Product samples have been a mainstay in traditional marketing for many businesses – from perfume samples in magazines to free food samples at grocery stores. Offering product samples to prospective guests is beneficial, as it increases exposure and shows guests your confidence in the product.
Catering can be used in a similar way to market your product to new potential guests and get brand exposure beyond the four walls of your restaurant. Unlike free sample campaigns, you do not need to build the cost into your marketing budget, since the price of your catering fee will offset production costs. In this way, you are getting all the benefits of a free sample campaign, while gaining new catering business. The details will depend largely on the type of restaurant you run and the event you’re catering, but there a few things you can do to ensure a successful event.
Appropriate Event Selection
When it comes to restaurant catering, there are a couple of types of events: public and private. Sometimes, schools and businesses will approach you to cater their events, but other times, you need to proactively seek out these opportunities. Finding the right opportunity will be based largely on your target market and ways you can reach them through the event.
Festivals and Schools often want catering for different community, fundraising programs and after-school type events that draw large crowds. If schools don’t approach you, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to them first. Some schools will be willing to pay for catering for parties or other special activities. But, oftentimes school catering isn’t necessarily catering in the traditional sense. Different restaurants can offer their food at concession stands and get paid directly by the guests for each product they sell.
For fundraisers, a portion of the sales will go back to the school. You can adjust prices accordingly – especially for fundraising efforts – but be mindful that you are getting the added benefit of increased brand exposure. Participating in fundraising events will also show that you value the children in your community, as well as the community as a whole.
Businesses typically request catering for any number of events – from office parties and employee appreciation days to regularly-scheduled meetings. This is a great opportunity to get your product in front of new people who may be outside your target market. If you cater weekly meetings or another recurring event, switch up your offerings so your prospective guests can try even more of your products.
Operations for each event will vary widely based on the different event logistics – from size to setting. Operational guidelines will also obviously differ based on product and the quickest, most efficient ways to get your food to the attendees.
Proper planning is the key to efficient operations for either onsite or prior food preparation for an event. Before preparing food onsite at a given location – especially in a public space – you need to acquire the right permits and be able to pass different safety standards. You also need to make sure you will have access to all the necessary equipment and materials, which can be difficult at outdoor venues.
While some food preparation may need to be done onsite, do as much preparation in advance as possible. Onsite preparation not only puts you in a time-pressure situation, but it also requires a great deal of forward planning. Although food preparation before an event is often preferable, make sure you are not preparing your products too far in advance. This could compromise the taste and quality, especially when you’re dealing with smoothies. Freezing smoothies overnight can compromise their taste and texture.
Finding the balance between preparing ahead of time, while creating ready-to-serve, quality smoothies is imperative. Do your research, and decide which method is best for the given event. If the event is particularly large and you do not have the resources to support it, partner with another local restaurant so you can accommodate more people.
Incentive to Return to Your Restaurant
The most important thing to remember about catering is that when done correctly, it is a great marketing vehicle for your business. Hand out different coupons or special offers to the attendees at the event. You don’t want to be overly promotional – particularly at a private event. However, giving out special deals will only increase the value of your services to the guest, while incentivizing them to return to your restaurant.
Ultimately, providing an exceptional product and experience at your catering events will produce positive direct and collateral benefits for your business.