If you run a catering business (or aspire to), there’s no doubt that the love of food already runs through your veins. Maybe you have no problem cooking meatballs for a crowd of 50 or churning out dozens of cookies for holiday parties. It’s this love–and these skills–that likely led you to start your own catering business in the first place.
But marketing? Well, marketing your catering business may seem a bit more complicated than creating the dishes you’re known for. The trouble is, nobody will be able to taste how good your food is if customers don’t know your business exists.
If you don’t know where to get started with spreading the word, stick with us as we cover how to promote your catering business.
Determine the Details of Your Catering Business
Before you can learn how to advertise your catering business, you need to nail down exactly what you’re offering.
Start with the food. Will you be cooking a certain cuisine such as Italian, Indian, or New American? Or will you be specializing in a specific type of dish such as appetizer trays or soups? Even if you have some flexibility in the dishes you’re able to prepare, it’s a good idea to come up with a sample menu for clients to look over.
Next, it’s time to determine how you will offer your food. Will you offer drop-and-go dinner buffet packages for crowds of 50 or 100? How about plated meals for events such as weddings? Or do you specialize in catering small, intimate dinner parties?
Establish a Clear Brand with Name and Visuals
Once you’ve determined the food and services you’ll be offering, it’s time to capture the whole package with a fitting name, logo, and color scheme.
If you are having a difficult time determining a name, you can use the cuisine you’re serving, a personal element of your cooking journey (like the name of the grandmother who shared family recipes or the name of the street you grew up on), or a local element as inspiration.
It’s a good idea to keep your business name pronounceable, easy to spell, and memorable to reach the widest audience possible. That said, don’t be afraid to get a little creative!
After you have your name, it’s time to work on visual branding. This includes developing a logo and establishing a color scheme for business cards, aprons, and other related materials—you don’t have to do this work yourself, but you should have a say in the process.
Remember to let these elements reflect the type of catering business you’re operating. Bright colors and a cartoon-like logo can work well if you hope to bake fun cupcakes for kids’ birthday parties, but they probably aren’t the best choice if you’re looking to serve plated meals at weddings.
Ensure It’s Easy to Find Your Business Online
If a potential customer is looking for a catering company, they are likely going to turn to those they know or the internet for recommendations. In fact, 76% of consumers look for an online presence before visiting a business in person. That means you should make sure that when individuals are looking for catering companies online, you come up as an option.
Start with a Website
Establishing an online presence can take many forms. However, creating your own website is essential. This can be a simple site that lists your contact information, story, and menu, or it can also include information like a blog with recipe tips as well as a photo gallery and customer testimonials.
You can easily create and manage your own website with the help of website builders like Squarespace and Wix, or you can hire a website developer to create a more complex website from scratch.
Create Social Media Profiles
Along with creating a website, you should also create a profile on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Not only will having a presence on these sites allow others to find you, but it can also allow customers to tag your food and share your business with their friends. Having a social media presence may also offer opportunities to connect with food influencers who can help promote your company.
And remember that Instagram and Facebook profiles can serve as more than just a marketing tool. By maintaining an active social media presence, you can directly connect with future customers and even use these platforms to take orders.
Claim a Google Business Profile
The verb “Google” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, and this search engine’s prevalence in and impact on the world has only increased since. Not only do curious consumers head to Google for recipes and news, but they also seek out information on local businesses. Having your business on Google may help lead to more customers, especially since 28% of Google searches seeking local information result in a purchase.
While creating a business website may mean you turn up in searches for “catering companies near me,” establishing a Google Business Profile can ensure your business shows up. You’ll also be able to respond to customer reviews and questions, provide photos, and tell the world about your business in your own words.
Capture Positive Reviews
You should also establish a presence on review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Google. Along with making sure you appear on these sites, it’s also important that you keep an eye on reviews and respond as necessary.
Finally, sign your business up to be featured on websites that list catering companies and reviews. Eventective.com lists caterers of all sorts, while theknot.com and weddingwire.com focus on listing catering companies that provide food for weddings.
