One of the challenges facing catering businesses is maintaining profitability in the face of rising overheads like staffing and ingredients. While you may have a strong clients list and a buoyant order book, unless your profits are sufficient and sustainable, you could find yourself working for less and less reward.
If you can add value to your business proposition, not only will you enjoy a healthier income, but, when the time comes to consider selling up and moving on, you’ll be in a better position to confidently command a good sale price. But, how can you shift your catering business up a gear or two?
Be Flexible and Responsive
It goes without saying that you need to make delicious food. Most caterers get into the business because they have a passion for great food but it’s easy to get stuck in a creative rut and to offer the same, familiar dishes year after year. It’s important to keep an open mind when customers ask for something bespoke and to keep your ear to the ground and take note of new food trends at home and abroad. You’ll always be able to charge a premium if you offer something tricky to find – for instance, the demand for vegetarian/vegan options is a fast-growing preference, as consumers look to reduce their meat consumption.
Focus on a Niche
Analyse what’s profitable and concentrate your efforts on a specific niche, if you can. Getting more of the right kind of sales is key to adding value to your business. It may be that your biggest profits come from catering to corporate events – such as product launches – in which case, it makes sense to put your resources into landing more of this kind of event. If you can narrow down your most lucrative market and focus on trying to make gains here, you’ll reap the best rewards. Selling more of your most profitable services is always good business.
Delight Your Customers
Make sure you always deliver excellent customer service. If you consistently please your clients, not only will they book and re-book you, they’ll also enthusiastically recommend you to friends, family and colleagues. In catering, a good reputation can do more to boost your business – and profits – than the biggest marketing budget. Don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers for a testimonial or two and post them on your website to add weight to your catering credentials.
Target Decision Makers
While you’ll always win business if you have a reputation for being reliable, responsive and well-priced, you can take a proactive approach to gain new customers by going after decision-makers with your business proposal. This may include inviting business owners or office managers to tastings or even to sample a free catered lunch to show them what you can do. Keep an eye out for industry events (wedding fairs, for example) where you can demonstrate your talents.
If you have strong links with other event service providers, including quirky venues, florists, photographers, vintners and talent booking agencies, you can create a recommendation ‘chain’ that could work in everyone’s favour when a client is on the hunt for a catered event with a few bells and whistles. Make sure you trust your collaborators and are happy to recommend their services to trusted clients.