The truth is people are passionate about food. If they like what your catering company has to offer, they will remember your foods when they are planning their own function. If your food isn’t up to their expectations, however, they won’t order from you in the future and you can expect your business to be discussed in a negative light. Nobody wants that.
So how can you avoid unsatisfied customers and negative publicity? By providing quality food and service at all times. Excellent recipes, top quality food and a unique presentation are key features for forerunners in the catering business. Whether you are catering a business function, corporate parties or a wedding, you always need to make a good impression and generate word of mouth advertising for your company.
Many times your menu precedes a visit to your business or a taste of your food. It is your first (and sometimes your only) chance to make a good impression on a potential client. Crafting a varied menu with core items, balanced with a few specialty items will attract a diverse customer base.
Basic items include chicken, pasta, beef, vegetable trays, fruit trays, simple appetizers and deserts.
Specialty items can be anything from ethic foods to putting a unique spin on a classic recipe. It could include Greek, Italian, or Polish foods, for example. Creative desert choices are always a big hit. You might also consider adding a section to the menu that caters to those seeking low-fat or low-carb options. Even adding vegetarian lasagna is a good way to add variety to your menu to be able to reach the needs of a wider group of people. These are the kinds of items that bring people back time and time again. Make your items a new tradition for your customers and you will have constantly returning clientele.
Competitive pricing is another way to stay in the game. If your menu items are priced too high, your business could suffer because clients think you cater strictly to an elite crowd. But if your menu items are priced too low, you may lose potential customers because they will assume you lack quality and professionalism. Begin by researching what similar companies are charging for their product. As you compare your prices to that of your competitors, take into account the quantity and quality of the items you are comparing.
Fresh food is an absolute must. Name brand, quality foods are also a necessity. Skimping on your food cost could ensure that you wouldn’t get repeat business. All it takes is just one bad experience and your customer will shop elsewhere. Word of mouth advertising is powerful, especially when it is negative. Brown lettuce, for example, will ruin a customer’s appetite and that is what they are most likely to remember when they walk away, even if everything else was up to par. You don’t want to have to fight an uphill battle to uphold your reputation. Always serve the best and freshest foods and they will speak for themselves.
By creating several unique food creation or garnish, you will be helping clients remember your business. This can be anything from a tomato rose and onion frills to a vegetable palm tree. Be as creative as you can when creative food trays. Make sure that every tray you send out has your signature touch. This will help you will stand out from your competition.
Consistent quality, pricing and service will set your catering company up for repeat business. Frequent changes to the menu and company policies, along with high employee turn over rates, will send customers a red flag. When a customer returns because they liked a specific item, it is important they get the same item with the same quality every time. Consistency in your staff is also a plus. Your staff will be working with repeat customers and developing relationships. When a customer’s contact is suddenly gone, they will question their whereabouts and may be disappointed to have to start fresh with a new contact. Most clients will appreciate one on one attention and someone who knows their needs when they walk in the door, making their job easier.
Managing Your Contacts
Your success in the catering business is also dependent on how well you manage your contacts. From produce and food suppliers to servers and food-prep staff, having good relationships will make your business run more smoothly. A negative environment can be sensed a mile away. Take good care of your employees, offering incentives to work hard, and your business will benefit. A positive work atmosphere will lesson your staff turnover rate, allowing you to spend less time hiring and training new employees.
Business to Business Sales
As far as advertising for your catering services, targeting offices, hospitals and other local businesses is a great way to boost your daily sales. Drug reps, for example, have weekly meetings at doctors’ offices and hospitals to discuss their latest products. To do this, they often use food to lure the doctors and nurses in on their lunch break. Form a relationship with a handful of drug reps and suddenly you have regular repeat clients. Another place to target your advertising is to schools. In-service lunches are frequently catered from outside of the school and they are given a budget to work with. But don’t stop there, try auto dealerships, churches and other small businesses.
A catering company is more than just about the food though. You will need to set up accounts payable and accounts receivable files. Also, like any small business, you will need to keep records of your daily sales, payroll, taxes, utilities, etc. If you cannot afford to hire a separate company to do this for you, appoint someone within the catering company to handle these tasks. It is a good idea to keep copies of all orders that are placed, even after they have been catered to. Often times a business will call to place their order for their annual picnic and request the same menu they had last year. Having the order slips filed in an orderly fashion will allow you to quickly look up their previous order and prepare to serve it again.