My sister and I have started a catering Company and are looking for some good suggestions on marketing techniques or ideas that people have used. Anybody do anything that has really worked for them?
Your sister and you started a Company good suggestions on good Managment system.
When I started my catering company, I had a open house at the C Of C and invited 200 business owners. I put out a Hors D' oeuvre buffet from 11am to 2 pm. I had my staff backing up the buffet so I could introduce myself to the guests and tell people what I have to offer for their catering needs. The other thing I think may be a good idea is, set up a table at your local farmers market with buffet pictures, or any pictures of what you have to offer. It may also be a good to offer samples of a good Hors D' oeuvre, it's a nice 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, they will remember you. .....................The best to you and you sister...........ChefBillyB
Chef Billy's CofC idea worked great for me as well years ago when I launced my first catering business in a small - medium size market. If you have been or intend to market through a website, I encourage you to contact this company http://www.theurldr.com/. They can help you target your local market very effectively. They cost money, but they will make sure what you spend is spent well.
Good luck with the catering
Well.... you will learn about event planners.
"Catering" is a pretty broad term, what is your target audience? Corporate? Weddings? Large functions? What do you want to do inbetween the larger gigs for bread and butter?
You best tool is your menu/list of services, as 90% of your customers will want to look at price before anything else.
But, you can't have a menu if you don't know what area you want to work in.
Hope this helps
Event planners for many of us are not viable options.....they can be way more trouble than they are worth.
So, Foodpump ran off some options that have open ended answers....target audience is a good idea, alot depends on where you are located.
Large city vs small town.
Fresh season/market driven menu vs stationary menus
Full service caterer (rentals, bar, servers) vs just food or just food and service
On-premise vs off-premise or both
Chef Billy has great ideas, farmers markets are a wonderful place to market yourself.....in STL there are about 10 different markets each having it's own clientel....not that there is not some crossover. So to market at a market you'd need great signage with logo, great display...you are selling your look, handouts if only cards, samples if they let you.
Non-profits have fundraising events, most have event co-ordinators who are practiced in ordering an event....which is wonderful. They typically have a budget in mind...they've done this before many times...once you are in, if they are happy, you have an ongoing gig.
Weddings, typically once in a lifetime....they don't have experience working with caterers...you have to walk them through EVERYTHING...it's also a great opportunity to upsell...give them options for additional shtuff they can get from you.
Corporate, ongoing gigs, usually have weird perimeters....those of you that do corp, could you shed light on what you do? I've cooked for schools and usually you have to keep up with payment. But it's easy, when you are in a system. Accepting credit cards is important if you work for pharm reps.
Social, they want to feel confident when you are working in there home. They want to KNOW everything is taken care of, they want to know that whomever is working the party is professional, they want to trust you.
Bread and Butter.....this is important.....this is what helps caterers pay for staff/overhead during lean times. It can be selling baked goods that you already are making for events to retail locations or if you have a store front out of your place. Cooking lunches for schools. Something that is regular and brings in $$.
Joining professional groups. Choose wisely and then when you do volunteer....get to know members, make sure you join the board if you can.
Be apart of the decision makers. Each group is different...look at their mission statements, talk to members prior to joining...
You'll only get out what you put in....
Meet your city's media people...read their work, get to know what they are looking for.....
When donating, make sure it's for something that you believe in....for me it's culinary education using local food....pretty simple, well defined.
Four suggestions for ideas that promote your brand very powerfully:
1.GROUPON: Register with them. Depending on what services you provide like catering and cooking classes
they may choose one to feature. If you haven't heard of GROUPON it has an amzing business model. They have
subscribers nationwide. You provide your service at a discount. Fro example for catering, you might offer
$500. value for $250. against catering services. Once the deal is accepted, they run your catering deal to approximately
100,000 people for 24 hours, they determine a tipping point where the deal is on if x amount of people purchase the deal.
If it doesn't tip, the deal is off. If lots of people purchase, you have to share 50/50 revenues. They collect the money, send customer the
GROUPON, mail you a check. The beauty is that there is a call to action for people to by your service in a short period of time (1 day or I think maybe three days)
You don't have the hassles of closing any deals. After you are successful, the clients are hopefully return customers at regular price.
If you sign up, you will get offers from other services and experience what it's all about.
2. You may have a kitchen company selling appliances that invites chefs to do a sampling to entice their customers into their showroom.
