Tag Archives: catering sales tips

Marketing a Restaurant’s New Catering Service

by STU LEVENTHAL

Once you know you have restaurant operations in line, meaning; your kitchen staff, food servers, managers, hosts and whoever answers your phone are trained and ready to tackle the addition of large bulk sales orders, you are now ready to begin ramping up your catering sales efforts and implementing your new, catering marketing plan. Let’s start by making clear, setting the sales team loose, pushing for more sales and marketing are two distinctly different things. Yes sales and marketing are closely associated and often work hand in hand with one another but they are really two totally different concepts which require you to construct two totally different plans. Sales people sell! Let’s not confuse that with marketing. We want our sales people; knocking on doors, making telephone calls, conducting onsite tours and business meetings and presenting off premise demonstrations of our products and services 100% of the time. Your ‘marketing’ is there to assist the sales force. Your new marketing plan will concentrate on positioning your products and services in the community and separating you from and raising you above your competition. Your sales team will use your new marketing pieces and newly branded messages to sell easier and sell much more.

Sales people usually work on commission and bonuses so we don’t want to be the thing that is holding them back from doing their job. Selling! That means marketing has to be done for them. Now, I’m not talking about taking out a high priced radio add that shouts, your restaurant now caters. That is called advertising. Plenty of upper managements bulk all their advertising, sales and marketing together as if they mean the same thing. Marketing entails positioning your sales people so they have everything they need to go after a particular market. For example, you need to design the sales tools to attack the business lunch market. A different catering menu is needed. People eat lighter and usually healthier at business lunches than dinner buffet style catering. You may also need to hire some day time delivery drivers and get them trained on how to load, transport and set up your new business menu items.

Want your sales people to go after day care centers? You need a whole different kids’ menu, a healthy themed kid’s menu, if you want day cares to be able to sell the idea to parents. Creating coupons for the coming super bowl party weekend is a marketing strategy from its time of inception. The coupons are advertising tools. Putting together the special menu items into interesting, tasty party packages then pricing them to sell is all marketing. Deciding how to get the message out there is marketing. Handing everything over to your sales people with the orders, “Sell!” is our goal. You design the marketing stuff then pass it off to the sales team and say “Go get them!” Your additional advertising also supports the sales team.

Many management regimes make the mistake of leaving the marketing up to the sales people. No! If they make phone calls, you give them their scripts to say, already written for them. Of course they can modify it to fit their own personalities. But, you still need to give them a well thought out, well developed script for any niche you want them to go after. If they are knocking on doors, you give them a package to leave; coupons, menus, maybe food samples etc. Keep your salesmen and women selling! Let them earn their commissions. Create then hand over to your sales force all the tools they need to do their job and your sales will ski-rocket.

RESTAURANT CATERING (101)

RESTAURANT CATERING (101)

When a restaurant is considering adding a new catering service the first things to do are design or re-design all the advertising tools that will be promoting the service inside the restaurant. We need to let the customers know we now cater! That means signs, posters, new menus and notes on all the pages of the menus. Depending on the restaurant’s theme, you may want table top displays that advertise the new catering service on every table, counter and especially ordering surfaces. A display catering table is a good idea for a visual they can’t help notice. Set up a mock buffet with buffet pans and a nice, fresh flower center piece. Add stacks of take home catering menus and a fish bowl for customers to drop their business cards in as they try to win a catered meal for their office. This will help you gain leads to pass on to your sales people to contact.

First you set up your in-house marketing plan. That is everything you can do to promote your catering business without leaving the restaurant. Table toppers, foot notes on the menus, menu inserts, printed takeout bags, wall signs, posters, and the catering display table (preferably near the door). Remember the 80/20 rule; Statistics show, 80 % of all successful sales gained from a new promotion will be from customers we already have. If we are going to get a quick noticeable start with catering, we need to focus most of our marketing on getting the attention of the customers who are already loyal to us. We need them to buy in.

Once you have the restaurant decorated to promote catering everywhere possible, now it’s time to move on to the outside. Banners, lawn signs, helium balloons and streamers may be enough to start.

*If you are really committed to catering, you may even want to consider changing the main sign from, for example; ‘Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant’ to ‘Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant and Catering.’

Now, let’s think about how we plan to market to the first five block radius around our restaurant. The plan should be to blanket the immediate first few blocks surrounding our restaurant. These are our within quick walking distance potential customer base. We need to own this market! Slowly we expand our circle taking it wider and wider by just adding a few more blocks at a time. If we can, we add a half mile a week until we hit the five mile radius mark. The plan is to really cover and re-cover our immediate five mile neighborhood. We want to hit every establishment, in every conceivable niche this close to us. After five miles we will start specializing. That is when we start going after specific niches with marketing designed to take advantage of the needs of your particular area. We’ll need to evaluate all our competitors and look for the best promotional opportunities. But first we need to mark our turf!

