Six proven ways to attract business through social media
By Liese Gardner
As your potential clients begin to plan a wedding or significant event, one of their first tasks will be securing a venue. This can be a big boost to caterers with preferred or exclusive status at a popular venue. In fact, being affiliated with an in-demand venue is so beneficial that some caterers—such as Best Impressions in Charlotte, North Carolina—have even built their own. After all, owner-operated venues offer a win-win scenario: a steady stream of business for both catering and rentals.
But how do you make sure your venue is making an impression? As with anything in business, it’s all about marketing. And, as with anything in marketing today, it’s all about social media. Instagram (and, increasingly, TikTok) is a huge driver of awareness, which leads to bookings.
Today, clients want to know more about who they are doing business with, and Instagram provides that insider’s peek. You can use that to your advantage by following these six great ideas from members of ECEP (Elite Catering & Event Professionals), a mastermind group of caterers from across the nation.
1. Link to Venues or Create Dedicated Pages
Do you host all your venues on your catering page or separately? If you are aligned with a large public venue with its own Instagram page, such as a library or art museum, it might not be possible to have a dedicated Instagram page for it as a venue. However, there are still ways to use social media to promote it—and your association with it.
For instance, McCalls Catering & Events in San Francisco promotes its exclusive venues, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, on its website and on its Instagram page. To drive traffic, it uses Story Highlights to showcase each venue, and includes them in their “linktree”—Instagram’s link-in-bio feature—providing direct links to each venue’s webpage.
Other caterers create dedicated Instagram pages for each venue. If the venue is exclusively theirs, they feature their name and a link to their site. If the venue is open to other caterers, they might be a little more discreet that they are the owner.
2. Promote Venue Tours
Instagram is an ideal place for listing when tours are available. Consider writing posts that list more than tour times. For example:
• Entice potential clients to take a tour sooner rather than later with a caption that urges action, such as: “Tour now for bookings in Spring 2024—limited dates available!”
• Advertise an experience, not just a tour. Consider adding a line such as: “Join us for a free tour and enjoy a complimentary cup of our signature coffee blend!”
You can also show potential clients your venue via virtual tours on Instagram Stories, Reels or Live. This is a great way to make potential clients feel like they already know you.
3. Make an Introduction
Do you have news to share about your venue? If so, an introduction type of post, Reel or Story doesn’t cost much and can deliver a big marketing punch.
Here are three examples of introduction posts:
• The Hard Hat Introduction: Butler’s Pantry in St. Louis posted a series of photos over three days to announce their new management of 18 Rails and introduce owner Richard Nix, CEO Maggie Barton and the rest of the team.
• The Logo Introduction: When Ridgewells Catering in Washington, D.C., took over the prestigious Mellon Auditorium, they announced their new Instagram presence with an elegant logo, followed by professional images.
• The Behind-the-Scenes Introduction: Best Impressions Caterers documented the construction of The Revelry North End on Instagram, engaging potential clients from inception to grand opening—and booking events before the doors even opened.
4. Show Off Testimonials and Accolades
Social proof can positively impact a potential client’s decision about where to hold their event. To get it, ask clients if you can share their photos of your venue and whether they’re willing to leave a review. Choose quotes highlighting what makes your venue unique. Try to find quotes that highlight something specific about your staff or venue.
If you can get it, a short video testimonial can do wonders. Ask clients and their guests if they have a moment to talk about their experience at your venue. You can also ask clients if you can use clips of videos they took.
When you receive attention from the media or another outside source, spread the word. People love to know when something has been rated highly. For example, as the exclusive caterer to the Linden Row Inn, Trolley Hospitality Companies promoted an award from TripAdvisor proudly on the venue’s Instagram page.
Instagram has a feature that allows you to connect with another business account in a “collaboration post.” Collaboration broadens your reach, diversifies your content and brings new perspectives to your advertising.
Here’s how it works: When you create a post on Instagram, click on “tag people.” Then you can invite collaborators by typing in their Instagram name. Their username will be added to the post, and it will be shared with their followers as well as yours. Let the collaborator know that you are inviting them to collaborate, so they are sure to see and accept the invitation.
If you have separate accounts for your venue and catering firm, post a Story or Reel of a culinary experience from the venue and invite your catering firm to collaborate.
You can also partner with influencers in relevant niches like travel, event planning, weddings and lifestyle—an effective (and often very affordable) way to significantly boost your venue’s visibility. Influencers have dedicated followers who trust their opinions. You can host an influencer event at your venue or pay an influencer to mention your venue.
6. Show It Off!
Marketing on Instagram is quite affordable. However, you need to invest in photography to make it pay off.
Sometimes the stars align, and you are able to get the “money shots”—those dramatic stop-your-scrolling images—yourself or from the event photographer. Other times, it might be difficult to get photos from a client’s wedding or event, or the photos available aren’t the ones you want.
One way to ensure you get the images you want is to create a photo shoot at your venue involving all your favorite creative partners, who will share the images to their audiences as well. Be sure to take a lot of behind-the-scenes shots and document the shoot on Stories!
And, if possible, get real-time action shots from events for Stories and Reels, with your client’s permission. Videos are an incredible sales tool—the best way for potential clients to see the venue, and your culinary prowess, in real time.
18 Rails: @18rails (Butler’s Pantry, St. Louis)
The Ballroom at the Carlos Center: @theballroomatthecarloscenter (Proof of the Pudding, Atlanta)
McCalls Catering & Events: @mccallssf (San Francisco)
Hall at Fauntleroy: @hallatfauntleroy (Tuxedoes and Tennis Shoes, Seattle)
Linden Row Inn: @lindenrow (Trolley Hospitality Companies, Richmond, Virginia)
The Mellon Auditorium: @eventsatmellon (Ridgewells Catering, Washington, D.C.)
The Revelry: @therevelry_clt (Best Impressions Caterers, Charlotte, North Carolina)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Liese Gardner began her journey in the catering and event world as editor of Special Events magazine and director of education for The Special Event. Now owner of Liese Gardner Communications, she continues to write about the industry and connect event professionals with their ideal clients through Brand Therapy, her own style of marketing and legacy building.
For more information, visit liesegardner.com.