service consultant, food & beverage consultant or restaurant consultant?

We find this question asked less frequently than it used to be, although for us it’s usually asked more at social situations, when someone typically asks ‘so what do you do then?’ It’s often interesting to watch people’s expressions when you tell them you are a catering consultant or a food and beverage consultant or a food service consultant. Of course, it makes sense that people not involved with restaurants, cafes, bars and the like do not fully understand what a catering consultant does as they typically will not have needed to consider engaging with such a vital service.

Who would use a catering consultant and why?

However, there are also a considerable number of people responsible indirectly or directly with workplace canteens, museum cafes and restaurants, park cafes, university catering facilities, visitor catering at historic properties and wider visitor and attraction catering, business restaurants, theatre cafes and bars, art centre cafes, employee dining, gallery restaurants, stadium catering, care home catering, extra care catering provisions, retail cafes, restaurants and the high street – the list really is really very extensive. What is quite amazing is that there are many of these people working as Facility Management Directors, Museums Directors & Executive Directors, Commercial Managers, Finance Directors, Estate Directors, University Campus Service Managers and Chief Executives that are responsible for catering services although often without food and beverage expertise or an awareness that an independent catering consultant or food service consultant could support them with specialist catering advice.

So what is a catering consultant?

So what is a catering consultant, food service consultant or food and beverage consultant? Depending on who you ask you may get a slightly, or very different, view of what a catering consultant or food service consultant is. For many even the different terms ‘food service consultant’, ‘catering consultant’ and ‘food and beverage consultant’ can mean slightly different things and for others it is, largely, the same service with a different name…

Independent Catering Consultancy

Our definition is based on the independent catering consultancy services that we provide and our experience of over 20 years providing catering consultancy, food and beverage consultancy and food service consultancy services – we use the terms interchangeably.

A catering consultant or food and beverage consultant is an appropriately qualified and experienced professional providing independent catering expertise and advice for a specific assignment and defined scope for an agreed fee. For us, Montfort Catering Consultants, the independent element is critical. For example, we believe it would be inappropriate and totally unethical for us to work for say a contract caterer and then to work for a large insurance company, bank or other corporate client on a catering tender which may also include the catering company that we had previously or were currently working for. The same is true across all the sectors that a catering consultant may work. When selecting a catering consultant, food service consultant or food and beverage consultancy, we believe it is essential to establish that they are independent and have no potential conflict of interest.

Market Led Catering

Montfort Catering Consultants’ view is that the starting point for all food and beverage operations is that they must be market led or customer centric. After all, if the catering doesn’t meet and exceed a defined group of customers’ expectations then it will not succeed. In fact, we have three key elements that we apply to all catering consultancy assignments:

  • Customer Centric – Our empathetic customer centric approach supports creating a sense of place for the food and drink operations that we are asked to improve and develop.
  • Commercially Sustainable – As specialist catering consultants we are able to provide greater assurance to the long-term success of your catering operation through the provision of expert knowledge and advice.
  • Culturally Sympathetic – Our catering consultants ensure that the catering is culturally sympathetic and relevant to the wider aspirations and activities of the organisation as well as being appropriate to the venue design and style.

Catering Consultancy Advice / Café Consultancy

Different catering consultancy companies often provide different catering consultancy services, which typically could include:

Catering Advice to Improve Existing Catering Facilities – Catering Operational & Financial Review or Catering Audit

This could, typically, involve catering operational support and advice to improve the performance of an existing café, restaurant or other catering facility.

Food & Beverage Advice to Develop New Catering Facilities or Extend Existing Restaurants, Cafes, Bars and other Catering Services

A catering consultancy may also provide food service advice to help set up a new catering facility or develop / extend existing catering services. Planning new food and beverage facilities presents a series of questions, including: Who will the customers be and how many each day? What’s the competition? Where are the market gaps and opportunities? What type of catering is required? Where should it be located? What’s the business case? How do we benchmark what is possible against peers in our sector? How should it be managed? Or even, should we really have a café, bar or restaurant or is not viable?

Catering Management Options – In House or Contracted Out / A Lease or A Franchise?

You may well have an existing café or restaurant or be in the process of developing new catering facilities and as such a catering consultant can advise and support how the current or future catering services should be managed. This is also likely to involve considering options and determining if it should be managed ‘in house’ or by specialist catering provider.

Catering Consultant Services / Restaurant Consultant Services

Catering consultancy services can include, and specifically the ones we provide are as follows:

Catering Options Appraisals & Feasibility Studies

  • Catering Options Appraisals
  • Catering Feasibility Studies
  • Market Research & Trend Data
  • Catering Strategy Development
  • Catering Benchmarking
  • Financial Modelling & Business Plans
  • Concept Development
  • Working with Design Teams

Catering Operational Advice & Support

  • Catering Operational Reviews & Development
  • Catering Quality Performance Audits
  • Catering Financial Performance Reviews
  • Operational Efficiency & Business Improvement
  • Operational Development Plans & Implementation
  • Market Research & Customer Profiling
  • Catering Benchmarking
  • Marketing Strategies & Planning

Catering Operator Tendering, Letting & Management

  • Catering Contract Options Appraisals
  • Competitive Catering Tendering & Evaluation
  • Catering Expressions of Interest
  • Catering Soft Market Tests
  • Alternative Catering Management Options
  • Catering Contract Management, Monitoring & Renegotiation
  • Caterer Performance Management Meetings
  • In house Development, Set up & Operational Support

Selecting a Catering Consultancy

What else should you think about before you select your catering consultant?

  • Does the catering consultant have relevant operational experience and knowledge – remarkably many do not.
  • Do they have appropriate qualifications and accreditations?
  • Is the catering consultant’s experience relevant and appropriate to your sector? Further, do they have other knowledge and expertise from other sectors that could be useful?
  • What are the deliverables that the catering consultant will provide?
  • Will the catering consultant you met at the proposal stage be the one who is doing the work?

If you are looking for catering advice or a catering consultant please do get in touch with us at Montfort Catering Consultants to chat about how we could support your catering facilities.

Posted on February 19th, 2019