Catering Do’s and Don’ts to Get More Bookings

John Cohen | April 2, 2018

Did you know many of us here at Total Party Planner have worked in the catering industry? Yep, our team knows where you’re coming from because we’ve been there! We also have a number of employees who have been on the other side of the prep counter, hiring caterers for their weddings or events. I asked the TPP team to share their biggest do’s and don’ts that will help caterers generate more bookings. Check out their responses below!

Do: Exhibit at Wedding Shows and Expos

Wedding shows give you a chance to meet with clients and really sell yourself as a person, not just a business. It’s also a chance to set yourself apart from other caterers–what can you do that is unique or trend-setting? Think outside of the box and choose a variety of shows, don’t just focus on the big shows. Sometimes the smaller, boutique shows draw a more qualified client and allow you more time to talk to them.

“We met our caterer at a wedding expo. I am not an indecisive person and I knew Chef Shane with Caroline Street Catering would be perfect, so there was no need to shop around. We wanted to work with all local vendors for our event, and he was every bit your local Fredericksburg business. He had his staff at the expo, so I met who would be working my event, and they were handing out samples–all creative and cool stuff. His staff at the station were so personable and took their time to get to know my husband and I right there. They interviewed us on what kind of food we wanted to have at our wedding and we bounced ideas back and forth…they suggested we pass around pierogi since my grandmother had recently passed away and that was her signature dish.” -Courtney

Don’t: Avoid Talking About Price

If a prospect is asking about price, don’t dodge the question, or try to build out their entire menu before giving them a price range. This will only frustrate your prospects and waste time if they can’t afford your services. And if they want to keep talking after the price conversation, there’s a good opportunity to upsell them on some of the menu options!

“I spoke to a few caterers who wanted to nail down every detail of the menu before giving me a quote. It saved a TON of time when caterers said ‘for a seated dinner for that many people you can expect to pay anywhere between X and Y,’ and then we started talking details. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated their up-front approach, and because they made my life easier I was more inclined to work with them.” -Molly

Holly

“Our venue had a bridal show with all of their preferred vendors catered by Carriage House. They did hors d’oeuvres while we were on the floor, then they did a buffet dinner where they showed off a bunch of items from their different levels of menu package. Their offerings are pretty inclusive at different price levels, so we don’t feel like we’re missing anything.” -Holly

Do: Utilize Social Media

Social media is an amazing tool for anyone in the events industry, and it’s FREE! Sharing pictures of table settings, food stations, venues—really anything event-focused—is going to be a huge draw for anyone planning an event.

“I love seeing event pictures on social media. My daughter is about to turn one, so I am getting inspired by all of these fun ideas. We definitely want to make this a fun, special, and memorable party, but because we’re so busy I don’t know when I’ll actually have the time to do any of this stuff. Seeing their work on social media is definitely making me consider hiring a caterer.” -Courtney

Don’t: Burn Bridges In The Catering World

The catering and events community is tight-knit group, and these folks have got each other’s backs! If someone is very difficult to work with, word will get around. Venues, planners, and other caterers could be a great referral source, but news travels fast in the catering world, and professionalism matters.

“If venues give caterers a hard time, or a caterer does not clean up after an event, people are going to hear about it. You have to play well in the sandbox! As a caterer, you have so much to manage with every event and every client; if someone is unreliable or unprofessional it makes them very hard to work with. There’s just no way you’d have time to mediate issues on top of everything else you have to deal with, and people in this industry will not put up with it.” -Myra

Do: Create Partnerships With Venues

Molly

Of course you already know how beneficial it is to be on a venue’s preferred vendor list, but it may work to your advantage in more ways than you’d expect!

“While looking at venues I saw one of our favorite restaurants, Lunch or Supper, listed as a preferred vendor. I had no idea they catered! We didn’t end up picking that venue, but we did hire Lunch or Supper thanks to them! Our caterer ultimately got more business just by having their name on another venue’s list.” -Molly

Don’t: Treat it Like a Transaction

When a prospect approaches you, you want to nail down budget, menu options, bar packages, etc., but remember this event is usually a huge day for them, not just another Saturday evening! You can do this in your sleep, but it’s their very first time hosting an event of this magnitude.

“One of the biggest mistakes a caterer can make is to not listen. Even if the bride seems to be taking the reigns, make sure to ask about the groom’s preferences. It should be about the couple and not just the bride, and definitely not about our food–it’s about what they like to eat! I would always ask clients for their top 5 go-to restaurants to get an idea of their style, and then offer a complimentary tasting of their exact menu so they know what they’re really getting. And it’s always smart to have food and beverages available for the initial consult (even if it’s just cookies). It gets people excited and makes them feel special!” -Myra

 

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