From Kitchen to Clientele: Building a Thriving Catering Business with These Essential Principles
If you’ve got a passion for food, but you’re not quite cut out for how fast-paced the restaurant world is, a catering company is a great business to consider instead. You can take on multiple clients at once, work both private and public functions, and specialise in the cuisine you love most. And all without losing your mind or too much of a healthy work/balance!
However, it’s not all immediate sunshine and rainbows. A catering company can still be a hard business to put together. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you if you want to get established, much of which concerns marketing your food and learning to balance your time correctly. You’ll mostly be working behind the scenes, but your public reception is still incredibly important!
If that’s something you want to know more about, check out the points below. A good catering company starts with a clear idea of what it can do, but a great one gets started on these defining principles.
A Proper Niche
What kind of events do you want to cater? What kind of food do you want to serve? These are the two questions that will allow you to pick a niche. They can be stand-alone or combined to allow you to come up with a proper USP that sets you apart from a dozen other catering companies local to the area.
Putting yourself into either of these niches isn’t a bad thing, despite how much it feels like boxing yourself in. Instead, it gives your company something to focus on and a prime marketing goal to work towards.
Plus, a proper niche allows for a lot more branding work to be done. If you’re excited to put together a website and social media profiles, the earlier you can settle on a logo, the less time it’ll take to start gaining followers.
You Have a High Food Hygiene Rating
Your food hygiene rating lets people know immediately just how quality your company is. Whilst it’s not illegal to operate without being rated, it is frowned upon, and you’re not going to get many customers coming to your door.
However, it is illegal to prepare and sell food if you’re not qualified in food hygiene, so make sure you’ve obtained this certificate before you do anything else.
Once you get the inspection carried out, you’ll be told the results and sent a label you can display. If you’ve got a physical store or office, put a label like this in at least one prominent position, such as in a front window or on a counter display window.
You can also download media to use on your website; putting your hygiene rating in pride of place on the homepage will assure your clients that they’re working with a reputable company.
It’s Easy for Clients to Get a Quote
The one thing a potential client is going to want to know about your company? How much does it cost to hire? That’s where quoting software comes in; you can take details and ping back a reliable estimate with little to no effort, smoothing the process on either side. Make it easy and you make a wonderful first impression.
You can also make note of the packages you offer on your website. If someone clicks through to your homepage, your pricing list should be displayed for them to see. This way, if they’re intrigued by what you offer and all the great content you’ve come up with, they can immediately assess if they’ve got the budget to work with you. It just cuts out a lot of hassle and gets clients your way a lot faster!
A Healthy Understanding of Scheduling
A catering company is going to get busy. You’ve got a lot of work to do, including prep work, cooking, safe storage, supply shopping, and delivery. You then may have to hand out and serve the food once it’s arrived at the venue – that’s a lot to manage! As such, you’re going to need to structure your time on the job very carefully.
For the time being, you might be fine being the only employee at your company. This will soon change, however. Make sure you’re ready to hire further team members before the need arises – you’re going to want to keep an eye on the job market for capable caterers so you can snatch one up at just the right time. Hiring can be a super long process otherwise, and that’s not a good use of your working hours!
You’ve Invested in Customer Service
Customer service, and running great customer service, is the backbone of the catering industry. You need to work closely alongside clients, to ensure their vision of a special day in their life goes off without a hitch. You may want to attend a specific catering customer service course to get some ideas here, but the main principles remain the same across all sectors.
Namely, the customer needs to be prioritised. You can have your boundaries and select things you can and can’t do as a company, but if someone is willing to pay extra for you to stay and serve the food, it’s worth thinking about offering that in your packages. If this isn’t already standardised as part of your service, an influx of requests should change your mind!
Similarly, if the client comes back to you with a complaint, you should have an open-book policy that allows them to get a full or partial refund if the issue is serious enough. To prevent this, follow all food safety and handling laws, and make sure any allergens are always presented clearly and concisely!
Packaging Looks Just as Good as the Food
The food is one thing. The box or bag it’s being delivered in? This needs to look just as delectable as the meal someone is about to plate up. Your packaging is a way for your brand to speak – it helps to set the tone of the food you’ve delivered and the kind of company you are.
A children’s birthday party specialist, for example, should have fun, bright, and bold packaging. Someone who solely caters to business events and corporate parties should have a more professional, sleek, and modern tone to their packaging design. The two won’t ever cross!
You Build the Whole Experience, Rather Than Just Bringing the Food
Following on from our point about the importance of packaging, you should think about setting the tone with complementary items as well. If you’re sending out a birthday cake, why not send the candles and the cake stand too?
It might cost the customer a little more, but you’re bringing convenience to their event, and making it look great at the same time! Think about this when putting your catering packages together.
Ready to Start a Catering Company?
It’s a dream for many in the hospitality business. You get to pick and choose what projects you take on, you can cater some dream events that everyone wants to get invited to, and you can dig into customising a menu.
But when you start to sketch out your business plan, make sure you focus on the points above. What’s going to make your brand stand out when people need food for their wedding or a corporate bash? The food is often the event centrepiece, so it needs to be provided by someone who knows what they’re doing!