Catering to Kids Part 2: Increase Your Market Share through Children’s Parties

You can increase your market share through children’s parties. Catering to kids essentially lets you make money while you’re marketing yourself to future clients. Here’s the “why” and the “how”.

Why you should be catering to kids

1. Follow the trends
The trends are clear. Celebrities are throwing elaborate catered parties for their kids – and parents everywhere see this. Even without the celebrity influence, kids’ parties have been growing more elaborate with more games, fancy take-home party favors, and cartoon characters showing up to entertain the small guests. Some birthday parties look like carnivals!

There’s also a growing market for places that host children’s parties. For one set price, they include the venue, games, sometimes prizes and food, and (most importantly) clean-up.

As a caterer, you can take advantage of this trend by putting together kid party packages at different price points to compete with this market and take advantage of this birthday party trend. Your value-added proposition is that you not only provide the prep work and the clean-up – you’ll come to your client’s home or wherever they want to have the party. They’re not bound to a pizza place, a bounce house place, etc.

2. Prospecting
When you cater a child’s birthday party, you’re opening people up to the realization that they can afford a caterer and that you’re worth every penny – even for smaller events at home. Marketing-wise, you increase your visibility and set yourself up to create long-lasting relationships with the parents and other adult guests.

3. Cash flow
Use children’s parties to bring in cash and keep your staff busy during slower times of the year. These smaller affairs (not that all of them are small – see the first reason for why you want to cater children’s parties) can also be a great way for you to train rising caterers in your company who need to cut their teeth on some events, too. Let them handle the smaller events while you take a larger event that same day.

How to cater to kids

There are so many different ways you can make catering to kids work for you to increase your market share. Here are some tips as you explore which options make the most sense for you.

Balancing work and cost
The reason so many people dread children’s parties is because they are a lot of work. They’re intense. The kids are always high energy. They want food. They expect to be entertained. All the action takes place in a short amount of time (average party will run around two hours). Don’t sell yourself short on the pricing. Find high-profit-margin, kid-pleasing menu options. If you find that your party package prices are a little higher than other packages in your market, simply remind clients that you are personally preparing food, activities, etc. for their party. You’ll provide a more personalized experience that will be memorable and less “cookie cutter.”

Creating packages for every budget
When you’re thinking about your packages, consider things like how much work some of the extras are that you might want to include, such as games, for example. Think about who buys at the different price points, from low to high. What are they expecting?

Making each package customizable can make you look good and keep your customers happy. You don’t necessarily want to get into adjusting the prices up or down – I recommend keeping your price points firm. Just know in the back of your mind that you can easily substitute the veggie platter for some tater tots to make parents happy. Know whether or not some packages allow you to throw in an extra snack that isn’t listed without eating up your profit margin.

A lower price option that allows budget-conscience parents to provide most of the activities and prizes can be a good low-effort money maker for you, if all you have to do is show up, serve the food, and clean up when you’re done. Have tiered options, all the way up to a full-service option that includes food, music, games…the whole nine yards.

To entertain or not to entertain
Decide how much entertainment you want to provide at these parties – whether people are paying for it or not!

One inexpensive way to bring a value-added touch to these packages is to invest in some small-but-sturdy party games, such as corn hole and other outdoor/indoor game sets. Once you’ve invested in them, you can charge a little extra to bring them along and set them out at parties. Or, offer the games for free as a way to differentiate yourself and your service. For larger events, let parents know they can pay for staff to help with the games, then hire a young person who is good with kids to help during the party.

Another easy, inexpensive way to entertain your tiny guests is to make the food part of the entertainment. Get them involved in creating the food. This can mean anything from assemble-your-own tacos or nachos to having a cooking class and teaching the kids how to make something. Essentially – encourage them to play with their food. They’ll have fun, it will keep them focused and occupied for a good amount of time – and who knows? They might learn something, too.

Creating partnerships
Which brings me to my next point – partnerships. For some of these parties, what you’re essentially doing is offering to become the de facto event planner. (Sound familiar?) If you haven’t done this already, develop a network of partners for these parties. Think staff to run games, venues, entertainers, face painters, balloon animal people, even an ice cream truck owner. Learn how to build these business relationships with these catering tips. The more parties you do, the more your network will grow.

Dealing with food allergies
Nowadays, having a child’s birthday party also means being aware of common food allergens and best food handling practices to avoid cross contamination. Always check in with the parents and ask them to reach out to people on their guest list to see if any special accommodations need to be made. (And if you do have to make accommodations, don’t sweat it. It’s not that hard. Check out our previous series about catering to special diets .)

It’s not uncommon for parents of kids with allergies to bring food for their child to a party. However, it’s always good to ask – and you just don’t know how it will touch the heart of a parent if you have food that their child can eat, too. Feeling excluded, especially at a birthday party, feels pretty rotten. You can really win over your next most loyal fan by taking the time to make sure everyone is included.

Are you brimming with ideas now? Good! Go start making some plans for how you’re going to package and market your children’s parties! And if you want to read more about catering to kids at adult events, check out the first article in this series: Catering to Kids Part 1: Feeding Kids at Grown-up Events.