Catering Niches to Target for Your Restaurant
Photo by Asiya Kiev
When I first opened my restaurant in 1992, I wasn't thinking about niche markets.
In fact, back then, I had never even heard of Black Friday. I'm a buyer, not a shopper.
But when a local department store, Dillard's, called my restaurant to order a drop-off catering for approximately two hundred people, it piqued my curiosity. Why would a department store want such a large order? I wanted to know a little more about their event and the reasons for it, so I gave them a call.
It was through their decision-maker that I learned about Black Friday: an entire day of shopping, manufactured by someone other than Hallmark to get people out in stores spending money.
What a concept! Learning about Black Friday really got the wheels turning in my head.
If Dillard's was going to host catering for Black Friday, how many other retail stores might be considering the same thing?
The following year, I drove around to the five major shopping centers in Nashville and wrote down all the names of the big box retailers with locations there.
Then, I went back to my store and started devising a plan. We didn't have online directories to track down contact information, so I used the Yellow Pages.
My contact at Dillard's suggested I call and get the names of each company's head of HR before I sent out any marketing materials, so that's exactly what I did.
In total, I mailed 45 retailers that year and followed up my sales letters with phone calls. When everything was said and done, I'd earned over $6,000 in drop-off catering for one day. All without paying for a list of client contacts, because I built it myself.
This changed my whole perspective on niche marketing. It made me re-evaluate how I thought about who needs catering services, as well as things that I could do to directly market towards specific industries and events, instead of just doing seasonal or holiday promotions.
Niche Catering Ideas
Here's the main tip for marketing to catering niches: Find a need and be the one to fill it.
There are dozens of niche market events you could target. The options are wide and plentiful.
Some specific lucrative events for catering businesses include:
- back-to-school teacher in-service trainings
- "lunch and learn" real estate events
- corporations holding end-of-fiscal-year caterings
But you need to target those niche markets directly if you don't want to be just another name in the hat.
Let's explore these niche market opportunities above a bit more closely.
Catering for Schools
Tons of schools, from elementary to post-secondary, host some kind of back-to-school meal for students and parents.
It might only be dessert trays and coffee or could be a full BBQ catering menu. If you haven't been targeting these kinds of clients, I would strongly recommend making that part of your marketing plan for the next year.
Getting in with a back-to-school event means you'll be on their catering radar. When it comes time for fundraisers or major school extracurricular events that need catering, your catering company will be the first in their minds.
You can use CaterZen to set yourself a marketing calendar reminder, so that no matter how busy you get, you won't forget to act on these types of marketing plans.
Catering for Real Estate
The same kind of theory applies to "lunch and learn" events for real estate agents and their offices.
Sometimes, when they're showing off a new listing for a million-plus dollar home, they'll want to cater the event with something other than just cheese and crackers.
A lot of people don't realize how interconnected the real estate market is. It's not just agents that attend these kinds of events. Title companies, home inspectors and contractors all want their hands in the cookie jar, too.
Not to mention there's a strong opportunity for building referrals and great word-of-mouth by catering events like this.
Reach out to some real estate offices and market to these types of catering events. You might be surprised by how much return you can get with a few well-placed sales letters. Just talk to the brokers first, and make sure you're addressing your materials to the people who handle arranging the catering for these types of events.
There are many events throughout the year when a company will be looking to bring in food. For example, when they're feeding their employees who are working overtime to get the books in order before the end of their fiscal calendar.
Once you get your foot in the door, and make the right impression, you could be the go-to company for all future events.
Evergreen Catering Niche Market Examples
Not all niche marketing runs on specific timelines like back-to-school events, though. Some opportunities are always blooming year-round.
They're happening constantly, but we don't always hear about them, because they can be private, one-shot events.
Evergreen catering niches include:
- Wedding receptions
- Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
- Milestone birthdays
- Baby showers
Do you see where I'm going with this?
It would take me a whole book to explain strategies for targeting all these kinds of private events, but really, it comes down to using your head.
If you're going to target wedding receptions, how would you get your catering company in front of the would-be bride and groom? Bridal shows are a great start.
Also, targeting churches in your area that have large, regularly booked reception halls is a great way to hit niche markets for weddings and christenings at the same time.
Do a cookie drop the next time you know the church is holding an in-house event.
A small gesture of good faith goes a long way with clients and getting your foot in the door in these kinds of niche catering events is a lot easier when you have positive word-of-mouth.
You can apply the same theory to bereavement catering, by targeting funeral homes.
Target Marketing for Catering Requires Strategy
The sky's the limit when it comes to the options available to you. You just need to decide what niche markets you want to target, and then develop your strategy appropriately.
Blind blanket marketing will only get you so far. When a client is hosting a specialized event, odds are they're going to search for a caterer that is confident they can handle the event smoothly and professionally.
When was the last time you went to a visitation before a funeral that had full-service catering? Probably never.
By the same token, full service is common in weddings or Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.
The key here is to understand as much as you can about the needs that those specific niche clients will want to be filled. Then build your sales letters/flyers/postcards, or whatever you're going to use, to hit as many of those marks as possible.
Catering Software That Supports Niche Marketing
Talking about hitting as many marks as possible, CaterZen hits every mark when it comes to giving you an intuitive, all-inclusive catering software program that will fulfill every need your catering company could have.
From a robust CRM that can group your targeted audiences and handle relationships with prospects and clients at all stages, to sales and marketing tools, to catering management systems for drop-off and full-service, our software can help you crush your niche marketing campaigns and events.
Sign up for a free, 30-day trial and try it out for yourself. There's no credit card required, so you have nothing to risk and everything to gain.
To your catering success!
Michael Attias, the country's foremost expert on high return, low cost direct marketing strategies for restaurants, speaks from experience in the trenches. He operated a close to $3,000,000 a year restaurant (over a $1 million from catering alone) in Nashville, TN he used as his marketing "laboratory." He now helps restaurant owners double their profits by adding or expanding their own catering profit center through his company CaterZen. You can download his eBook: "Catering Multipliers: The 17 No Cost Laws of Catering Sales Growth" at his site.