Feb 04 2019
Jim Rand
3 Minutes to read
This article is part of a series called “Getting Off-Premises”, which examines how to build an off-premises business.

At its simplest, marketing is spreading the word about your catering business. But at its best, marketing captures the attention of customers and drives the growth of your catering business. To achieve that kind of success you’ll need to root your marketing endeavors in a solid strategy. If you’re not up to speed with marketing, here are four lessons to make sure you’re approaching marketing the right way. When you treat marketing your business as important as the food and drink you provide, catering sales will rise.

1. Create a solid marketing budget for catering

One rule of thumb for creating a realistic marketing budget for catering is to look at your restaurant’s marketing budget. Let’s say that annual budget is $100,000; set aside an additional 10 percent ($10,000) to market your catering services.

If your company is small, you likely control the budget and can make that decision unilaterally. But if you work for a large chain restaurant company, prepare to lobby a committee for those dollars. One strategy I used in the past was partnering with our restaurant’s marketing team. I asked the group, “How can I partner with you and add a catering message to your existing advertising campaigns?” I explained which customers I wanted to target to unlock their ideas for the appropriate channels I should use.

Truth be known, I then begged for even more funding—and got it.

2. Piggyback on your restaurant marketing efforts

If you already spend on radio ads for your restaurant, update your marketing message to say “We cater!” The same goes for television ads: have the words “We cater!” pop up in the commercial. Add that same graphic to your website and social media messages.

3. Market catering within your restaurant

Your qualified customers are already sitting in your restaurant, so don’t miss an opportunity to pitch catering to them. Use some or all of the following marketing tactics:

  • Point-of-purchase displays
  • Window signage
  • In-store banners
  • Table tents
  • Ask-me buttons
  • Catering ambassador. Pick an in-house employee to promote catering by chatting up guests while they’re waiting in line or at a table. When your catering ambassador meets warm prospects, he or she should leave those customers with printed materials about catering.

4. Choose your marketing tactics wisely

Choose the right marketing tactics to reach your target customers. Got older, high-income customers? Facebook and Twitter campaigns probably won’t reach that customer base. That segment is much more likely to engage with television and radio ads and email and direct mail marketing. On the flip side, younger customers are largely disconnected from television networks and spend less time reading print newspapers than their parents. But they love social media and the ordering apps on their mobile devices. Plus, they’re amenable to email offers.

Here are some other valuable marketing channels:

  • Email: Use the service of a reputable company such as Constant ContactDrip, and MailChimp. These companies provide easy-to-use templates for marketing emails, and their systems allow you to track the open and click-through rates of your email campaigns. Using the Big Data from their databases, you can get laser focused on creating direct-response marketing campaigns for your most valued prospects.
  • Social: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are all the rage right now. Advertising on social media isn’t free, but it’s affordable and effective with younger customers.
  • SEM: Search engine marketing (SEM) is a science of increasing the visibility of your brand in search engine results pages. This can ultimately result in more site visitors and catering business. There’s a cost involved, of course, but the results can be amazing.
  • Print Collateral: Make sure all the printed brochures and mailers used for your restaurant(s) feature the message “We cater!” If you don’t have printed collateral for your restaurant, then design catering-only collateral to hand out at the restaurant, at large events, and on delivery runs. You can create print marketing materials inexpensively by choosing an online company such as Vistaprint. Just upload your catering logo and information to one of their many templates.

Finally, start small to see what marketing tools and tactics work best. Begin with two marketing channels, evaluate their success, and decide whether to add a third or to devote your efforts to one channel. This method allows you to focus your efforts while limiting your investments of time and money.

In the end, marketing is simply getting the word out. So, make the process of telling others about your catering brand fun for you and them.

Are you actively marketing your catering business with online ordering?

Learn more

Jim Rand

Written by:

Jim Rand

Jim Rand has over 40 years of restaurant-industry experience. From 2016 to 2018, Jim was vice president of off-premises dining at P.F. Chang's. Prior to that role, he served as vice president of catering at Panera Bread for nearly a decade. A respected voice in the restaurant industry, Jim works to provide the very best solutions to help restaurants grow their catering businesses.

Posted in: Food at WorkRestaurant

Tagged with: Budgeting, Finances, Getting Off-Premises, Marketing