PizzaRev has launched a catering program, joining a growing number of fast-casual concepts hoping to capitalize on off-premise business.

The first fast-casual pizza chain isn’t the first to offer catering. Your Pie, based in Athens, Ga., and Uncle Maddio’s, based in Atlanta, also offer catering options that bring pizza, panini and sides to larger groups.

Offering catering has become a differentiator within the increasingly crowded fast-casual pizza niche.

Unlike big pizza competitors Domino’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut, the fast-casual concepts tend not to deliver, arguing that their pies are best hot out of the oven — though most do a strong takeout business, and some use third-party delivery services.

Nicholas Eckerman, co-founder, president and chief operating officer of Los Angeles-based PizzaRev, said the addition of catering was a response to demand, as consumers increasingly look for quick and convenient dining options for home and school parties, special events and business meetings.

Fast-casual operator Chipotle Mexican Grill last year rolled out a new catering program, as have other Mexican chains in the segment. And pasta concept Noodles & Company is seeing success with its larger Square Bowls for feeding bigger crowds.

In a recent earnings report, Zoës Kitchen said catering contributes about 17 percent of sales. And Panera Bread is reworking its catering program into “large-order delivery,” with the addition of “delivery hubs” focused specifically on off-premise business.

Eckerman said he sees catering as having the potential to reach 8 percent to 10 percent of sales.

Pizza travels well when held correctly in warming bags, he said. And PizzaRev designed its kitchens to allow for catering production that won’t interfere with the flow of guests in the restaurant.

The concept’s pizza ovens, for example, have entry points at the front and back, so pizzas can be baked for catering orders by a separate production line.

The catering menu includes three signature pizza-and-salad packages, which can serve a medium-sized group of eight to 12 for $99, or a larger group of 13 to 18 for $139. A gluten-free crust and vegan cheese options are available. Desserts and drinks are sold a la carte.

Guests can also order individual customized pizzas if they choose, and they can pick up their meal or have it delivered and set up.

To help build the catering business, PizzaRev has hired a catering sales manager, Bibiana Deaver, who will work with the 10 corporate locations in Los Angeles and develop a blueprint for franchisees to offer catering.

PizzaRev currently has one franchised location, but the company expects to have 65 corporate and franchised units by 2015.

Eckerman said it remains to be seen whether PizzaRev will offer delivery for smaller orders.

“We haven’t ruled it out, but it’s not currently an option or something we plan to roll out,” he said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout