12 Tips for Increasing Your Orders from Private Parties to Corporate Events
Tis the Season for Holiday Catering
By Brady Lee
All the signs are pointing to a joyful holiday season for restaurant catering services. I’m encouraged by the annual survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which found in 2021 almost 30 percent of companies planned to hold in-person parties compared to only about five percent the year before. That number will surely increase this year as Companies welcome employees back to the office and look for ways to help them reconnect. There’s a lot of pent-up demand for parties at work as well as for families, community organizations and social groups.
Your 2022 holiday season marketing should kick into high gear in about a month. In the spirit of the season, here are 12 tips to make your catering business merry and bright:
1. Prepare and plan early.
If your business gets busier during the holidays, you must prepare for it earlier. Now is the time to get commitments for orders, freeing you up to get your schedule mapped out. Then you can be strategic about planning your workload during peak times and capitalizing on slower times, so you have breathing room to take on extra orders and not miss out on any opportunities.
2. Keep all the winter holidays on your calendar.
Our tagline at Graze Craze is “Celebrate Everything,” and there’s more than Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s this winter. Here’s what your customers are likely to celebrate:
· November: Thanksgiving is celebrated Nov. 24 in the U.S. Don’t forget Black Friday (Nov. 25) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28), great opportunities to market to holiday shoppers too busy to cook.
· December: Besides Christmas (Dec. 25), plan for Hannukah (Dec. 18-26), Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) and, of course, New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31).
· January: Many people hold open-house parties on New Year’s Day (Jan. 1). Epiphany (Jan. 6) is an important observance for many Hispanic communities, where it’s also known as Three Kings Day. Orthodox Christmas falls on Jan. 7, Orthodox New year on Jan. 14.
3. Identify who your customer is and who you are catering to.
At Graze Craze, we’ve carved out a niche in charcuterie, so we have a narrow marketing message. If you have a more varied menu, your message will be more varied, depending on how many customer profiles you work with.
4. Promote your delivery services.
Who can resist having the party brought to them during the busy holiday season? Delivery can also help companies keep remote workers connected to their teammates in the office. For example, at Graze Craze, we offer individual grazing boards as gifts for remote workers so everyone can enjoy the party together. Remote workers often feel left out of the social buzz in the office; this can show them that they’re still valuable members of the team.
5. Use a variety of outreach channels to engage customers.
You can reach the exact customers you want to alert with tools like email blasts, targeted social media posts and pay-per-click. Instagram and Facebook Reels have worked really well for us; Reels have been very successful because they engage every user, not just those already following us. We post videos of our catered events to give people an idea of what they can expect and get their attention.
6. Make sure you build time in your schedule for walk-ins and new customers.
Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with new customers. Even if your menu is entirely custom-made, like ours is, you can have some partly made selections ready to finish off quickly for walk-in orders. This is a convenient option for busy families who need a grab-and-go option during shopping days.
7. Create special offers to keep the holiday excitement going.
We offer specialty boards for limited times: Fall and Thanksgiving boards in October and November, winter holidays in December. Any limited-time or theme-based offering you can promote within your business can work well to change things up.
8. Change your menu and your message for the holidays.
It’s good to mix up the menu for your regular customers who order the same thing week after week or month after month. The same goes for your marketing message. Freshen it up to emphasize your added offerings; people love getting something new from an old friend.
9. Ask customers for reviews.
Reviews are critically important to any food business. It is essential to follow up to get those reviews, especially when people are in the holiday spirit. Encourage people to leave written reviews, not just a star or a “like,” that way you can leverage their testimonials in additional marketing. You want visitors to spend time on your site, this will help boost your engagement score.
10. Consider hiring seasonal staff to handle the extra business.
Every business is a little different. The holidays are our busiest time but may not be for you. We encourage our franchisees to staff up so they can be prepared and not have to turn down business for lack of staff. Start hiring in November and continue through December and maybe into the new year; January has several holidays people will want to have catered.
11. Always have a backup – for everything.
If I have learned anything from the food business, it is to have a backup for my backup’s backup. You need to have all contingencies covered. You cannot go it alone; you need help and the right help at the right time. Planning and then having contingencies for each plan will help you better handle the changes that will inevitably happen.
12. Follow up for the next event.
Check in with customers to make sure everything was satisfactory. You may not have time to reach everyone personally, but at least contact the higher-revenue clients. Just making the effort and showing you care will go a long way to getting repeat business for the next holiday or special event.
Once you’ve come through the winter holidays, it’s time to start gearing up for the next season. In fact, what’s next? Spring, of course. Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, and Mardi Gras revelers will be partying on Feb. 21. Then there’s St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) and on and on.
Holidays and themed days offer a wonderful opportunity to generate additional revenue and build customer relationships. Being prepared will ease things for you and your team and surely increase customer satisfaction.
About the Author
Brady Lee is President of Graze Craze®, a booming new concept in charcuterie boards and boxes for healthy lunches, office catering and special events. He is also Chief Operating Officer of United Franchise GroupTM (UFG), an affiliated family of brands and consultants including Graze Craze®. Lee started his career at a Signarama® franchise located in Tallahassee before joining the UFG headquarters team. He has held a number of positions at UFG focused on franchise development in both the U.S. and Australia, including Regional Manager, Vice President of Franchise Development and Director of Sales in the Australia Corporate Headquarters.
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