When you’re trying to start a catering business, there is a lot of moving pieces to try to wrangle all at once. You need to consider the type of food you want to provide, how to move it, the logistics of keeping it at the correct temperature so your customers get the best experience possible.
However, there are considerations even beyond that. For example, what will the hook for your catering business be? How will you stand out among the competition? What makes you special?
These days, a lot of caterers have put a focus on things like health in order to give themselves an edge. With more than 60% of those of us in the U.S. eating more saturated fat than the daily recommendation, health is a major concern. That can be a great hook if you are looking to give your catering business an edge.</p.
This is only one example, however. If you want to really thrive, check out these 7 event catering tips to get your business off the ground and thriving.
1. Make Sure Your Food is Great
Obviously, the most important thing when you want to be a caterer is to have the best product possible. Your food needs to stand out against the competition. That is the most important factor in the success of your business.
For example, if you want to focus on Italian food, you should find something that can make your food stand out and feel special. Maybe you have an old family recipe that you can use to add a home-cooked feel to your catering business. Often, your clients will be hiring you for things like family gatherings, so that can be a great way to get people interested in your business.
This is only one example. There are many event catering tips focused on the food itself and that’s because the food is the most important piece of the puzzle. If you have some way to stand out, that’s a great hook. Maybe you simply know your food is the best. Or perhaps you have some creative ideas to make yourself stand out.
For example, you might have a heavy focus on health. As noted above, this is becoming a bigger and bigger concern for your potential clients. If you have a healthy catering business, or some health-focused options among your offerings, you could gain an edge over your competition.
Sometimes the type of food you specialize in can offer multiple ways for you to get ahead. For example, if you have a focus on Asian cuisine, you could combine that with a focus on healthy eating to make your own unique brand.
There aren’t too many specific event catering tips for the food itself because this aspect of your business is likely deeply personal. You know what makes your food special. Ensure that you promote that aspect of your catering business so you can truly stand out and win over customers.
2. Get to Know Your Customers
Speaking of your customers, get to know them as well as you can. You face some challenges here that a traditional restaurant does not. Where they get to see their customers and potentially spend hours with them while they eat, you may only see your customers for a short amount of time. You could be corresponding over the phone or through email, putting even more distance between you and your clientele.
Getting to know your customers however you can is one of the most important event catering tips because it can make you feel like a friend and not just a service provider. You can establish those personal, one-on-one relationships that are so critical to any small, local business.
Some event catering tips to help you get to know your customers include making time for personal interactions and attending local events. If you cater to a local event, you can really get face time with your client base. This puts a real human behind the name and logo for your business.
You might also learn important personal details such as who has a food allergy or who is most likely to be drawn to your food. Store this information for later, as it will be important for your business’s growth.
3. Separate Yourself from the Competition
It’s important to find a way to stand out while you’re building your business. You can put a name and a face and a unique offering in front of customers, but if you get lost among a dozen similar competitors it won’t really matter.
It can be tough to stand out as a caterer. If you had a Japanese restaurant, you could design the signage, the décor, and everything else to give yourself a distinctive look. A catering business specializing in Asian food lacks a lot of those advantages.
If you want event catering tips for standing out, go back to your roots. What makes your food and your business special? What is personal about this venture? You might not have even considered mentioning that one of your specialties is an old family recipe, but this is exactly the sort of thing that makes you stand out compared to your competitors.
Whatever your story is, tell it! This not only distinguishes you from the pack, but it also lets customers feel a personal connection with your business. You are catering to their special days, often. Therefore, knowing a little about who you are and what inspired your business can establish a deeper connection than just client and business.
You might also promote your edge. If health is your thing, let people know! Or maybe you have a “secret sauce” that people go crazy for. Whatever it is, don’t be shy about advertising what makes you special. People want to know! It affects not only how they make purchasing decisions when it comes to caterers, but how much they enjoy working with you to cater their event. One of the best event catering tips is simply to not be shy about what you excel at.
4. Source Your Ingredients
No matter what kind of food you offer, you will need to source your ingredients. There are a lot of event catering tips for finding the best and freshest ingredients you can for your food.