Do you have formal catering order taking forms printed, in strategic places and readily available so the crew isn’t using drink napkins to jot down the new catering orders, customer information and special delivery instructions? Do we have catering containers to pack the new catering orders in nicely and serving utensils to give our customers when we deliver or when they pick up?

All personnel should already be trained to talk up the new catering menu and service as much as possible. But, we need to take it up another level. Customers want knowledgeable suggestions. If you just have anyone who happens to answer the phone taking your orders, many customers will go to where they get that extra special attention. Can you blame them? They are shelling out big bucks. They deserve VIP treatment and to talk to a specialist who knows how to make a fuss over them and their special occasion.  Sometimes, just caring is the only sales advice you need to implement in order to grow your catering sales.

We’ve already talked to death the importance of the kitchen being ready and operating on all pistons before you throw all the additional chores at them by pushing for catering sales. I’m going to assume you have committed leadership and everyone is on board with the decision to add catering. Let’s also restate how important it is to have a trained and knowledgeable staff, especially at the phone order taking level and server levels. These front line positions are often neglected when it comes to training but just being able to take a phone order is not being trained in catering sales! You are losing a lot of money if this is acceptable to you. Not only do you not get add on sales; dessert, beverages, salads; you don’t have anyone pushing the higher profit menu items. But worse of all you lose tons of whole orders because most customer first call around checking prices. A catering specialist knows how to steer the customer into thinking more about planning the perfect party or event. Another problem with just having phone answerers taking your catering orders and not having someone dedicated to catering sales is there is no follow up with the customer after the order is completed. Our goal is to gain customers not individual, one time sales!

*Important – when first starting out, it is not important to offer delivery. You can just have pick up catering until you are ready for this next, very big step. Adding delivery must be well thought out. Yes, delivery can be a game changer as far as building sales but it can’t be gone into lightly or halfcocked. Not delivering a party on time and with hot food still hot will break your catering program. Forgetting to pack the delivery vehicle with service utensils or forgetting the dinner rolls or condiments like butter or salad dressings will be a disaster as far as word of mouth goes in your community. Are you prepared if your driver calls out sick the day of a big event?

You should think of ‘delivery service’ as a special feature you can add to enhance your customers’ catered experiences, down the road. You should plan as a goal to add a delivery service once you hit a specified sales figure that will support a driver’s salary. At first, orders will not justify you purchasing a catering delivery vehicle so your driver will be required to use his or her own vehicle. But you will have to up your insurance to cover the driver and anything else that happens during the delivery situation while they are working for you.

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Catering Buisness - 101

CATERING BUSINESS – 101      by Stu Leventhal
Your catering sales will grow when you design specific menus and craft specific services to satisfy the specific needs of a specific type of customer. Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer then solve the customer’s problems. For example; if you are going after the business lunch market, make it easy for businesses to create corporate accounts with you so their secretaries can pick up the phone and call to order and the billing is all taken care of automatically. The less hassles the more orders!

Adding a delivery service with free set up included will set you apart from every competitor who doesn’t offer those conveniences. Remember you are selling the whole package deal. Having exotic sandwich choices might sound impressive but they will never win out, in the long run, over the caterer who concentrates on selling a service first and menu selection and price a far 2nd and third.

Know who your buyer is and market to them! The decision to order-in, may come from any number of higher up members of a business organization but the details of what to order and from whom are generally delegated to a subordinate. Most times the chore of ordering lands in the lap of a secretary. Secretaries, receptionists, management assistants and human resource personnel (who plan a lot of catered employee appreciation events for their bosses) want three things: 1 – To have to do as little as possible. 2 – To get dependable outstanding results every time. 3 – To be able to take all the credit for all your hard work. Decide that you are going to dedicate your catering service to fulfilling that very purpose better than anyone else and the fanciest chefs in the world won’t be able to steal your accounts away.

Design your catering business lunch menu so it is not a hassle if a business customer telephones wanting to order lunch for 12 at the last minute. That means not having items on the list that will set your kitchen staff and chefs into an uproar! Business lunch offerings should be simple and fast to make, easy to transport and deliver and simple to set up, serve your-self style. The items should be made from combinations of ingredients you always have plenty of on-hand and can get quick access to extras if a surprise order or unusually large order comes in at the last minute.

Okay, now that you know the basic concept. Use this blue print for whatever catering niche you are going after. Design your marketing to promote your services not the menu choices and especially not the prices. Inform your sales team to get your message out to whatever niche you are selling to. Explain, how they won’t have to lift a finger! We’ll deliver, set up, serve (if need be). We supply napkins, all serving utensils, eating utensils, a wide choice of beverages with beverage dispensers (if needed). We have food warmers to keep hot food piping hot and chillers to keep cold foods cold! And we have a big choice of desserts. We truly are the one stop shop for your catered event or party.

