If your restaurant caters, this tax season could be a big season for you. From January 1 to April 15, accountants will be grinding out work 60 to 70 hours a week under incredible stress—and those hungry, drained individuals will need catering. In fact, many accounting firms budget for catering, which is used as an incentive to keep employees working at their desks. That’s good news for restaurants that cater. If you hope to win some of that catering business, here are some tactics.
1. Find Catering Prospects in Your Trade Area
Harnessing new customers begins with networking. Ask your contacts—friends, employees, existing restaurant and catering customers—to help you establish connections to local accounting firms. Google Maps can also be helpful in finding prospects. Use the mapping serving to fill you in on accounting firms within a 1-3 mile radius of your restaurant. Search for:
- Independently owned and local firms
- Big Four firms: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG
Once you figure out which firms to chase, plot their locations on a customized Google map. When you’re ready to pitch your catering, use that map to plan your strategy geographically.
2. Research and Contact Catering Prospects
Before you reach out to prospects (aka putting boots on the ground), do some online research to ensure you make a great first impression. Find out:
- The number of employees at each firm
- The names of people who order catering
- Whether the firms order catering for employees, clients, or both
- Their catering budgets
- What level of service they need (will you manage the process or let them order as they please?)
To find those answers, start with these platforms:
- LinkedIn: Search for people who order catering for the firms: executive assistants, office managers, and those with “catering” in their job descriptions.
- Glassdoor: Look through reviews and see if employees have mentioned catering—when it was ordered and why.
- Company websites: Does the employee benefits page hint at catering (parties, successes, celebrations, etc.)?
Next, figure out how you’ll connect with prospects:
- By appointment
- Cold calling
- Email or phone prospecting
However you reach out, present yourself as a local community member who understands tax season is crazy for such firms. Assure them you’re there to support them. Then ask if it would be okay to stop by with some sandwiches for the employees who order catering. Remember, these visits aren’t about selling anything. They’re designed to create a relationship upon which you could build future sales.
When you reach out to firms, don’t forget to:
- Have business cards and menus handy
- Wear logoed clothing
- Leave food samples if appropriate
3. Understand What Customers Need from Your Catering Business
“For tax professionals, tax season means very long hours at the office,” says Kelsey Roberson, Senior Associate M&A Transaction Advisory at RSM, a Chicago accounting firm. Due to that stress, tax accountants look forward to eating substantial, nourishing meals rather than “something quick like a slice of pizza or a sandwich,” Kelsey says. The bottom line is overworked people struggle to eat healthy. Help them meet their needs for good sustenance.
When pitching your catering to firms, anticipate their employees’ needs with:
- Healthful offerings
- Food allergy–friendly food
- Service in multiple dayparts
- A varied menu
- Grab-and-go offerings or a hot buffet
If they need catering for VIP clients, learn if they’d want:
- Casual box lunches or a buffet
- Elevated service or simple “in and out” service to ensure privacy
4. Make the Customer Experience Special
Your customers have lots of catering options. So it’s up to you to stay top of mind during tax season and later in the year when business softens. Try the following:
- Be spontaneous, sincere, and memorable by delivering a carafe or two of free coffee or a flat of Red Bull. The gift of caffeine says, “We know you’re working long hours and might need an extra boost!”
- Deliver a box of cookies or donuts outside of a regular daypart just for snacks. If you can entice customers to order catering for another daypart—say, lunch and late-afternoon snacks—that’ll bring in more business.
- Brand the free food with your logo so they know who showed ‘em the love.
Are you doing everything you can to grow your catering business? Learn how to get more catering orders.