Creating killer menus and delighting clients with unmatchable food skills is the easy part of business for most caterers. This is your passion and what you’ve built your company on. But, to generate bookings, you also need to know how to stand out in the current market and make more catering sales.
Luckily, we’ve got some great ideas to help you grow your catering business. Adding a personal touch to these tactics will help you better engage with new and existing customers and ensure repeat orders.
10 Great Ideas To Increase Catering Sales
You don’t have to be an expert catering sales manager or representative to master the suggestions below. They’re suitable for entrepreneurs starting out as well as businesses looking to expand and meet new sales targets.
1. Set Up a Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs have been around for many years, and for good reason. Businesses continue to introduce them because they offer clients exciting benefits. It’s these benefits that keep people returning to your company.
Besides encouraging repeat customers, a loyalty program can also attract new ones. As part of the sales process, highlight your program when engaging with people. Let them know about the potential benefits that lie ahead should they become clients and sign up for your program. You may well find this information acts as a tipping point to generate catering sales.
Ideas for your loyalty rewards could be discounts on future catering orders or certain free menu items clients can choose from. You could also assign loyalty points that tie into the number of orders a client places or how much they spend with you. Once they reach certain point tiers, they can earn certain benefits in line with their loyalty.
2. Try Niche Marketing
Appealing to a specific niche can give your brand a competitive edge. Some of the advantages of niching down include:
- Lower competition
- Increased brand loyalty
- Higher profit
- Greater credibility and trust
In the catering industry, you need to focus on a specific diner or client type and their diet of choice. For example, zone in on corporate events, year-end functions, bridal showers, or grand openings.
You could also provide alternative diet options on your menus. What we mean by this is things like dairy substitutes, a kosher menu, vegetarian and vegan food, and items that are gluten-free.
Ultimately, your customers will appreciate your efforts to incorporate these alternatives into your menu.
Of course, a good CRM will help you identify potential opportunities within your client and leads list. You can then develop marketing materials to send to them and work on building relationships that eventually land you sales.
Note that there are potential risks to only appealing to very specific markets. So, it’s crucial to do your research and ensure there’s enough opportunity to maintain a viable and sustainable business.
3. Offer Referral Rewards
An effective way to boost your catering sales efforts and find new customers is to get your current customers, who already love you, to do some of your sales legwork. Sign them up for your referral rewards program, where they can earn benefits by connecting you with new leads who purchase from your business.
Again, the reward options are endless. Besides the ideas mentioned above for the loyalty program, you can also issue vouchers or gift cards.
4. Take a Creative Approach to Marketing
Your catering style is unique, your business is unique, and you are unique - is this reflected in your marketing materials? Every catering company does its best to advertise its offerings and get new clients. So, do something no one else does to get your brand name out there.
When you add a memorable element, potential customers can get to know you better and get an authentic feel of your brand. For example, create an origami design that prospects unfold to view your sample menu. This is unusual and playful, and can get people talking about your company. In turn, you will potentially stay top of mind for the sale.
Another idea is to pay for radio adverts for your business. Most companies focus on digital marketing and don’t pay as much attention to offline marketing. So, you can dominate this space while reaching people in your area who may need your services. For more winning catering marketing ideas, check out our blog post.
5. Put Your Best Foot Forward With Software
Suppose you still take catering bookings manually or jot them down on sticky notes. Or perhaps you track catering orders on spreadsheets and calendars that aren’t connected. You might create proposals from scratch every time and wait to receive specific information needed to complete the document.
In these cases, you may be holding back your business from reaching its full potential. The processes delay your ability to secure business and are time-consuming to perform.
Using catering management software, or event management software, is a real game changer and can boost catering sales. This software automates time-consuming administrative tasks, such as collecting lead information, creating proposals, compiling BEOs, and sending follow-up and payment reminder emails. Customers can also make immediate payments after viewing their proposals.
Another helpful advantage of the software is everyone on your team has access to the relevant order information. You can reduce order errors and improve customer service - two significant success factors for generating repeat sales.
Not sure where to start with the software we’ve just talked about? Our post on free event management software highlights a few options you can test the waters with before committing to purchase.
6. Create Eye-Catching Proposals
A proposal is often the first formal document a potential customer receives from you. It provides a chance to win the person over with eye-catching imagery and professional notes.
Gone are the days of excel or word-based proposals. Now, most professional software systems offer built-in digital proposal templates that showcase your brand.
You can automatically populate the document fields with CRM information. Add your company branding and the details around your food service to help catering clients understand what’s on offer. You can also upload images of sample menus and catering set-ups to give people an authentic view of your services.
7. Hold a Tasting Event
Tasting events are great ways to build relationships with new and existing customers. They also encourage prospective catering clients to try before they buy.
As a starting point, turn to your niche list. What service do you want to promote, and who is the ideal customer to create buzz for? Once that’s decided, design an event invite and send it out.
On the day, do a complete catering setup to demonstrate exactly what you can do. Potential clients can get an idea of your food presentation and taste menu items. As an extra incentive, offer a discount on their next event when booking with your business.
8. Reach Out to Event Planners
Are you listed as a vendor with local event planners? These professionals always need caterers they can trust to handle the jobs they’re working on. Rather than hiring blind, planners usually pick suitable suppliers from their preferred vendor list.
Take the time to gather names of event planners and companies in the area. Hop on the phone with each person, send out your sample menus, and invite them to your tasting events to get on their radar. Talk about your pricing packages, how you handle staffing, and demonstrate your food skills. If you can convince the planners that you’re reliable and up for the task, they’ll reach out with relevant jobs.
9. Partner With Complementary Businesses in the Area
Event planners aren’t the only industry professionals you can list with. So many types of complementary businesses are involved in the events you work on - create a list of service providers in your area and promote each other when booking gigs. This could include florists, photographers, and DJs, among others.
Key to note here is you should know these brands by reputation or have worked with them previously before partnering up. This is to ensure you maintain your outstanding name in the area. Leave some marketing collateral at your partners’ offices, create joint social campaigns, and even package discounts to generate more business.
10. Follow Up Events With a Thank You and Feedback Request
A great personal touch to win favor with clients is to follow up with a thank you note a week or so after the end of your catering event job. The person will appreciate the gesture and realize how much their business means to you. Personal working relationships like this can help set you up to get repeat sales.
In the same note, ask for feedback on your service. If you receive insights you can take action on, do it. Then, let the person know you’ve implemented the change. Acknowledging input on an aspect of your service that had room for improvement shows that you’re willing to up your customer service game.
Our best advice for any catering sales manager is to find a unique angle to connect with your audience. Work on offering excellent service and getting repeat business. Loyal customers will spread the word about your company and lay a ground of trust with new customers who haven’t yet tried your offering.
If you’re keen to get your hands on winning event management software, give Perfect Venue a try. We offer a 14-day free trial to test the software and see if it’s a fit for your catering company.