In today’s post, we’re going to talk about how to get more clients for your catering business.
Catering is a high-competition space, especially if you operate in a populated or high-income area.
While there are plenty of opportunities that catering businesses can take advantage of, it can be tough to convince potential clients to choose you over your competitors ‒ especially if you’re relatively new to the catering scene.
Whether you’re starting from zero or already have an established base of clients, this list of ways to get more catering clients will help you grow your business and bring in more revenue:
Event venues are probably the best clients a catering service can land.
First of all, the venues handle all of the promotional work. The only thing your catering service needs to do is show up and make the food.
The work from an event venue is also constant. You don’t need to worry about constantly finding new events that need food and service; the event venue will find those people for you.
Anyway, an excellent way to get new venue clients is to be on the lookout for new venues that open in your area.
If you hear of one that has recently opened for business, have your sales team reach out and ask if the venue needs a caterer. If they need one, ask if they’d be willing to sample your food, and potentially hire you.
There’s also a series of questions you should ask to determine if the venue is right for your catering business:
The key to this method of getting clients is being the first caterer to contact the new venue.
Some venues are started by people who haven’t worked in the catering industry before. If this is the case, they won’t have any preferred caterers in mind.
By being the first catering company to contact them, you stand a pretty good chance of nailing down a contract before your competitors even learn about the venue’s existence.
So, how do you learn about new venues before your competitors do?
The answer is simple: use Google Alerts.
Google Alerts is a simple tool that monitors the internet for mention of whatever keyword you tell it to look for.
To be instantly notified of new event venues in your area, simply type the following keywords into the Alerts box:
Event venues use a variety of phrases to refer themselves, and I’ve tried to include all of them in the above list.
Also, when you type in the keyword, you must include the quotation marks.
If you don’t, you’ll receive notifications for every word in your keyword phrase. As the phrase includes your location, you’ll get a ton of junk notifications that don’t help you.
You can also use Google Alerts to see what your competition is up to. Set an alert for your competitors’ business names, and you’ll stay updated on the types of clients they’re pulling in and any improvements they make to their service.
There are two sides to using social media to attract new clients: posting and listening.
The posting side of social media is the one most marketers talk about. And with good reason ‒ if you don’t post, you’re going to have a hard time getting clients.
However, knowing what to post is just as important as the posting itself. And the best way to learn what to post is to listen to what other players in your industry are posting.
Follow your competitors and keep tabs on their social media presence.
What types of content are they posting? What’s working best for them? By making a note of these things, you can improve your social posts and get more engagement and traffic to your website.
All of the digital marketing strategies in the world won’t bring you a single client if you don’t have a beautiful, SEO-optimized website to back up your efforts.
I admit that having an ugly website is better than not having one at all. However, with the extraordinary level of competition in the catering industry these days, your website needs to look modern and sophisticated.
Well, your website is one of the main things that potential clients will use to judge your business.
Most potential clients won’t be traveling to your physical premises before making a hiring decision. You run a catering company. In almost every circumstance, you’re going to be traveling to clients.
Therefore, the quality of your physical premises won’t play much of a role in getting new clients. The responsibility of making a great first impression falls to your website ‒ which means it needs to be flawless.
Before you run around making advanced changes to your site, you need to make sure the foundation is solid.
If you’re running on a janky, pixelated site that looks like a portal to the late 1990s, no amount of SEO optimization will make your website workable. Your design needs to be modern and fast so that potential clients take you seriously.
And modernity and speed start with using an excellent website framework.
That’s why I recommend using WordPress ‒ the most popular website framework in the world.
If you don’t have a website yet, or you’re using another framework, I recommend switching to WordPress.
It’s fast, it’s free, and it has hundreds of thousands of themes and plugins you can use to make your site look however you want ‒ without the need for coding experience.
Here’s an excellent guide from Themeisle on how to make a WordPress website: How to Make a WordPress Website ‒ The Ultimate DIY Guide
Once your site is set up, you should install a theme explicitly made for catering businesses.
These themes do cost money, but I recommend going with a premium theme for a few reasons.
First of all, premium themes tend to look better than free options. Because the developers stand to get paid for their work, they tend to put more effort into premium themes.