Ask if you can be on their featured chef calendar.
3. Create a chef tasting event once a month. Invite executives or their secretaries for a tasting betw two hours that work for you.
Feature healthy fare since this is a very hot trend that hopefully is here to stay.
4. Get on your local tv station and do a easy recipe. Since you have a very short tiime on the air, make sure you prep in advance so you can
swap out dishes and just make the suggestion of braising or cooking the item. Don't forget to bring enough food samples to feed the crew. A happy
crew will do a great job in showing you off in the best light. And don't forget to mention your website where customers can reach you.
All great ides and they all touched on just about every thing you need to know. I'd just make 3 suggestions
1. Media, you need to get them involved, publicity is gold.
2. Relationships, take extra care of the good ones and nurture the new ones.
3. In your first year don't turn any thing down (unless you smell a rat)
Remember "You are as good as your last job". Never, ever get it wrong
NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Stay away from GroupOn!
Seriously, work the numbers. You're looking at about a 75% reduction in revenue on each groupon sale v normal sale after the coupon discount and GroupOn's cut. You're not even going to cover your prime cost on that reliably, if at all. AND YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER HOW MANY GROUPONS ARE OUT THERE! They are like little financial landmines and booby traps, laying in wait to bust your cash reserves.
On my experience and hearing from others, coupon chasers have a poor conversion rate to repeat business (something that is hard enough in catering, as Shroomgirl pointed out re weddings), at least if you don't keep pumping the coupon crack.
My hunch is that you, as a caterer, will get higher percentage of people redeeming Gourpons then a retail food service would.
I also don't like creating situations where my revenues are being "floated." It's bad enough with merchant services...
IMO, you'd be better off renting a venue and/or concession truck and doing a one shot "25cent hamburger this day only" type event in order to grab eyeballs and tastebuds. At least that way you can control your costs. They've worked for others.
Putting aside Groupon's model, for a moment (and TinCup's comments about that are dead on), be leary how you use any sort of coupon service.
There is a well documented coupon personality. By and large, these are people who are concerned with getting by as cheaply as possible, and for whom quality is a secondary concern at best. They nit-pick everything, and nothing you do will be good enough. More importantly, the conversion rate is so low as to be non-existent. In short, you are offering a major discount to people who you'll never see again. In most cases coupons are counterproductive.
On the other hand, a coupon is a great way of testing the efficacy of media choices. A one-time "10% off with this coupon" sort of deal helps you determine if ads in X media are effective. In your case you can tie it to an ad that's also an announcement: "To celebrate our grand opening, XYZ Catering is offering a special introduction to the community. Blah, blah, blah....." It's a good idea to include an expiration date on the coupon. And, if you use more than one media, be sure and key the coupons so you know where they were redeemed from.
But, frankly, discount coupons are not the best way for caterers to go.
Re: Farmer's Markets. In case you're unfamiliar with the mechanics of farmers markets (and it's amazing how many food service people are), be advised that you don't just show up and open a booth. You have to be a member of the market, qualify by its rules (and boy, of boy, do they vary), and pay a daily fee for actually operating in addition to annual membership fees. What I'm saying is that using farmers markets as promotional tools may not be quite as simple as some make it sound---especially as more and more jurisdictions forbid food sampling.
There are lots of great ideas offered by other posters. I'm surprised, however, that the need for a great website hasn't been stressed. In today's world (and depending on your targeted market segment) that can be one of the key's to developing new business.
I agree with Mushroom girl, most of the so called planners don't know a darned thing about catering or cooking . I have thrown many of them out over the years. They are good for helping bride secure printing, dress shopping , bands, doing rehearsals, lining up bridal party etc. When it comes to food, listen to food people
Listen, if you meet a girl for the first time, and she's wearing a skanky dress, low-lowcut top, and hooker-boots, that is your first impression of trhe girl. Maybe she's a pysch major doing a study, maybe she's a on-duty cop, maybe a rocket scientist, but the first impression will always stay with you.
If you go with coupons, the people come for the bargain.
They don't come for the food, they don't come for the ambiance or dining experience, they come for the bargain. If you sell a $25.00 item normally, you will get less than $6.00 for this by using such a service. When people buy such a coupon they are mentally imaging only $12.00 for the meal, they don't think about taxes, tips, or beverages, and when they get their buts into seats, they are very reluctant to spend more than the $12.00. they had mentally imaged
I had my own catering biz for 12 years, and we foucsed on corporate catering, that is lunch and office parties to the offices.
