So you’re a restaurant owner making the decision to start offering catering services and don’t have much of a budget for advertising. Chances are there are also some local restaurants that offer catering as well you’ll have to compete with. Marketing is not often an important consideration for small businesses but it’s often the difference between success and failure. Catering is a great way to gain market share for your business by increasing your customer base beyond the ones that come to your restaurant. In order to help you gain a competitive advantage through marketing here are some of the best ways to market your restaurant’s catering services.
The first step to marketing your catering business is do a competitor analysis. A competitor analysis is important as it allows you to see what your competitors are doing that customers expect, what they’re doing well and what they could improve on. While it can be unfeasible, a good competitive analysis would involve actually ordering your competitor’s services to see them in action first hand. However if that’s not an option looking at reviews and getting customer feedback is likely to be sufficient enough. You should also have a look at your competitor’s menu and check out what they offer at what price, as this should influence the creation of your menu.
Once you’ve got an idea of what you’re up against then the next step is to create the catering menu. The menu is perhaps the most important part of the marketing process as it will dictate how you go about your marketing activities and without it there would be nothing to market! The competitor analysis would have given you an idea of what prices your competitors are charging as well as what menu items to offer. There are some standard items that should be included in a catering menu such as cheese and crackers and other finger foods. Further to this a lot of effort should be put into thinking of some signature menu items that match the theme of your restaurant as this will set you apart from your competition.
As you’re making the decision on what to include on the menu make sure you choose foods that are easy to prepare in large quantities ahead of time such as stuffed chicken or pasta dishes. It goes without saying however that you shouldn’t stray too far from what you offer at your restaurant as this will hinder any cross-promotional activities and make it harder to get the business going. Once you’ve got your menu be sure to distribute it with every marketing activity you do. This includes posting it on social media and handing it out to customers or potential customers through direct marketing.
You should also know your audience as having an idea of who is most likely to respond to the message and targeting it to them will make it more effective. As you own a restaurant you should already have an idea as to what kind of people make up your customer base. At the very least your restaurant’s customers offer a base for market research which you can use to answer questions you may have about the target audience. Examples of the kind of questions you could ask include
What kind of events do our customers attend most frequently?
What kind of people come to our restaurant? Are they business people, families, etc.?
Did our customers find out about us on social media, through word of mouth, flyers etc.?
Knowing the answers to questions like these will tell you what the most profitable segment of the market is for your restaurant. If your customers tend to be professionals coming for dinner after work you may consider catering for corporate lunches and events or if your restaurant is more family oriented you may gravitate more towards weddings, kid’s parties and baby showers.
Another worthwhile idea is to partner with another local business that could stand to gain from your catering services. For example, you could partner with a business that has offices in the area and offer package deals for lunch and meeting catering.
With social media an unstoppable force in marketing it’s important to have a solid strategy that will break through the clutter and see your advertising reach the right people at the right time. As catering is a lot about the presentation of the food be sure to take good quality photos of your menu items, the buffets, table settings and the guests having a good time at the event. These pictures are what will grab people’s attention and make them take notice of your services. In addition to the pictures, be sure to actively use social media to communicate your menu, available dates and any promotions. Best of all, it’s free!