And remember that you may need to ask for reviews as you’re starting out. A 2021 survey reported that 98% of consumers consider reviews an essential part of making a purchase, so a lack of reviews may dissuade some potential customers from supporting your business.
Create Content that Engages Your Audience
While it would be nice if you could set up marketing channels and then forget about them, continually engaging with your potential clients increases the likelihood they will stay interested in your business.
Create Static Posts and Reels on Instagram
When you’re posting on Instagram, remember that every piece of content you post should reflect your business’s values, strengths, and brand. Along with posting images of your food, you can also consider posting photos of you shopping for ingredients at a farmers’ market or a video of you making your signature pasta sauce.
While you may think posting static images and even videos to your Instagram feed will engage your audience, don’t forget about reels. These short videos typically result in 40% more interaction than traditional videos.
Along with posting your own content, don’t forget to reshare photos and videos that your business is tagged in. This can not only give you a break from generating original content, but it can show potential customers that other humans support and value your services. And remember to utilize location services to help your audience find you via location search!
Keep Facebook Content Fresh
While some people think Facebook is fading away, there are still 2.93 billion active monthly users. Facebook also appeals to people who are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s more than Instagram, Tiktok, or Snapchat, so it could allow you to reach a demographic you may not be able to when using other means.
Make it a point to post to Facebook at least weekly with content such as new specials, photos from an event you recently catered, and promotions for upcoming holidays. And don’t forget about paid Facebook ads! These ads allow you to target your audience based on factors including age, interest, and location, which may help you reach your ideal customers.
Reach Customers with Email Marketing
Along with engaging on social media, you can also utilize email marketing campaigns to reach loyal customers and increase business. A recent study showed that for every $1 spent on email marketing, businesses see $44 in return.
In order for email marketing to be effective, you may need to gather a list of subscribers. Consider linking subscriber signups on Instagram and Facebook, and don’t forget about having a pen and paper signup at events you cater.
After you’ve gathered a list of interested customers, aim to send enough emails to keep subscribers interested but not so many that they consider you spam. The right number of emails to send depends on your business and audience engagement, but weekly or several times a week are popular options.
Consider using an email marketing platform like Mailchimp to make designing and sending emails easier, and to allow you to access email reports.
Topics for Email Marketing Campaigns
- Catering options for seasonal events like graduations and holiday parties
- A behind-the-scenes look at how you make a signature dish
- Spotlight on staff members
- New menu options
- Highlights from a recent event you catered
Continue to Reach New Audiences
While an online presence is a marketing must-have, it’s not the only way to reach customers. While they may seem a little outdated, radio commercials, business cards, and printed flyers can also help you spread the word about your business.
Use your company’s logo and colors to create business cards and fliers that represent your catering business. You can then place these printouts in locations like wedding venues, coffee shops, and business centers.
“I was so focused on the technique and the creation. But you really need to have a strong set of skills on the administrative side of owning and running your own business. You just want to make cakes, but you can’t until you’ve done all these other steps—bills, ordering equipment, having a kitchen plan to submit to the health department. You have to be a very well-balanced person.”*
Jason Goldman, Escoffier Lead Chef Instructor
Focus on Food…And Marketing
Even if you cook up some of the best fried chicken or cookie platters that your city has ever tasted, you still need to promote your catering business. This is especially true in the beginning stages of your new venture.
If you need a little help with the business side of running a catering business, a Food Entrepreneurship program may provide you with helpful knowledge and skills. Escoffiers’ program not only covers how to market your catering business, but it also dives into aspects including cost control, accounting, and menu design.
Want to learn more about food entrepreneurship? Check out these articles next:
- How to Start a Restaurant With Little to No Money
- 7 Side Hustles Great Cooks Can Start for Extra Cash
- How Gleam & Escoffier’s Mentorship Program Can Help Aspiring Entrepreneurs
*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.