There’s no doubt the catering industry is competitive — and that can make it hard to grow your business and increase your bottom line. So, how do you stand out among the masses and build a catering program that will have people booking your business for any event?
Let’s dive into some of the top best practices so you can boost your catering sales.
1. Get creative with your marketing
Traditional marketing, like print ads in local publications or e-newsletters, can help spread awareness for your catering business, but they’re initiatives that a lot of companies already implement. You want to stand out from your competition. Being creative and thinking outside-the-box when it comes to marketing will help you reach more potential clients and also create a memorable and authentic catering brand.
2. Market with a target
Honing in on a specific market segment or niche can really give you a leg up on your competition. Do some research on event planners and local businesses in your vicinity and what these groups are looking for. Consider your event types including corporate events, year-end bashes, bridal showers, and grand openings. Think about your menu offerings for different diets like dairy-free, vegan, and even gluten-free. By shaping your catering options around a specific market demand can really bring in a stream of relevant gigs.
3. Give an introductory taste
Sure, you probably know how to market your catering business through newsletters and social media. But, have you hosted tasting events? Building relationships with potential catering clients in person will allow them to see your presentation skills and try out your delicious menu items. The first step to hosting a tasting is to create a list of potential catering leads, including corporate prospects and engaged couples. Reach out with a fun, designed email and let them know the details for your tasting event.
Once they arrive, you can give them an introduction to your catering services, and then dive into the details of every menu item. Remember to have any brochures, takeaway menus, and business cards ready for your guests as they leave. To get the most out of your tasting, you can even offer a discount for the first event they book with your catering company.
4. Set expectations and build trust
To be successful in the catering industry, you need to get people talking about your company. To do this, you need to build trust with your clients. Learn what your clients are trying to accomplish and envision for their event. Be flexible and try to add small details in order to meet their expectations.
5. Capture the walk-ins
While you may take most catering orders over the phone or via your website, we bet there are a few customers who still like to visit your business in person to book their event or party. Train every member of your staff to handle catering requests that happen in-store, and prepare them to answer any questions that may come their way about your catering program.
When every team member is able to help walk-in customers book catering orders, it will keep your business organized and running efficiently. Remember that while not everyone who walks through your doors is looking to place a catering order (especially if you’re a restaurant), there’s an opportunity to turn your regular diners into catering clients.
6. Impress with your proposals
Part of your sales strategy must include spot on proposals and contracts or BEOs. Think of these documents as a way to highlight you as the perfect catering team to execute their event. Include a branded and personalized letter that highlights your client’s event. Make sure these documents are digital and custom to your client’s specifications.
You can include a heartfelt About Us section, amazing photos of your space, client testimonials, F&B, pricing, timelines, policies, and other important run sheet details. While a lot of information, make sure that your docs are easily read and scannable.
7. Reward customers who refer
While repeat business is great, acquiring new catering clients will help grow your business and build your brand. One great way to do this is to leverage your current customers with a referral program. Email or call every customer after their catering order is delivered to see how everything went and how they enjoyed it. When you reach out to them, ask them to send you a referral. You should also create a page on your website dedicated to your referral program that makes it as easy as possible for current customers to submit a referral.
Remember: it doesn’t have to be expensive to make an impact. A simple $25 gift card for every catering referral that’s submitted (and actually turns into an order) can make all the difference.
8. This one menu item can make a difference
The menu item that can help you boost catering sales? Everybody knows and loves it: the sandwich. That’s right — simply having sandwiches on your catering menu can help you reach new clientele during times you wouldn’t normally be booked. Think about office boxed lunches.
While having sandwiches catered in bulk does offer its fair share of challenges (like how do you keep the bread from becoming soggy?), the rewards of reaching new casual customers are worth it. Plus, this key menu item will put you in line with the big players like Panera Bread.
9. Establish a loyalty program
Offering your catering customers a loyalty program designed just for them is a great way to grow your customer sales. You’ll attract fresh clientele as well as maintain a steady flow of business from repeat purchases. When developing loyalty incentives, make sure you understand your clients and order cadence so that you can accurately retarget them. Opt for programs that provide incentives on the number of orders placed, or the dollar amount spent. You could opt to provide discounts or free items.
When interacting with potential customers during the sales process, make a point to emphasize your loyalty program. This insight could potentially serve as a decisive factor in making the sale.
One of the key aspects of growing your catering sales is developing strategic partnerships. There is a huge opportunity for brand exposure and additional business. Think about networking with hotels, venues, breweries, wineries, tourist attractions, and more. Look for any venue that does not have their own F&B and could refer to you.
Reach out to venue event planners and develop a positive, reliable relationship so that they can send more business your way. Additional relationships that can prove valuable are local businesses that cater to events including florists and photographers. Distribute marketing materials, collaborate on social media campaigns, and consider offering bundled discounts to boost your business growth.
11. Leverage follow-ups
To build rapport with clients and boost business, consider what you do after the event is over. Sending a thank-you note about a week after completing a catering event is not only thoughtful but a good business practice to solicit feedback and pave the way for recurring sales.
If you receive actionable insights, take the initiative to implement them and inform the client about the changes. You want to demonstrate your commitment to enhancing customer satisfaction. This will help you continue to grow your sales.
12. Make it easier for yourself with software
If you’re keeping track of all of your catering orders with sticky notes or Google Calendar, know that these manual processes may be holding you back from making your catering business a success. Catering software, like TripleseatDirect, not only streamlines the way you accept catering orders, but it can save you time and energy so you can take on more customers and increase your sales. With digital BEOs, a lead form, and the ability to accept credit card payments online, cloud-based software can power your business. An added bonus? It will help reduce miscommunication between your team members, so you can get every order right.
Manage your catering orders with TripleseatDirect
TripleseatDirect enables restaurants and hotels to offer on-premise and off-premise events and catering to be booked by their clients, directly from their website, social media platforms, or EventUp. TripleseatDirect provides your customers with a simple online booking solution where they can book, plan, and pay for in-house private events, off-site catering, pickup, and delivery with zero friction.
If your venue isn’t using TripleseatDirect yet, be sure to book a demo.