Promoting Your Catering Business: An Expert Opinion
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Lots of operators have decided it’s time to try their hand at catering...and maybe you’ve decided it’s your turn! You’ve put together your catering menu...but now what? Think about this: More than 78 percent of Americans are online, and 800 million people use some form of social media. You’re consuming this article online. Not a magazine. Not a newspaper. It’s obvious you should have a social component and some type of e-marketing plan. Well, lucky for you, we went to restaurant and catering consultant Jody Birnbaum, of Caterconsult, Inc. (www.caterconsulting.com
). With more than 20 years of get-it-done experience as a caterer and consultant, she’s a catering guru who knows what she knows – and what you’ll want to know – in terms of promotion for restaurants and caterers.
: For someone just getting started in catering, what’s the first marketing step to take?
: Start amassing a database of your customers. The two most important things you need are e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers. Cell phone numbers are important for text message marketing, because the younger generation is using texting as its preferred mode of engagement. Think about email marketing, Tweeting, Facebook…all the social media. It is affordable, and this is what will enable you to cross-promote and get the word out.
: Any other “must-haves”?
: Every business needs to have an easily navigated, well-optimized website, where you can collect e-mail addresses and have people sign up for special offers and catering deals. That’s critical. You want to get the word out on your website before you launch catering: “We’re going to be launching a catering division, and we’d love to have you sign up for our catering menu when it becomes available.” That’s how you get the advance word out.
: Any social media promotions you’d suggest, either for catering or restaurants?
: You can promote almost anything within a moment’s notice on Facebook or Twitter. Say it’s been a very rainy day, and at 4:00 p.m., the sun comes out. You could advertise tequila sunrise cocktails for a buck and promote your “celebrate the sun today” entrées ordered before 6:30 with 20 percent off. This would only be good for Twitter and Facebook users, and only on that particular day.
: Any specific e-mail ideas?
: One idea: start photographing everything. Make sure those photographs are in today’s style, shot from the side view, so that you’re not shooting down on a flat tray of sandwiches. Show what the sandwich looks like, what the tray looks like. Have a file of those photographs available digitally so you can send a personal e-mail and say, “Here’s a photograph of our corned beef on rye, and we’d love to help you with your next order.” It gives it a personal touch. The website, e-mail marketing and social media are all great vehicles and are very cost-effective, but it’s still all about the personal touch.
This article was written by your sandwich pros at SandwichPro.com.