15 High-Impact Marketing Ideas for Catering Businesses

July 28th, 2019

You might put everything that you have into your catering business, but capturing the right kind of attention isn’t always easy. How do you stand out in the competitive food service industry while still having the time to pursue your passion for food? Try these essential tips for marketing your business and watch as the customers come running in.

1. Get a great website

Your website should be a powerful sales and lead-generation tool. Share useful blogs, updates, and recipes to become a local voice of authority. Work with a developer who can make your website conversion focused. Beyond content and design, your catering website can include self-service features like ordering and payments, saving you and your customers time.

Appeal to the senses by integrating photos and videos. Embed photos and videos in your blogs, social media posts, and email mail-outs to encourage sharing. Share recipe tutorials, practical advice clips, staff intros, and catering-event videos. Establish a strong presence on major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, and work with content creators, like social media influencers, podcasters, and bloggers to grow your reach.

2. Optimise your website for mobile use

Mobile traffic accounts for more than half of all internet traffic. With a mobile-friendly business website, you’ll be much more accessible for those customers using a mobile device. Your customers will find it easier to view your content, submit orders, make payments, and interact with you no matter where they are. A high percentage of your leads could be searching for your business on a mobile device, and you’ll be providing them with an optimised experience if your website is mobile-friendly.

US grocery chain Roche Bros. understood the importance of an adaptive mobile experience for their website when they chose FoodStorm. As John Lauderbach, VP of Information Technology noted, a lack of mobile presence contributed to Roche Bros. missing out on many catering opportunities.

3. Integrate eCommerce directly into your website

With the right all-in-one solution, you can automate your sales processes – including online order inputting by the customer. You can effortlessly customise orders, update menus, and make new menu items immediately available. Simple things like automated order confirmation, quick and easy quotes, and invoice downloads can make a big difference to customers and support a more efficient backend.

For example, FoodStorm customer Nando’s found FoodStorm’s platform (which can be fully integrated into websites) invaluable for automated order notifications, instant reporting, and other backend functions – in addition to boosting customer traffic, sales (by 35%), and customer satisfaction. Major Melbourne caterer Nashi also loved FoodStorm’s production logs, customer-invoicing features, and option to set prices by customer. Integrating eCommerce gives your customers a better service experience, which is a compelling marketing strategy in itself.

4. Unlock the potential for digital marketing

Digital or internet marketing drives traffic to your website and gets people talking about your catering business.

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) – Drive organic traffic to your site by sharing useful, topical content with key phrases and words. Utilise SEO to improve your search result rankings.
  • Social media – Build a presence and share news, updates, photos, videos, and useful tips on social media. You can also spay for targeted social media ads.
  • Pay per click – Pay per click advertising lets you target specific search results. You can advertise for local searches (like “Sydney catering”) as well as events, such as “Christmas catering”, “office catering in Sydney”, and “wedding catering”.
  • Go local – Use SEO and attract local traffic to your site by using keywords specific to your region, town, and language. For example, you can target phrases like “Bryon Bay gourmet catering”.
  • Online directories – Boost your digital marketing efforts by adding your catering business to relevant online catering directories. You could focus on niches (like vegetarian food) and local areas.

5. Use testimonials and reviews

Testimonials can build trust and credibility for your catering operation. Have a systematic way of capturing customer feedback; for example, through an all-in-one catering solution like FoodStorm. Highlight great reviews on your blog and social media posts, and have a dedicated page for testimonials on your website.

Monitor testimonials and reviews on external sites like catering directories and review platforms. If you get a negative review, respond in a professional and positive manner so readers get both sides of the story. You can go one step further with customer testimonials by giving referral bonuses for recommendations and encourage returning customers at the same time.

6. Take professional photos!

Don’t leave it up to potential customers to visualise what they’ll be getting. Invest in professional photography and showcase your signature dishes. Use only high-quality photos for your brochures, website, menus, and marketing collateral for strong visual impact. Consider which gourmet creations capture your brand and what you want to be known for. Think about which dishes have the most visual appeal, and what your customers demand the most.

When sharing on Instagram and other social media platforms, size your images correctly. Use hashtags so your posts show up in more searches. Mix up your content with different types of photos, videos, and stories.

7. Style your food

Prioritise making your dishes look irresistible for photos and video, as well as the catering event itself. A platter of food that looks scrumptious sells itself by stimulating the senses. Aesthetic appeal can become a compelling value proposition for customers looking to impress with their catering.

Great ways to make a strong visual impact include:

  • Centrepieces and feature items – Include dramatic centrepieces or feature items in your menus.
  • Colour – Use splashes of colour and contrasting shades to highlight your dishes.
  • Odd numbers – Threes, fives, and other odd numbers help underscore items off, whether it’s dumplings, rolls, or meatballs.
  • Drizzles – Use drizzles of sauces, syrup, and liquified ingredients to bring a little flair to your dishes.
  • Smaller portions – Smaller portions is the secret to great photos and videos.

