Anyone who is in the catering business is aware that it is extremely competitive. Individuals or groups that are interested in having a party or affair catered have many options from which to choose. Numerous restaurants offer catering as a way to increase their bottom line. There are also companies that specialize in catering without having a restaurant or food truck business involved. According to a report, the U.S. catering business topped 967 million dollars in 2017. There is a lot of money to be made in catering.
With multiple catering choices available to the public, your business runs the risk of getting lost in the shuffle. You need a strategy that can attract new customers and that will ensure that your current clients use your services the next time they have an event. After all, you didn’t get into the catering business with the intention of failing!
Here are five ways that you can help your catering business stand out from the competition and win more new and return customers.
Brand Your Catering Vehicle
Take a look around at a location where food trucks congregate, like a busy mall or office park. What you will see is a variety of designs and digital signage that make it easy to distinguish between the various operators. Imagine there are twelve trucks lined up and eleven of them are indistinguishable except for the name and menu options. They are all painted white, except for the bright red truck with the large and distinctive logo. Everyone will be tempted to check it out just because it looks so cool.
A similar tact can be taken with your catering business. If your catering business is associated with your restaurant, then you already have a brand that you can use and grow, but any catering business should strive to have a branded vehicle like a food truck business plan.
Why deliver and serve out of a nondescript truck when with a little creativity you can travel to your events and show up making a memorable impression. Try looking for used concession trailers for sale by owner and hire some local artists to go wild on it. It’s a great method to turn a necessary component of your business into an incredible marketing tool.
Marketing and Social Media
In addition to the free advertising you will receive every time your truck drives around town, you will want to engage in other marketing tactics to gain a competitive advantage. If you don’t have a website, you’re way late to the party. Get one up right away. If you do have one and it hasn’t been updated in more than two years it is probably time for an overhaul. Hire an expert in search engine optimization (SEO) to take a look at your site and modify it so you rank higher in Internet searches.
Social media rules the day and to ignore it can lead to serious negative consequences for your catering business. Concentrate on the social media platforms that your customers frequent and get involved. Your customers will see you as tech-savvy and that may earn you some new clients who value that in a company. Use your social media presence to directly promote your business as well as offering planning tips and photos from successful events.
Provide Exceptional Food and Customized Menu Options
The bottom line is that the entity that hired your catering service wants their guests to enjoy the food and beverages that you will be supplying. Be absolutely certain that you do not disappoint them! You are playing to a large audience of potential customers and you want to give them all your best. The quality of the food you serve should never be a reason for a customer to complain.
Offering customized menus can be a great way to distinguish yourself from the McDonalds menu and a multitude of competing caterers. Rather than going with a one-size-fits-all mentality where your choices are limited to a standard style menu, let your customers have some input. Cooking a special dish for an event indicates that you are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that your clients are fully satisfied.
Develop Personal Connections
Developing relationships with local event-oriented vendors is a great way to get attention for your catering business. Networking with individuals in key businesses can be an excellent way to give your catering business a distinctive presence in the community. This will probably lead to increased business through word of mouth and promotional materials that you can distribute through your contacts.
There are many ways to leverage your network to grow your business, but you need to be willing to put in the time and work. Make it your business to know the owners of all the local florists, bridal shops, party planners, and hotel or event halls in your area. Visit their establishments in person, perhaps even with a small sample of your offerings. You can ask them to allow you to leave unique business cards in their offices. A discount that you offer specifically for clients that they refer to you can go a long way toward building a mutually beneficial business relationship.
Train Your Professional Staff
In a catering business, service is paramount to success. Your servers should have top notch training to deliver high quality service and experiences to guests. If your staff can efficiently hand catering events from 10-100 people, the business will receive many referrals. The complete catering services staff is the face of the company. Invest in their performance and it will make your catering services stand out to everyone at the event.
Free Tastings and Open Houses
Bridal tastings are a fairly common occurrence in the catering world but you can take that concept a step further by engaging the corporate community. There are a number of ways you can go about this. You can offer a small group of serious leads an extended tasting where the goal is to impress with your food and service quality. You can also have a more general and limited tasting that is open to a larger group of business owners. A lunch setting will work great for this type of tasting event where you can include a tossed salad, sandwiches and appetizers. This will almost certainly set you apart from your competition.
These are a few of the ways that your catering company can stand out in a crowded and competitive market. Use the same creative skills that you use to create a great dining experience to stay a step ahead of the competition.