Are Your Catering Services Being Passed Over?

“Mmm, delicious,” the bride-to-be says covering her mouth with her hand as she talks. “Those crab cakes are pretty amazing,” her fiancé follows up. You beam internally as you serve the couple their last course for their tasting. You know you’ve just nailed this one and are making the prep list in your head before they even walk out the door. “We have one more caterer to visit, but we can’t imagine they will be better than this! We’ll call you in the next few days.” And like a girl after her first date that couple leaves you giddy at your door and follows up your (what you perceived to be) amazing date, sorry, we mean tasting, with (wait for it,) nothing. They never call, never email, not a peep. What happened to them? Was it you? Was it the food? Did you come on too strong?

These are questions you may be asking yourself after a few tastings that result in no bookings. If you aren’t asking yourself where these people are going instead of booking with you, please see us after this post. We have another discussion to have. Asking these questions can help you better understand your customers’ needs and your business. If you find when you follow up with a potential client they have chosen another caterer do not hurry off the phone in embarrassment. Congratulate them on finding a caterer, then ask if they mind you inquiring why they chose that caterer over yours. Some people find it easy to answer these type of questions, but other may find it uncomfortable. If you find there to be a lot of resistance ask if they would mind you sending over a survey via email to help you improve your business.

One reason people may be booking with another caterer is pricing. Don’t let this scare you. People have different budgets for different types of affairs. If you find people are repeatedly claiming price as a reason for choosing another caterer who delivers equal quality for similar events, you may want to do some competitive price checking. Make sure you are in the same range as caterers you would consider your equals (be realistic). If you find that your prices are significantly higher, such as $5 more for similar appetizers or $15 more for comparable entrees, you may consider lowering your prices to be competitive. We are not saying cheapen your product by under pricing items, just make sure you are comparable.

Another reason you may find clients choosing an alternative caterer is the connection they felt with that caterer (or didn’t feel from you.) Yes, they are hiring you for your food, but they are also hiring you for your service. When you visit a restaurant you enjoy your meal more when it is served on time, the restaurant feels clean, and your waiter is friendly. People look for those same qualities in the person providing their tasting. If a couple feels that they could have a laugh with the chef or the staff serving them during their tasting they feel like they are being taken care of by a friend, someone who understands them, not by a stranger in a white coat. The connection may sound silly, but it’s important when people are choosing someone to handle such a large part of their event.

Lastly, you may hear clients say they chose another caterer because of style. This may mean the style of food they served or the fashion in which they served it. Hey, what can we say, some people are won over by those little shooters of soup. If you aren’t sure what your catering style is work on developing it. People love picking a caterer with a specialty as it helps solidify the personality of their event. If a charity is hosting a backyard barbecue to raise money they will not likely hire a black-tie caterer for a four course, seated meal. They will find a caterer who can bring home that homemade-biscuits-and-Grandma’s-secret-barbecue-sauce feel without having Grandma slave over a stove for three days. The food puts the personality into an event. Remember that as you taste with potential clients.

It’s not always a bad thing if a client goes with another caterer. Maybe you all were not a good fit. Maybe they didn’t have the budget for the type of food you offer. All of that is okay, as long as you aren’t repeatedly passed over for potential business.