My partner had a very good sales technique:
She would call up the office manager and arrange for a meeting, and would bring menus, price lists, and samples.
A lot of time and money effort spent for one client, but we kept some of those clients for years and years.
Your business, your choices, good luck.
The great debate on Groupon and discount services.
I am both a private chef and caterer who also offers cooking classes.
My groupon was for healthy cooking classes (menu will be app, entree and dessert)
Value $99, Groupon feature $49 less their 50/50 revenue share.
You are right that it's 75% from value
I decided on value high enoug to cover costs and get exposure to 98,000 subscribers specific to my area
Demographics are age 50+ (58%), 36-50 (31%), 26-35 (6%) with 70% women
Not featuring catering service discount (which I think if you structure it well you can offer value of $500. for $250)
with a minumum party of $2000. It's a better money maker for sure.
The advice from my web guy who is an SEO genius was that the ROI is better with GROUPON than Google's adwords
and ALL of his customers have enjoyed repeat biz from the limited 24 hour feature.
I also restricted the expiration to 4 months so I expire just before the high season in the catering biz.
Last point, I am working with a woman who is a PR expert who blasted out inviations to Young Women's league for a cooking
seriies at a local upscale kitchen appliance place who features chefs to bring poeple in. Her research is showing on
"What Women Want" is how to advice, news, digital content, connect and socialize, online coupons (even for the wealthy)
It's a way to get large exposure.
If you structure a GROUPON deal with Cooking Demos, you can squeeze more people in which I didn't think of until after I
agreed to the contract. I probably won't be featured until June. Won't know statistics until later. All cooking classes
ran about the same numbers (around 300 purchases with the exception of Carla from Top Chef- Value 170, groupon $85 with cooking
demo - that was smart; she received 467 purchases = $39,695!!!) Given those potential stats, with classes of 10 people - 30 classes can be scheduled for 3X/week (120ppl/mo)
and completed within 3 months. Plenty of room to do other biz. On top of that, if you have add on biz features like sauces, kitchen tools, spice rubs,
superfood supplements.....anything retail.....use this oppty at those classes to inc add on revenue streams. Potential for revenue in this case:
$7000+ possible addtl add-on revenues from a healthy product I sell. And I don't do the cooking, just supervise and inspire.
Let's put it this way....the 21st century requires a different marketing dynamic than ever before. And just when you think you've
caught up to date, it's changing again. We're in the business of "show business" .....culinary "show" and the other part "business".
If you're serious about staying competitive and/or a leader in the industry, it's about websites/SEO a must, strong alliances, making sure your customer's are
ecstatically happy (A recommended read: "Hug Your Customer") so they return for all their occasions, and ALL THINGS SOCIAL NETWORKING....
Flash Mob, Youtube, FB, Twitter, Blogs....Listen, I just want to be a chef, throw parties and forget about all this other marketing, writing articles and blogs.
But we are no longer just chefs/caterers .....but social networking creatures AND lawyers/contracts/attn to liabiliities for feeding people.
It's all how you structure the deal. Don't do anything in life that doesn't make you money or the respect in the industry. We are of service but we are not stupid servants.
(It's a line paraphrased from the movie Maid in Manhattan)
Interesting model with the classes for group on. I think it could be doable.
How are the classes structured? Is it going to be just one set of dishes and everybody tastes or does everybody get a meal?
Hmm, I should ask my dad too. He's been getting cooking lesson gift certs for the past couple years.
I'm typing very quickly here, for fear of a search-bot finding this thread and "love bombing" every C.T. member who operates a business with goopon sales pitches.
Look, I'd rather be called an idiot to my face rather than have it whispered and giggled behind my back.
Goopon and wannabees need you more than you need them. Yes, sure every business needs customers, but the only reason people subscribe to goopon is becasue of the heavy discounts or freebies offered on their cellphones. In every other business this cost, --getting the customer in the seat or in the store--, is part of the business's overhead. But with goopon it is fobbed off on it's customers, with goopon snickering and giggling behind their backs.
How do read into the business practice of insisting that a customer must drop his prices by 50% and then from that, give another 50% to them as the copst of doing business? Arrogance? Scam artists? There's a sucker born every minute? Definately no respect for the customer.
True, you can argue that a business can artificially inflate it's prices by 100% or greater in order to cover a goopon campain. If I did that, the majority of my customer would drop me, telling me that I have no respect for them.
