Things have come full circle for Adam Byatt, career-wise. “My first ever business was cooking for private parties with my wife,” the chef says from the kitchen at Trinity, his restaurant in Clapham Old Town. Since his start as a private chef, Byatt has added food writer and television host to his resume and runs three London restaurants: Trinity, Bistro Union, a mashup of French bistro and British classics, and Upstairs, Trinity’s casual sibling with small plates and a la carte options. His latest venture, an off-site catering business called Trinity at Home, is bringing the chef back to where his career started, creating menus and experiences for private parties.
“I get a lot of requests to cook for parties so it was another way to engage with our guests,” he says. As with all of his businesses, Trinity at Home stays true to the chef’s food philosophy of ”celebrating British ingredients and cooking them in a French style.” Guests get the same Trinity-quality food that they love and it’s fun. “We do our food, our style, our way and it’s kind of a throwback to my first days,” the chef says. “It’s a nice little thing that chugs along next to our restaurant business.”
Creating off-site catering options for guests is a great way to add another source of revenue to an existing restaurant operation. Below, we talk to chef Byatt about how he and his team started Trinity at Home and his advice for operators who are thinking of adding off-site options to their restaurant.
Fans of your brand can be your off-site customer base
Your regular guests are already fans of your food and therefore the perfect base of consumers for off-site catering. One of the reasons Trinity at Home has been successful is because they’ve stayed true to their brand, Byatt says. He advises restaurant owners to make sure that their off-site business is “relevant” to what they’re doing in their restaurant. “What you do must be consistent to what you do and what they buy into.” Before launching, Byatt and his team used Trinity’s restaurant newsletter to let guests know about the launch of Trinity at Home. “We already had a database of 30,000 people to reach out to,” he remembers. If you have an existing base of customers, reach out to let them know about your off-site offerings.
Use what you have in-house
When deciding to start off-site catering, Byatt used what was available in Trinity. “We had about 30 settings of cutlery after getting new stuff and I thought, ‘that’s a nice number to start with’,” he says. He also used printed materials from the restaurant to visually connect the brand to the off-site business. “We used our menus and everything we had that was branded at our events.” Instead of purchasing new equipment for off-site events he used what was available which lowered his startup costs.
Byatt also isn’t afraid to use what’s going on in his restaurant as inspiration.“We keep off-site super seasonal and keep the menus close to what’s going on the menu in the restaurant.” This not only makes ordering easier, but also streamlines prep. “It’s easier for the kitchen,” he says.
Find the ‘right’ customers and over communicate
When Byatt and his team started Trinity at Home they did their best to accommodate every off-site request that they received. After a “trial and error period”, the team realised that they needed a bit more control when deciding which events they would accept or decline. “In the beginning we rolled with the punches and now we have guests send us a picture of their kitchen before we accept,” he says. Pictures enable Byatt and his team to plan the evening and communicate that plan to the host of the event so everyone is on the same page. “We’ve been careful to make sure they’re the right guests and we walk them through it so they know what’s going to happen.” This means a more enjoyable event for everyone.
Make sure you deliver
When creating an off-site catering business, it goes without saying that you need to deliver the best in terms of service and product, but also remember that you’re providing a one-of-a-kind experience. “You’re cooking but you’re also providing entertainment,” Byatt says. “Make sure you deliver because once you’re in someone’s house you’ll hear about it very quickly if you don’t.” One of the ways that Trinity at Home continues to deliver is by taking detailed notes on every single event and revisiting the notes frequently. “We look through our notes with the guests and see what they like,” he says. “It’s all about providing the best experience possible.”
Creating an off-site business is about creating another way to engage with your diners, Byatt says. “Make sure it’s consistent and don’t ever treat it like it’s just delivery,” he says.
Photos courtesy of Stefan Johnson