How to get catering clients: 6 proven ways to help your food business grow

How to get catering clients: 6 proven ways to help your food business grow

Meg Furey-Marquess
By Meg Furey-Marquess
Nov 7, 2023
1 min read

There are about 12,000 catering companies in the US with a combined annual revenue of around $11 billion, according to Dun & Bradstreet’s catering services industry profile. A business owner might wonder how to get catering clients in a competitive market. Here, we’ll share what the catering industry knows about helping a food business grow.

These six tips could help you grow your catering client list:

  1. Have a business plan in place
  2. Create a catering niche
  3. Develop your online presence
  4. Get easy access to your proof of insurance
  5. Encourage client referrals
  6. Partner with other companies

1. Have a business plan in place

Successful catering businesses are purposefully built. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, and you shouldn’t start your catering business without a catering business plan.

A business plan acts as a roadmap on your journey to success. There are many details a caterer needs to take care of before they get their first client:

The list goes on. A business plan spells everything out so you won’t miss any details.

In addition, a business plan can help you get funding to start your business. Banks and investors will usually require you to present your business plan before they offer funding or a loan.

2. Create a catering niche

Clients seek out catering services for a specific purpose, such as boxed lunch sandwiches for the office, a taco truck for a street fair, or a five-course formal dinner for a wedding. When they search online for what they’re looking for, a specialized caterer will rank higher than a generalized business that cooks everything.

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you specialize in a specific type of food, you may actually increase your business. Your menu could offer your favorite food (chicken and waffles) or the cuisine you grew up with (Ethiopian). Or you could create your catering business around dietary needs, such as gluten-free, plant-based, Keto and so on.

3.  Develop your online presence

These days, you need a strong online presence to give your business traction. Most clients, especially when you’re just starting out, will probably find you through online search. This means your business will need a Google Business Profile and a website.

Getting a Google Business Profile is free and easy and allows your business to show up on Google Maps. This also adds your business information to Google so people can easily find your website, phone number and address, and reward your business with reviews.

Your website should show off what your business does best with descriptions of your services and menus, quality photos of your food and contact information. But in addition to all that, ensure your catering company’s website aligns with the principles of search engine optimization (SEO). This means that when a potential client enters a search term that matches your business, such as “boxed lunch caterer near me,” your business website will appear in a search.

4. Get easy access to your proof of insurance

Insurance coverage shows clients that you’re professional, reliable and responsible. This can give clients peace of mind and more referrals to you.

A certificate of insurance (COI) proves you have insurance and states how much coverage you carry. It’s essential because many clients will only work with insured caterers. Anyone insured with NEXT can get 24/7 access to their COI via web or mobile app.

And even if insurance is not required for a job, it’s a good idea. When serving food to the public, anything can happen, including allergic reactions or food spoilage.

5. Encourage client referrals

Excellent food and service can generate great word-of-mouth referrals. You can encourage people to talk about you even more if you establish a client referral strategy.

Say thank you to clients who introduce you to a new client. A gift card, flowers, or a small plate of your specialty shows people that you appreciate their referral. And it helps ensure that the next time they or someone they know needs a caterer, you’ll be the first name they think of.

6. Partner with other companies

Instead of competing against each other in the highly competitive field of catering, you can champion and boost a chosen partner or circle of partners to great success.

A fast way to double your potential clients is to join forces with another caterer. Find a partner that makes sense. For example, if you specialize in fried chicken and cornbread, find caterers that bake great sweet potato and peach pies.

Together, you can combine lists of potential event opportunities, cut advertising costs and combine resources for more exposure and more clients.

When you work with another caterer, you can also share experiences, buy ingredients in bulk and share staffing lists to improve and expand both of your businesses.

How NEXT can help protect your catering business

NEXT has your catering insurance needs covered with 24/7 access to your certificate of insurance (COI) to help you get more gigs and keep your business growing.

You can complete our online application, get a quote, buy coverage and get your COI in less than 10 minutes.

Start a free instant quote with NEXT today.

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Meg Furey-Marquess
About the author

Meg Furey-Marquess is an experienced writer from Austin, Texas. With a special interest in both small business and personal finance, she believes that big ideas often start small. With a knack for narrative and a relentlessly curious nature, her goal is to amplify the “little guys.”

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