You can argue that doing business with goopon and the wannabees makes sense, that the demographics and monthly sales figures add up.sale. And it probably is true, but I really don't want to discuss this point.
But for me, it's like accepting a meal from someone who snickers and giggles behind your back, and keeps a straight face when they talk to you.....
it's marketing.....if it brings new customers through the door it's as good or better than paying to be in a food show/event/whatever other marketing you pay for......because they came through your door, not ate your shtuff somewhere else.
I beg ti differ. Groupon, as well as other coupons, is advertising, not marketing. As long as one clearly understands the financial impact, coupons may, or may not, be an effective form of advertising, but coupons are not marketing, IMHO.
If discounting you price by 50% and then paying someone else another 25% to distribute the coupons makes sense to you, then Groupon, etal, may be an effective approach for advertising. The results are the same as a "buy one, get three free" campaign as far as the return to the seller.
Back to the original question which was about marketing strategies. The C.T. board has provided several ideas for marketing. P.McCraken is correct that there is a diff betw Marketing and Advertising.
Marketing is a mix of activities....a process that takes time to uncover what works best for your goods, services, demographics, time of year. We have all tried a variety of activities to invite customers to use our services -- discovering which strategies returned the best ROI, which didn't and which bombed altogether. Advertising is that paid announcement, a single component of the marketing process whether as Shroomgirl points out can come from radio, direct mail, tv commercials, internet/adwords, those frequent flyer miles, food shows, chef tasting events. And it is the largest expense of most mktg plans.
That said, Groupon may or may not be valuable depending on the structure of the deal. Not recommending it as a repeated advertising tool but a "new tool" in the 21st century. I am interested in exploring what moves/inspires/responses to call-to-actions for people in my demographics.
We are experiencing a differnet buying pattern in 2011 where customers are cutting back in goods and services - DIY, Costco possibilites, drop off services. More products including LUXURY ITEMS are offered on sale at a discount, albeit even for a short amt of time. What the C.T. board does briing up in this forum is the "discounted" philosophy and developing this consumer marktet culture. I do consider that if this particular business model spreads to other competitors, and people in the catering business continue to respond, there could be a forever (non-ending) stream of businesses offering discount services and create a buying pattern vs competitive bidding for a project. That would mean that consumers could conceivably wait every month for the "featured" caterer offering an amazing discount and then book their event. And no caterer would even consider compromising quality in that situation too. That could potentially be a devestation to the industry if this particular biz model spreads.
I certainly appreciate all considerations and back to the original post, offer ideas that have worked and are being tried.
interesting.....will $$$$ make a difference in high end catering, and to what extent? If you get discounted food/services will it trump long standing clients who have been happy doing business with you?
How many times within the past year has someone you worked for requested a lower-budget event?
Is there a difference in small dinner party pp$$$$ now than in the past (go-go spending the ceiling) years?
How many times have you planned events that don't cover a meal hours.....2pm-4pm, ish....?
Heavy aps vs a meal, or cheese and sweets, or an open house type reception?
Groupon and catering....IMO needs to be really defined.....
In one ear and out the other.....
Goopon needs "fresh meat" in order to stay popular. To do this, it's main tactic is to offer something free or heavily discounted--but not coming out of their expenses. The advertiser is giving up all profit and a lot of his overhead costs per goopon customer in order to use this service, goopon is not sacrificing one dime, rather, goopon will cover their expenses and generate a profit. Can you please acknowledge this point?
Q: Has goopon done any investigating to show that thier service generates any repeat (genuine) customers?
However, once a merchant does a deal with goopon, s/he is inundated with offfers from other similiar services. It's a common enough problem, and it's why when I donate money, product, or time to charitable organizations I specifically request that my donations be anonymous. I know from experience that if my business name is attached to such donations, it will not attract genuine business, only more requests for donations.
I agree...stay away from groupon.
With our catering business we have found high end department stores offer snacks or "tastey tuesday" to their patrons. It is generally a give away promotion but it's a great way to get some business cards out there to some high end spenders. We do this with high end furniture stores or department stores too.
I found in addition to social media websites, that social networking sites are good too for contacts which can lead to publicity. Linked in is great. I'm a member of a group that's local to me. www.FoodBritain.com, which is for networking for people in the industry as well as some people outside of it. If there's a website similar to that near you, it could be a good bet.