Ways to Increase Catering Sales

By STUART LEVENTHAL
The best way to increase catering sales has always been through networking with as many businesses in your neighborhood who share the same customers as you do. That virtually means partnering up with any business in the towns you service that are not a competing caterer. Wedding planners, florists, event planners, party supply stores, costume shops, photographers; all sell to or service people who are your potential customers too. The idea is that by joining forces and working with another business who shares your target customer, together you can both benefit in a number of different ways.

SALES TIPS FOR CATERERS

First off you can each swap customer lists which will double your list of customers with no effort at all. This means that if you have 5,000 customers who you send your menus and coupons out to each month and a photographer has a list of 5,000 customers, instantly you now both have 10,000 customers to send your promotions to. That is a huge jump. But, now imagine how big your customer list will grow if you swap lists with five noncompeting businesses, each with five thousand customers on their lists. 5 X 5,000 = 25,000!

Catering Sales Ideas
There’s a big difference between sending out 5,000 menus and coupons and sending out 25,000 menus and coupons. You are going to get a lot more business back from the 25,000 mailing! Now, if you were mailing your promotional materials out yourself, it would cost you a bundle to mail 25,000 envelopes. But, when all five businesses put their promotional materials in the same envelope, you each pay only for mailing your original 5,000 envelopes plus just a little more to cover the additional weight of the others’ materials. While each of you benefits because 25,000 envelopes are getting mailed each with your menu and coupons in it as well as the other four businesses marketing items too!

Now, if all five of you decided to join in on taking a newspaper add out together, you could purchase a whole page at a discounted rate then divide it up into five equal parts and you would end up paying a lot less for your portion than if you tried to buy the same size adds individually!

Whenever I’m working on advertising or marketing campaigns, I always try to exhaust all my free or almost free ideas first, before I start considering paying for advertising. This is because there are so many free advertising and promotional ideas which only take a little time to implement and they are quite effective. So it is silly to start right off the bat, paying for news, radio or Television advertising when half the time you get little or no return on your investment anyway. There is no reason to start worrying about marketing budgets when you have promotional ideas that take just a little effort on your part to implement for free.

One free idea that is very easy to do is simply for all five collaborating establishments agreeing to post each other’s marketing materials on their premises. You give them each a pile of menus with coupons stapled to them and they give you a stack of their promotional literature with their coupons. You can each set up a small area or display table for interested parties to take the literature they are interested in. Or you each could simply place a set of each of your four partners marketing materials in your customers’ bags at the check out counter.

Think of your Collaborating businesses as partners. You all are looking to gain the same thing; additional business. You are all also seeking low cost marketing ideas. You all are promoting to the same customers, let’s say newly engaged couples, just for an example. You are the only caterer in the group. There’s only one photographer in your group, one tuxedo rental company etc. We’ve talked about how you can use your combined buying power to get discounts from advertising venues. We’ve discussed sharing each other’s customer lists and displaying each other’s marketing literature in each other’s place of business. Now, let’s take it up a notch. Let’s plan to put together some marketing events in which all of our businesses will take part. The events will specifically target newly engaged couples who are gathering information about planning their wedding.

1. Your newly formed group can promote total package deals. One low price for all our services! Planning a wedding is hard work. You will be taking away a lot of stress by offering the solution of ‘One Stop Shopping!’ All it takes is for all the businesses involved to sit down and put together a few attractive package deals.

2. You can take turns hosting an event on each of your premises, switching each month. Or you can all share the costs of renting a hall to throw your shindig in each month. Everyone can set up a booth or table with all their marketing literature. There would be a flower shop booth, a DJ spinning music for the affair as well as giving out his or her business card. You, as the group caterer can show off your catering hors d’oeuvres give out samples tastes, put out a small buffet if you can handle the costs, as well as display an array of photographs of past events you’ve catered with testimonials from all your happy customers. The photographer can have albums highlighting his masterful photographs displayed on a table with business cards and contact info. He can set up a small studio type booth for snapping a few quick free give away photos of the circulating love birds who attend the show. Wedding dress and tuxedo establishments can put on a quick fashion show or bring brochures and samples of the hottest new wedding outfits. You can each take fifteen or so minutes to formally address the crowd from a podium promoting your goods and services. (Remember, any target market can be substituted here for this technique, just pick companies to partner with who specialize in serving the same chosen niche.)

As a caterer, you have many niches that you can market to. Pick one niche at a time to specialize in that is best suited to your interests and particular neighborhood situation. Build up your contacts related to that market niche. Do your homework. Network, then form partnerships with the very best, affiliate businesses in your area, who service that chosen niche. It will defeat your purposes to associate yourself and your catering business with businesses with bad performance records or faulty reputations. Once you’ve conquered one niche then by all means tackle the next niche.