There’s never been a better time to get into the contract catering game. It’s burst to life like never before. What has been a sector dominated by restaurant-goers and food-lovers that want to indulge in nutritious, delicious and – let’s be honest – experimental foods, has suddenly seen a real shift into some massive and foreign areas.
Venues now want amazing in stadium foods to complement their spaces and help make the experiences offered that much more memorable. Businesses have jumped on the Google bandwagon, understanding just how important freshly prepared and yummy food is in keeping employees happy and top talent knocking at the door. Assisted living hospices have upped their interest too, which is because food is at the heart of every community. And even schools across every age group have focused on making their meals healthier and more educational. Basically, food has taken over the world in a whole new way.
So, like we said, if you have had one eye on this area of industry, then now’s not the time to hesitate because the stars have well and truly aligned.
Location Will Always Be A Priority
If you are hoping to start small and grow, then you are looking at a long road that starts with your cooking from a small office or maybe even your home. However, if you are looking at the bigger picture and hoping to take this realm by storm with the capabilities that will attract events, stadiums, schools, businesses and assisted living companies, then you need to an industrial kitchen space. It’s as simple as that. You need somewhere that will let you prepare, cook and store foods on a large scale. If you’re leasing a space, then always ask if you can make it more specialist by adding things like insulated roof panels, industrial fridges and large ovens. You may even find it easier to start off by subletting a space from an already existing business. Of course, if you have the financial backing and a plan for taking a large slice of the market, then making a custom-made space could be the best option. Essentially, the aim of the game is to have somewhere that allows growth but doesn’t stretch you too thin financially.
Always Know What You Are
How you go about placing yourself in this market depends on what you want to be and where you want to begin. For example, if you want to focus on contract catering, then you may find that your startup size and status isn’t the hindrance you thought it might be. So long as you can guarantee consistent quality at the right price, you may find a lot of clients prefer the individuality you offer over the bigger catering companies out there. If, however, you want to focus on the events side of the business, then you need to make sure you position yourself at the pitch in a smarter way because most organizers are not willing to take a chance and ant people with proven track records. Always know what you want, what your unique selling point is and how you will deliver a fantastic solution; that’s the key ingredient when looking for success.
All Dreams Require Financing
It doesn’t matter what niche you are entering or what pie you want a slice of, a business plan is absolutely always, totally essential. It isn’t just about giving yourself a roadmap that you can follow on your journey to the big leagues, it is about proving to investors that you are serious and that you’ve seriously thought about the future – where the market is ready for the taking, where the main pitfalls lie, where the big contracts lie and how much it will take to make your dreams become a reality. To do that successfully, you need to know why half of all applications get turned down. Now, we know the whole drawing up a business plan thing is terrifyingly daunting, but there are plenty of free resources out there that can help you get underway, so don’t let ignorance become a factor that encourages failure.
You’ve Gotta Go Get ‘Em
Traditionally, the food industry has been one where people come to you. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and even popup places all heavily rely on their target audience coming to them. You, however, as a contract caterer, need to adopt a more food truck approach and work out how you are going to get in front of your target audience. You need to work hard to get yourself into the marketplace. How do you do this? Well, a big part of it is marketing yourself. That’s how relationships first start. It is also about networking. After all, you may be doing a small canape party for your friend and the next thing be getting a call to do a wedding and then find yourself in the waiting room of a school canteen with a pitching board. Of course, with this comes certain details, such as legal requirements and financial needs. As such, always read the small print of any contract you are set to read and always have a legal professional oversee it before that squiggle of yours goes down on paper.
Get In Front Of The Right People
Cold calling venues, approaching local schools and care homes, and getting meetings in the books with businesses is the aim of the game here. But it is never as easy you hope it would be. That is why you need to think long and hard about how you are going to approach your potential customers. Now, you may be thinking, “I’ll invite everyone I can to an open day where they can come see and taste the kind of foods we’ll produce,” and that’s a great idea. But you also need to be a little more proactive than this. You need to speak to venue managers and try and get on their supplier list, you need to try and find people on the procurement panel of different places and get in the door that way and you need to be the first to react to new businesses opening up. All it takes is one client to get the ball rolling, so long as you know how to use that one client to market yourself.