Tips for setting yourself apart from your catering competition
By Meryl Snow, Snowstorm Solutions and Feastivities Events
As the events industry becomes increasingly saturated, it’s essential for every catering company to take efforts to stand out in a crowded market. Of course, standing out isn’t as simple as throwing advertising dollars everywhere. While a marketing push can certainly earn some attention, it’s not a sustainable option for long-term growth.
Instead, there are two major business components that can set your company apart from its competitors for the long haul. Naturally, the products and services that you offer play a large part in how your brand appeals to its prospective clients. However, there’s another aspect that also plays a significant role in how you measure up to competitors: your sales process.
Let’s dive into each of these components and how they impact your business model and your standing in the market.
Innovative Products and Services
Offering the latest and greatest in catering trends is a surefire way to impress prospects and seal the deal. Clients want convenient, sophisticated food experiences—a priority that remains evergreen throughout the evolution of trends. More and more, people are also interested in fresh, natural ingredients, as well as unique and exciting elements, along with food that’s ethically produced and environmentally conscious. After all, clients recognize that their menu is an extension of who they are and what they stand for.
One particular trend that is here to stay is experiential catering—where clients look to their caterers to add to the event’s guest experience. Performance stations, like poke stations or olive oil tasting bars, are a powerful way to engage guests through a culinary experience. Likewise, beverages can be interactive as well. Drink bars filled with fresh fruits and syrups make a fun statement when used as a décor piece, and fit right into the growing trend of non-alcoholic high-end mocktails.
On a similar note, tablescape dining is taking the place of traditional plated dinners. It’s not just for dinner, either—brunch, cocktails, dessert and late-night snacks have all shown up as buffet favorites.
Gastronomy has also earned its spot as a top catering trend, as clients look to provide their guests with the best cuisine from around the world. Tasting menus, drink pairings, and dishes that explore the intricate science of flavor and texture are requested more than ever.
These broad industry trends provide countless opportunities for creativity and innovation, which can truly set you apart from competitors. It’s all about creating a one-of-a-kind experience for your clients and their guests.
Sell It Like You Mean It
Of course, great products and services won’t make a difference if prospects aren’t clear on why your company is the best fit for them. Keep in mind that clients are often interviewing multiple caterers at once, so standing out in the decision-making process is essential to landing new business. A strong salesperson is one who can create dialogue, understand the client’s needs and perspective, and close on profitable leads.
There are several components to a solid sales pitch that leads you closer to booking a prospect.
• A customized proposal
Your proposal is often the first impression you make on a client, so don’t send them a standard template with their name on it. It’s fine to have some boilerplate copy, but do your best to make each proposal custom. Develop a sample menu for each prospect based on their needs, and take the time to show that you fully understand their situation.
• Listen, understand, respond
It can be tempting to start a consultation off with an impressive selection of products and services that you offer, but it can be overwhelming to a new prospect. Instead, let them lead the discussion by using guiding questions to get a better understanding of their needs. Ask them about themselves, their event, and their vision before you start offering ideas.
• A taste of your brand
All catering consultations should include some treats to taste. After all, your culinary expertise is your biggest selling point. Be sure to include a diverse array of flavors in bite-sized pieces, paired with suitable beverages. It doesn’t need to be a full menu, but it should be enough to showcase the specialties that your company has to offer.
• Body language is everything
Even if you have the best hors d’oeuvres in town, poor body language can be the difference between a loss and a sale. Crossed arms, bad posture and lack of eye contact can make you seem disinterested and closed off. On the other hand, upright posture, eye contact and smiling demonstrates that you are engaged and prepared to be a committed team member.
To stand out from the competition, you must understand your brand’s strengths in order to sell them as solutions to prospects’ needs. A cohesive brand is imperative because it defines your values, your reputation and your quality of work, but rest assured that you can maintain a strong brand identity while still innovating and trying new things.