8. Know your marketplace

If you don’t know your marketplace, how can you market with the right strategy? Get to know who your target audience is. Consider whether your target market is large enough for a sustainable business. Think local: who’s around you? Your marketplace could include offices, families and private events, schools, cafes, restaurants, and community and sporting venues.

Do you specialise in gourmet cuisine or more mass market? Perhaps you work across a few different segments. Who’s your ideal audience in the areas you service? Work out how they think, understand their needs and budgets, and identify how you can best market to them.

9. Create a business plan

Get the big picture story with a business plan and build your marketing strategy from there. A formal business plan identifies your goals, value proposition, target market, and how you’ll achieve your goals. Do you specialise in a particular cuisine, event, or service? How are you better than competitors and what is it you do to give customers their money’s worth? 

Your value proposition is critical because it identifies the value you deliver for customers and how you’re better than competitors. Include in your plan essential elements like market research, competitor research, branding strategy, and budgeting. It should include specifics on your market goals as well as your target audience and segments.

10. Brand your delivery van

Use your vans (or perhaps delivery bikes and scooters) to market your catering service to locals as well as a wider audience. Make sure your vehicles are immaculately presented, clean, and in good condition. Display your logo prominently and include your website and phone number. If your branding is out of date, work with a brand consultant to update your logo, graphics, and other branding materials. 

Your branding consultant should be able to help you with designing the right graphics and placing vehicle decals and wraps on your vehicle to maximise impact. Don’t forget to maintain branding consistency across your vehicles, shopfronts, brochures, and other marketing materials.

11. Get out into the real world

Make a list of everyone you can approach directly with a personalised pitch: wedding planners, local golf clubs, sporting clubs, art galleries and museums, exhibition halls, law offices, ad agencies, shared workspaces, banks, bridal shops, and families (for their private events). Prepare your pitch and do research so your proposal is competitive.

Approach local business directly. Get involved in local businesses and volunteer organisations. Present your business as the go-to caterer. Give back to the community with cost price services or freebies for those in need. Work with other local businesses –  like florists, local musicians and performance halls, funeral homes, hotels, wine stores, gardening centres, and jewellery boutiques – to showcase your offerings to their customers.

12. Rent a booth at trade shows

Nothing beats getting up close and personal at events like trade shows and fairs. Similar events like community gatherings, farmers’ markets, and festivals are also fantastic opportunities to demonstrate your offerings. You can give out samples, menus, and pamphlets and give your target audience a chance to ask questions. Explore local events like food fairs, bridal fairs, local cook-offs, and community fundraisers where you can target potential customers with personalised menus.

Create a delicious sample menu so you can offer samples at marketing events like fairs, trade shows, open days, and client visits. Make sure your menu is both cost-effective to produce and appealing enough to make an impression with your target market.

13. Make the most of your shop front

If you have a shop front, it could be excellent marketing real estate – so take full advantage of it! Use large, eye-catching signs to broadcast your business brand and let local traffic know what you do. Use your windows as well by placing signage and menus where appropriate. Use chalkboards and display pamphlets on countertops and tables. Sell branded goods like coffee mugs and keyrings. 

Promotions like monthly business card draws let you capture customer details while getting people’s attention, and regular tastings and open houses, with samples and treats, for qualified leads, are also a great way to capture more interest.

14. Touch base regularly

You should have a system for staying in touch with existing customers because generating repeat business is probably much cheaper to do than converting new customers.

When touching base, consider these approaches to optimise your messaging.

  • Personalisation – Personalise your marketing messages to make your customers feel valued and appreciated.
  • Add value – Share useful content rather than only sales messages. For example, you can educate customers on how to use your website to order and make payments. You could share exciting information about new dishes
  • Use different platforms – Explore different messaging platforms, including social media posts, email newsletters, and physical mail-outs.

15. Create press releases and pamphlets

Get the word out there by using press releases. You can distribute these through community bulletins, local newspapers, food magazines, bridal journals, food blogs, and local event websites. Let locals know about your new products and launches – or even any new milestones you’ve achieved like new partnerships and contracts.

You can also give out pamphlets to stand out from the competition. Why not hire promotional staff to distribute these in busy retail strips. Ask local, complementary businesses – from bridal stores to office buildings – to display the pamphlets in prominent spots like reception areas. Local chambers of commerce, trade shows, fairs, gyms, coworking spaces, and venues for hire are other great places to display your pamphlets.

Standing out from the crowd

Standing out in the foodservice industry comes down to the quality of your service, and how you market that service to the public. From optimising your online presence, through to the way you brand and photograph your products, there are plenty of strategies you can implement to reach your target customers. 

Follow these essential tips for marketing your catering business and watch your sales grow. Learn more about how Foodstorm’s catering software can help you increase catering sales and reduce costs.

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