Catering is one competitive son of a bun! Starting a catering business means going to battle with hundreds of other caterers who are all trying to get the biggest bite out of the pie. To stand out from the crowd, it’s fair to say that you’ll have to make your food and service rise above the rest. However, your food is not your only important business ingredient. Marketing your business will also be a major component in your success.
If you’re cooking up a new catering business, here are five catering and restaurant marketing ideas to help make your business the cream of the catering crop:
1. Get Personal
Connecting with people is the key to your success and finding ways to impress people is vitally important. Networking with wedding planners, golf clubs, sports clubs, exhibition centers and bridal shops, to name but a few, may seem obvious but is such an essential component of your business.
Please remember that when connecting with people, being a wallflower doesn’t work. You have to visit businesses and introduce yourself and tell them what you have to offer. Ask to leave your cards or menus in their shops; offer to give a discount to their clients if they refer you.
I would even suggest going one step further by using your food to get into the minds and stomachs of local businesses by taking some of your food along and giving them a taste of what you’re capable of. Freebies can make a big difference when selling your catering. People are far more likely to remember you, especially if your food is delicious.
Building real relationships with businesses in your local area takes great salesmanship and effort. Be prepared to put the work in.
Here are just a few ideas for local targets to personally network with and to deliver menu mailers to:
- Law offices – visit law offices and hand out your menu, as well as a coupon for a free meal. Invite the receptionist to sample your lunch catering menu. Legal teams are a great target market because of long depositions and late hours. There is often a need for catering in law offices throughout the day and evening.
- Ad Agencies – like law offices, large ad agencies tend to work long hours when they have a campaign to work on. They often don’t want to break focus and regularly outside cater for corporate events.
- Banks and financial offices – financial institutions represent a lot of workers who work closely together. Banking hours are often long and they have a definite need for outside catering. They are also big on corporate events and meetings.
- Consumer market – weddings aside, this is one that’s often overlooked by caterers who want to concentrate on the corporate sector. Why? There is such massive potential in family reunions, graduations, bar mitzvahs, picnics, birthdays, etc. I would argue that sending local mailers out to affluent areas with menus and service details is a catering business necessity.
2. Tastings and Open Houses
Most catering companies will do occasional bridal tastings. But it’s also important for your business that you reach out to the corporate community with these events. Create a small and intimate tasting with 10 or more really good and qualified leads and make a major impression through your exemplary food and service. Make this a regular event that you plan and organize for, and make it a major part of your marketing strategy.
In a similar vein, you can also reach out to local businesses through less targeted “open house” functions in which you invite 100 or more business owners for an hors d’oeuvre lunch buffet. This is more of a catch-all approach but by systematically courting certain business area postal codes, industrial complexes and office towers, you can start to build a reputation for these types of events and for excellent food and service.
3. Fairs & Farmers
For a catering business, bridal fairs should not be your only target. You should also consider fairs for industries that include, legal, architecture, financial, marketing and advertising, TV and production (which is one of the top industries to target and represent a massive opportunity) and other segments. These segments regularly have conferences and meetings that require event coordination and planning and typically invite vendors in to showcase the services they can provide. Having a stand or tasting area at one of these events can help grow your business and Rolodex of major clients. Make sure you have plenty of menus and price information with you to pass onto your potential clients.
You should also consider setting up a stand at your local farmers market. Set up a table with buffet pictures and offer samples. It’s a super way to introduce yourself and start a conversation. Everyone walking through the farmers market either knows someone who is getting married or has catering needs at one time or another. Leave a good taste in their mouth and they will remember you. It’s also good to be part of a community of businesses. Getting to know all the other suppliers and vendors is also a smart business move.
(On a side note, in case you’re unfamiliar with the mechanics of farmers markets, be advised that you don’t just show up and open a booth. You have to be a member of the market and qualify by its rules.)
4. Press Releases
Press releases are for big corporations and marketing people, right? Actually, this is wrong. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t utilize this method to distribute information about your burgeoning business to your locale. With small releases you don’t even necessarily need a company to help you with the distribution and you can pick and choose your media outlets such as community bulletins, the event section of local newspapers, culinary magazines, and bridal journals (although it may help you to get a professional release wired on- and offline by companies such as Marketwire).
Here’s how to create your press release:
- Write up your own press release to inform the local media that you are opening your catering business.
- Target all the local news sources and outlets. Make sure you include your contact information and list your web address.
- Include information on your personal history, your education, your experience in the culinary industry and why your business stands out from the rest. Include as many interesting anecdotes or character descriptions as possible to try to make yourself and your business seem newsworthy.
- Write the press release professionally and in third person.
The trick is to try to have a point-of-view or information to sell. If you are involved in something truly newsworthy, such as a catering for famous celebrities, major charities, or sports events, or you are serving something outrageous or controversial, make a point of it in your release.
5. Pimp Your Catering Ride (and your company)
Branding is so important for your catering business. As a business that relies on a higher level of style and sophistication, a poor catering brand image is company suicide.
Just look at the way food trucks brand and market themselves nowadays! They sport cool and sophisticated graphics. Think of your own truck in these terms, whether it’s purely for delivery or you run your business from your truck, you need to give people the impression of style and excellence.
Make sure this same level of sophistication is reflected in your menus, mailers, brochures, letterhead and other print items. A catering business should look amazing from the food you present on your table to the letter you send out to a client. Unless you are also a graphic design genius, make sure you get your logo and brand image designed by a professional. It will pay off in the long run.
- We work with hundreds of catering and restaurant companies. For excellent print products, graphic design services, and superior customer support, check out our website for all your menus, brochures, presentation materials and other print products.