You’ll need to learn how to promote your new venture effectively whether you’re starting a catering business from home, or adding a new revenue stream to your existing restaurant. Providing catering services can be incredibly lucrative, especially during wedding season, during the summer, or around the holidays, when people are hosting parties and less inclined to prepare food for themselves. The first step to launching your catering empire is choosing your niche and designing your menu, but it doesn’t matter how amazing your canapés are if you can’t market it effectively (a listing in the Yellow Pages won’t do the trick, anymore).
We’ve Outlined These Seven Creative Ways to Promote Your Catering Services:
Build Your Word-of-Mouth Network and Referrals
If you want to attract clients, you either need to have existing customers, or attend their events, or have their friends, family, or associates attend their events. An event’s service is the best indicator of whether or not it will be successful. Creating an experience can be tough to convey solely through photos and website copy, especially if you’re assisting someone in crafting it.
Encourage your clients to refer you to anyone who may be in need of your services. Make sure you leverage the attendees at events you already cater, as well; a small stack of business cards on the bar or in the waiting area adds a subtle touch to advertising your services in real time to guests who are already aware of your company’s quality.
Make Use of a Blogger Army
When it comes to marketing, caterers are not leveraging their most powerful asset: The army of content-starved food and event bloggers, who can produce compelling content for a fraction of the price.
Sam Kerns gives advice on how to nurture these relationships in his book, “How to Start a Home-Based Food Business.” For example, he says, “a general caterer could offer recipes and tips on recipe blogs.” Caterers with a focus on cakes, however, should reach out to wedding and event blogs.”
Reaching out to bloggers begins with an email; most include contact information on their site or a “How to Work With Us” page somewhere on their site. Start local; food bloggers who live where you do can create powerful small business promotions unique to your community
Using Social Media to Build Your Visual Brand
Social media is widely used for conducting business these days, so it makes sense for your catering company to have appropriate social media channels. It’s a good idea to include Instagram and Facebook, where you can share stunning photos from events and glamor shots of your best dishes.
Set up a few themed boards on Pinterest, such as weddings, family reunions, and Christmas parties, that correspond to the niches your catering business serves.Set up a few themed boards on Pinterest, such as weddings, family reunions, and Christmas parties, that correspond to the niches your catering business serves.
Become a “Preferred Vendor” on Venue Lists
There is typically a “preferred vendor” list maintained by most major venues that rent their space, such as banquet halls, meeting spaces, and even outdoor venues. These lists are given to customers who may need to book the space or find caterers. It is even possible that some event spaces may require their clients to choose a caterer from their preferred vendor list, so your business should be on that list.
Depending on your local catering market, this list may already be full of “big names. Providing an alternative to some of your area’s more established brands by including your company as a “small” or “value” caterer could be a good idea.
Farmer’s Markets in the Morning
There are differences from town to town, but many farmers’ markets have a lack of food options.
Young professionals want to buy organic rainbow radishes in the morning, and chances are they’ll be hungry while they browse the produce and talk to farmers. Providing small, tastable portions of one of your signature dishes (such as slices of cake or pie, for instance) is a great way to reach out to potential customers and demonstrate the quality of the food you are producing. You’ll want to make sure your booth is stocked up with business cards and a catering flyer, and take-away marketing materials to give to all of your new contacts.
Serve a Few Samples to Local Businesses
If your city or town has a concentrated “Main Street” area with many local businesses, this is a great option. Offering small samples of your catering operation’s products to local businesses and offices is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Most small businesses are seeking caterers that can handle their catering needs. The front desk is where we put our served food. Focus your charms and attention here.
Identify Complementary Businesses and Form Partnerships
You can promote your catering business by finding a florist that will list you on their vendor list, recommend your service, or even let you post marketing materials in their store.
Consider partnering with your local party rental store if you’re a caterer looking to enter the “birthday and reunion” event space. It is common for small businesses to assist complementary services to get their foot in the door, particularly if those services do not compete directly with theirs.