Local is a great way to go if you have a small catering business. Not only will the ingredients be fresher, but you’ll be supporting your community. This goodwill can go a long way for you as your business grows. After all, you won’t be that local farmer’s only customer. When she gets other customers who have events or celebrations, she’ll be more likely to recommend a local caterer she knows than someone she’s never even met.
Some caterers will even take matters into there own hands. If you have any skill with hunting or foraging, you can absolutely add that into your business. There is no ingredient fresher than ones you’ve sourced yourself with your own two hands.
Whichever way you go with getting your ingredients, one of the most important event catering tips is simply to ensure your ingredients are high quality. Whether they come from the forest, a local farmer, or a grocery store chain, select for quality. Cutting corners here will result in a lower quality end product and your customers will notice that. It may cost a little extra right now to get better ingredients, but it will be paid back in repeat customers who feel like they can rely on the quality of your food.
5. Find a Niche
You don’t need to use the food alone to find a niche. There are a lot of traditional restaurants that draw in customers with things other than just the food they provide.
For example, a pizza restaurant might be attached to a bar or arcade. The bar or arcade is as much of a draw as the pizza itself, which makes the whole business more likely to thrive.
Or you might see a restaurant that has shows or live music as part of its appeal. Again, this can make customers want to choose this establishment simply for the overall experience and not only the food.
Event catering tips can often skip over things like this. Catering is not thought of as a service that comes with a lot of extras, but if you are creative you can find a special niche in the market.
For example, a lot of folks who are looking for party rental supplies are also looking for catering. They are hosting some kind of event and need both the party supplies and the food. There is an opportunity here for a crossover in offerings, marketing, and knowledge sharing. Think outside the box and take advantage of these kinds of overlapping client bases.
These kinds of event catering tips depend a lot on your location and the kinds of clients you’re likely to have. Try to figure out what your local community is lacking and see if you can fill that gap in order to become an essential service in your area.
6. Keep Your Sanitary Standards High
This sounds like one of the more obvious event catering tips, but it truly cannot be over-emphasized. You must maintain extremely high standards for sanitary conditions. Failing in this way even once can lose you a customer for life.
Sanitary standards will change a lot depending on the type of food you offer. Pizza is one thing, but something like jumbo sea scallops is something else entirely. Seafood can go really bad really quickly. Be aware of the specific challenges that come with the type of food you are offering and plan carefully around them.
Of course, the tools you use to prepare and deliver the food should also be held to a high standard. It’s important that you can rely on things like the temperature of the food. Food getting too hot or too cold can quickly ruin an entire event.
You won’t be the only person concerned with how sanitary your business is. This is listed among our event catering tips because it is not just a good business practice – it is also the law. Your local health department will also be keenly aware of how sanitary you are keeping your business. You definitely don’t want to deal with warnings and violations from them, so keep your kitchen clean at all times. They can, and will, do strict inspections and can event stick you with a liability lawsuit if they find that things aren’t up to snuff.
7. Prepare for Emergencies and Bumps in the Road
Despite all your careful planning and preparation, accidents and bumps in the road and will still happen. This is a simple fact of life. No amount of event catering tips can save you from simple bad luck or just the random accidents that happen in life.
It’s a good idea to be prepared for a medical emergency before it happens. If you offer a type of food that people are commonly allergic to, be aware of that. Neither you nor the client may be aware of that allergy. That can quickly escalate the situation if you aren’t prepared.
That isn’t the only type of emergency you are likely to need to prepare for, though. In all businesses, things can happen that you don’t anticipate. There are no event catering tips that can prepare you for a dropped tray or a cook who injures themselves or running out of gas.
In all of these cases, the best thing you can do is prepare ahead of time. Stay diligent. Keep good and organized records of things like supplies. Have a first aid kit available and in easy reach.
Perhaps one of the most important event catering tips, however, is simply to know how to roll with the punches. Understand that things you don’t expect will happen and try to be adaptable when they do. Catering is a tough business with a lot of ups and downs, but by preparing and staying adaptable when something goes wrong, you can not only ride the rough seas, but come out ahead of your competition.