Anyone can start a small catering business, but attracting customers is the hard part. Currently, there are more than 12,000 establishments in the United States catering industry. As a newcomer, you're competing against thousands of other business owners. Knowing how to get catering clients and earn their loyalty can make the difference between success and failure.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Food is one of the most popular topics on social media. Promote your small catering business on Pinterest, Instagram and other social networks to expand your reach and increase brand awareness.
Who Needs Catering Services?
The first step to promoting your small catering business is to define your target audience. This will guide your marketing efforts and give you a clear purpose. By narrowing down your focus, you'll be able to better address your customers' needs and improve your offering.
A catering company that appeals to local businesses, for example, will offer different products and market them differently than one offering event catering for weddings. As a small business owner, you may not have the resources to accommodate large events with hundreds of guests. Therefore, it's important to consider your budget and staffing needs when defining your audience.
Your clients can range from kindergartens and universities to gym goers and private households. You can also team up with small businesses in your area and deliver ready-made meals at discounted rates. Another option is to target customers with specific needs, such as vegans, vegetarians or low-carb dieters. Next, brainstorm marketing ideas and think about how to grow catering sales.
Partner Up With Complimentary Businesses
Depending on your target audience, consider joining forces with complementary businesses in your area. For example, if you offer services for weddings and other special events, you can team up with florists or event decorators. Ask them to recommend your catering business and do the same for them. Exchange marketing materials, work together on projects and help each other grow.
Another way to promote your small business is to contact local restaurant owners who don't offer catering services. This will create new revenue streams for both parties and increase your customer base. It's a win-win situation.
Leverage Social Media
Social media has changed the way we do business forever. The catering industry is no exception. Pinterest, for example, featured more than 5.7 billion food-related pins back in 2014, and this number has increased ever since. Sushi, steak and pizza are the most popular foods posted on Instagram.
Leverage the power of social media marketing to grow your small catering business. Share behind-the-scenes shots, food pictures, original recipes, how-to cooking videos, blog posts and industry-related news.
For example, if you prepare a special menu for one of your clients, take photos and post them on Instagram and Pinterest. Use relevant hashtags and keywords, write an enticing description and encourage your fans to reach out to you.
Set Up a Business Website
In this digital era, having a website is no longer optional for businesses. In fact, nearly two-thirds of small companies had a website in 2018. If you don’t have one, you'll be left behind.
A professional website or blog can make it easier to increase your reach. It's a cost-effective way to attract prospects, raise brand awareness and put your business on the map. Plus, it helps you build trust and strengthen your online presence.
List your website in local business directories like Merchant Circle, Angie’s List, Yelp, Google My Business and Yellow Pages. Create a compelling description that includes keywords related to your products and services. Use your city's name in keywords and key phrases to boost your rankings in local searches. Update your site with blog posts, pictures, videos and other types of content regularly and share your posts on social networks.
Promote Your Business Locally
Still wondering how to get catering clients? While social media is important, you shouldn't ignore traditional marketing channels. Distribute flyers and brochures in your community. Banner advertising can help too, but it's slightly more expensive. Attend local events, such as food fairs and trade shows, to connect with potential clients and spread the word about your catering services.
Depending on your budget, you may sponsor upcoming events and meetups. For example, if there's a business seminar taking place in your city a month from now, reach out to its organizers and offer your services. Another option is to volunteer to local events in exchange for promotion.
If you're asking yourself how to grow catering sales, consider offering a loyalty program. Reward your regular clients with freebies and special discounts, such as free dessert or free beverages. Set a lower price for large orders to make your offer more appealing. These strategies drive customer loyalty, leading to more sales and higher revenue.
- Dun & Bradstreet First Research: Catering Services Industry Profile
- Pinterest: How to Connect With Pinners Over Food
- The Telegraph: The Most Instagrammed Foods Around the World
- Clutch: Small Business Websites in 2018
- Brandon Gaille: 11 Delightful Catering Industry Statistics
- Impulse Creative: 3 Mouthwatering Marketing Ideas for Catering Company Owners
- Social Tables: Out of Catering Advertising Ideas? Time to Try These 4 Fresh Ideas
- Have business cards and sample catering menus available to hand out to potential clients.
- Don't be afraid to ask for someone's business.
- Creating a Web site where you can direct potential customers will allow you to showcase your work.
Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.