A Cut Above – Turning Your Catering Business from Fledgling to Fabulous

Whether you are starting out in a mobile food van or opening a 5 star restaurant, chances are you have put everything you own on the line to make this venture a success.  Passion and talent are a fine set of tools to begin with, but there are a few more mundane considerations to overcome to ensure that your business gets the best possible chance of succeeding.

Since most of us are naturally armchair philosophers, it stands to reason that you have been bombarded with well intentioned advice from all quarters – family, friends, well-wishers and the ever present doomsayers, will have all made their opinions known, of that I am certain.  However, indulge me as I review some key pointers which I found assisted me in growing my business from a small, solo operation to the buzzing concern that it is today.

Getting the Right Equipment

When starting out my little catering business, one of the hardest lessons I learned was the value of the saying “having the right tool for the job”.  In an effort to economise, I attempted to improvise with unsuitable or subpar equipment.  What I soon realised was that my staffing costs rose while the quality of my output dropped.  Seeing my distress, a fellow entrepreneur put me on to  commercial kitchen supplies from Butler and the difference it made was immediate.

Having the correct, quality equipment, meant I could function with less staff and produce a higher standard of food.  My bottom line, reputation and safety standards benefited as a result.

Advertising and Marketing

You may be the most amazing and innovative caterer since Caesar said “I think I’ll pop an anchovy in this salad”, but if nobody hears about you then you may as well be heating sausage rolls up in a pie warmer powered through the cigarette lighter in your car.

Social media and online marketing have become the most powerful tools you have at your disposal to raise your business brand.  Considering 88% of people trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation, word of mouth has never been so powerful.

Also consider that 85% of people now search for businesses online and over 75% of customers never scroll past the first page when conducting an online search for a product or service.  Employing a Digital Marketing guru who effectively uses SEO (simply Search Engine Optimisation) can be the difference between becoming a leading household name or an also-ran.

Networking Know-how

A good networking strategy goes hand in hand with advertising and marketing.

Return business and recommendations via past clients is your strongest tool to expand your customer base.  First time clients are always taking a risk when using a catering service and when they find a reliable, effective and well-priced business they tend to stick with them.  Chances are, those very clients will recommend you to friends and family and before you know it, your client base has been established.

Having the Right Team

My final recommendation, which is of primary importance, is to find excellent staff especially your chef.  Creating a buzz or endowing your head chefs name with some cachet can initiate interest even if nobody has heard of them before.  Of course, it goes without saying that if your business is all about the food then that food needs to be superlative and, by association, your service, staff and quality need to be second to none.

If you believe that you have what it takes to become a successful caterer and you are willing to back yourself in the form of promotion, advertising and marketing, you will have initiated the most important steps to success. Self belief is in short supply these days but a winning attitude and a well implemented business plan can return huge dividends.  Best of luck!