They also come with tech support from the developers as well. If you encounter any problems with your theme, you can reach out to the people who made it for help.
Anyway, here are some of the most popular WordPress themes made specifically for catering companies:
If these themes don’t fit your website preferences, I recommend going to ThemeForest and finding one that fits your company’s needs.
Many people who want to hire a catering business are going to turn to search engines like Google and Bing.
If you want to bring these eager searchers to your website and convert them into paying customers, you need to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics to rank your website higher in the search results.
SEO is a complex topic, and I can’t hope to cover every aspect in this article. I will cover the essential SEO techniques, though.
If you want a more thorough explanation of SEO strategy, I recommend reading Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to SEO.
When you’re creating your website, you need to be thinking about the search terms you want vital pages on your site to rank for.
As a catering company, there are three keyword categories you want to focus on:
There are quite a few directory and review sites that people use to find quality businesses.
Make sure your company has listings on all of them.
Not only will this make it easier for potential clients to find you, but the backlinks will also provide a small SEO boost.
Here’s a list of the essential sites you should create a business listing on:
The speed of your website is an important ranking factor. The faster your pages load, the more favorably search engines will view your website.
To see how fast your site is, you can use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. This tool will grade your website’s speed on a scale from 0-100. It will also offer specific tips for improving your speed.
A recent update to the Google algorithm means Google will be using “mobile-first” indexing when determining page rank. This means that the mobile version of your website is what Google will be looking at.
As such, it’s more important than ever to have a website that is responsive and mobile-friendly.
This is another reason I recommend using WordPress with a premium theme. WordPress makes it easy to build mobile-friendly websites and paid themes almost always come with a responsive design that changes based on the viewer’s screen size.
If you live in a more populated area, you probably see new buildings being constructed all the time. But unless those construction sites have a “Future Home of [business]” sign out front, you won’t know what the building will be until it’s nearly open for business.
Skip the waiting period and go directly to the source: the real estate developers in charge of the construction.
Ask them what the building is going to be. Is it going to be an event venue? Will it be a multi-use venue that events might be held at? Being proactive and contacting developers with these questions can give you a huge leg-up on the competition.
Nothing beats word-of-mouth marketing as far as cost and effectiveness are concerned. Most people trust the recommendations of their family and friends more than any other source.
One of the best ways to get people talking about your catering service is to get involved in your local community.
If your town has an event association, contact them and see if they need a caterer for an upcoming event. If they don’t need your services at the moment, tell them to give you a call the next time they do.
You can also set up a tent at a street fair or other town event. While the food you sell might not bring in much revenue, the simple act of getting out there and exposing people to your brand and food can be enough to start a word-of-mouth marketing campaign.
I also advise joining local event planning groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. The people who frequent these groups will have a regular need for a caterer.
Don’t join and start spamming promotions of your service, though. You must become a regular contributor to the group so that your promotional messages seem more organic and acceptable.
Your previous clients and almost-clients are your best source of new business.
Don’t believe me? Read these repeat customer stats aggregated by smile.io:
The best way to reach out to past contacts is via email. It’s personal and direct, but it doesn’t hold the same weight as a phone call.
Hopefully, you’ve kept the emails of the clients and prospects you worked with in the past. If not, it’s okay ‒ phone calls are still effective. You can also use social media to stay in touch, too.
Anyway, here are some specific ways you can use email and social media to stay in contact with former clients and prospects.
If you want to keep potential clients “warm” and more open to using your service, you should send out a regular email newsletter.
This newsletter can provide useful catering tips, updated information about your company, and anything else you want people to know.
Once you’ve built up a regular rapport with your email list subscribers, you can start asking them to either hire you again or refer you to someone who might want to hire you.
I recommend offering a discount to improve your odds of landing a new client.
As many of your potential clients will be businesses, connecting with them on LinkedIn is a fantastic way to maintain your relationship.
It’s not enough to connect with them and let the rapport fizzle, though. To keep your business near the top of your potential clients’ minds, you have to interact with them regularly.
Here are a few tips for communicating effectively with your network on LinkedIn.