The catering industry is one with huge potential for profit. Most caterers start with passion but get dragged down by the realities of navigating the issue of food quality, hygiene standards, and logistics. With 39,635 registered caterers in the U.S., you have your work cut out if you’re going to stand out from the crowd. Making your catering business successful is a labor of love, not something that will happen overnight. Here are the best tips for turning your small catering business into a success.
Your Food Must Be Top Quality
Caterers must compete on food quality. However, low-quality food will only lead to customers turning away from your catering business.
Focus on foods that are pleasing to your target audience. That includes how they taste and how they look. Adding custom food serving products presented well creates an incredible first impression while also marking your catering brand out from the competition.
Most caterers start with a menu that’s too ambitious. Instead, concentrate on doing select dishes well before expanding in the future. Then, customize them in presentation and taste to make your mark.
Also, listen to your customers. Solicit feedback from them on their tasting experience. Then, if something is wrong, they will let you know.
You may have experience working as a server, restaurant chef, or as part of another catering business. The industry changes constantly. You need to accommodate the changes within the market if you plan on turning your business into a success.
All caterers need dedication and motivation to succeed. It goes beyond food. You need to know how to schedule, manage assets, and do accounting. Business owners wear many hats, and caterers are no exception.
Rent a Licensed Commercial Kitchen
Starting in a small way by building your catering business from your kitchen may seem like a smart idea, but this will quickly lead to you running out of space. Licensed catering kitchens give you the real estate you require to cook on a commercial scale.
Attempting to upgrade your catering business from home to a commercial facility on the fly is no easy task. If your business spikes in popularity, you’ll find yourself scrambling to please your customers.
Do Something to Make Your Brand Distinct
Catering brands cannot be the same as their competitors. But, as spoken about above, adding some customized touches to your business is crucial for standing out.
Focus on a niche, whether it’s a particular audience or a certain type of cuisine. Become known for one or two things, and you’ll attract the right crowd. Food is not just sustenance. It’s an art form.
Another option for standing out could include offering value-added services, such as event planning, personalized table arrangements, and so much more.
Remember Your Catering Furniture
Not everyone will have an established venue to serve your food. Therefore, catering furniture is crucial to include in servicing your customers.
Many of your clients will assume high-quality furniture comes as a standard aspect of the customer experience. However, there’s a reason why 66% of customers expect companies in all sectors to understand their needs.
Secure a high-quality supplier who can support your catering business quickly and effectively.
Improve Your Customer Service
Restaurants must excel in customer service to keep their diners coming back for more. The catering business is no exception. Your clientele wants to be serviced in the same way as any restaurant they might attend.
Pay attention to the details, consider what your customers are telling you, and look for areas where you can improve. After all, a whopping 96% of customers say that customer service is important when choosing their brand.
Set Smart Pricing
Setting your prices is often the most difficult part of any business. Should you opt for cut-price catering services to undercut the competition, or should you look to provide a premium service to your customers and jack the prices up?
You must weigh your gains and losses from all the moving parts of your business. First, make sure you’re adding up the hours, supply costs, and staffing.
There’s nothing wrong with using certain types of catering services as a loss leader, but your overall margins must be sufficient to achieve profitability and keep your cash flow in the black.
Promote Your Catering Business
No catering business has ever succeeded without a strong network. Attend local events in your area, and don’t be afraid to travel to attend major catering conventions.
Begin by creating your own website, launching a blog, and maintaining a select few social media channels to remind people you exist.
Promotion should also take place offline. Hand out business cards, think about billboard advertising, and don’t be afraid to advertise on local radio (it’s cheaper than you think).
Like every other aspect of your business, keep track of your performance and cull anything that isn’t succeeding.
Learn About Your Customers
Expecting to know what your customers want is an impossible task. So instead, learn about your customers and learn about your guests. Think about what they want to eat and their unique tastes. Consider the events you’re catering for and the types of dishes that are likely to go down a winner.
But what’s the best way to learn about your target audience?
Reach out to them. Too many catering businesses are afraid to ask directly if there’s something that could be improved. Instead, start a newsletter list and hand out your business cards with contact details. Take negative feedback in your stride and show that you’re interested in what your customers have to say by acting on their suggestions.
Your ideal customer will change with the times, so this is an ongoing process you can’t afford to let up on.
The catering business is a competitive one, but top-notch food and service will always win the day. The challenge is in launching your brand and achieving the exposure you need to bring in a constant stream of new customers.
Moreover, you need to keep control of the back end of your business, such as costs and capacity. Don’t be afraid to hire professionals with previous experience in this sector.
What are you doing to improve your catering business’s prospects?