I attended Memphis State University on a full academic scholarship. Unfortunately, my desire to shoot pool, drink beer and court the ladies interfered with attending classes my entire second year.
I believe missing classes that year is partially responsible for a recurring dream I have; rushing to take a final for a class I skipped all year long…and missing it!
Luckily my parents were kind enough to pick up my $600 a semester tuition bill.
Between parties and work, I managed to earn a B.S. in Marketing.
I remember a marketing class with quite an interesting project. We were charged with creating a marketing plan for a local aerobics studio.
Every group decided to present a Madison Avenue type proposal; TV, Radio, Magazine, Newspaper, etc.
On what planet does an aerobics studio that does less than a quarter of a million dollars a year in sales have a $200,000 ad budget? The other groups impressed no one but themselves.
From the very beginning of the project I put myself in the owner’s shoes.
What is she trying to accomplish? What are her financial and time resources?
My team and I went about creating a marketing plan that was 90% guerilla! I don’t remember all of our ideas, but they were low cost and high return.
I even took a buddy’s clunky video camera; you know the one you had to carry on your shoulder, and filmed a little commercial. I edited with two VCRs and dubbed in the theme song from Miami Vice. As crude as that little commercial was, everyone loved it.
And no, I didn’t want to air it during expensive prime time. My strategy was to buy low cost commercial spots on highly targeted cable stations her demographic would be watching.
The studio owner liked my ideas and wanted to hire me to help her with marketing.
What I did in that class was to apply common sense to a marketing problem. My marketing degree really did not prepare me to market my restaurant.
I fell into the trap most restaurant owners do; I was confused by the myriad of options hot ad reps in short skirts brought to me.
I never knew for sure whether my expensive ad dollars were working or not.
For a single unit operator, investing in mass media is like paying to eat at a Chinese buffet, when all you want is a bowl of fried rice.
Let’s look at an operation doing a million a year in sales. Your ad budget is probably in the $25,000 to $50,000 a year range.
That is nothing to sneeze at, but what can you accomplish with that budget?
Mass media is probably out, unless you save your money for high sales months like December.
What about direct mail? You will not find an ad rep pitching low cost, high return direct mail campaigns like my “Less Than $100 Black Friday Catering Campaign”.
Members can find it at:
The only direct mail being pitched is marriage mail like Advo. Your ad gets sent to everyone in a zone along with every other Tom, Dick and Henrietta! They’ll twist your arm to coupon.
Discounting to get a new customer is fine, but there’s no way to not send out a coupon to someone who has already used one. All you’re doing is creating a bunch of coupon crack addicts!
If you are going to promote your dining room business on a shoestring budget, I recommend you contact my friend Jay Siff at Moving Targets: email@example.com. Mention “Michael Attias” and he’ll give you $100 Off his new mover or cold birthday program. (He’s a brilliant marketer and busy guy, so expect to get placed with one of his people…but they are all good at what they do.)
By targeting a new mover to a neighborhood, you have an opportunity to get them “hooked” on coming to you, before their new habits are formed.
With a cold birthday mailing, you are targeting a non-customer with a free meal on their birthday. They’ll bring paying friends to celebrate and you have an opportunity to make repeat customers.
Aside from the above, what would I do were I to open another restaurant?
It’s very simple…PROMOTE THE HELL OUT OF CATERING!
Let’s take that same million dollar a year restaurant with a $35,000 a year budget. I would hire a full-time catering salesperson for $20,000 a year and give them a bonus plan. You could start out with a 5% bonus on all catering sales. If they blew out your projections, you could give them an incremental bonus of 10%.
Remember, half of catering sales should flow to your bottom line.
I would use the remaining $15,000 marketing budget to pay for direct mail, promotions and sampling for your catering salesperson to generate leads and close sales.
If your salesperson is good, and you use high return, low cost direct mail like we give our members on www.RestaurantProfitPoint.com, I believe you can generate $100,000 in catering sales in 12-24 months. By no means am I saying it is easy. Like losing weight or getting in shape, it takes a long term focus and commitment.
Oh, and let’s not forget the most critical part of the catering marketing equation; your operations:
Easy to do business with. You will embrace last minute orders, “No problem Sue. That’s what we are here for.”
Never show up late. Shoot for early. Guarantee you’ll be on time or the catering is free.
Leave nothing off an order. If you do, figure out how to get it. My couriers kept back up paper products, serving utensils and bbq sauce in their car. On one large catering an hour from our store, our catering captain forgot to bring bbq sauce. I was pissed and proud. Pissed he forgot something like bbq sauce, but proud he ran to the store and bought bottles on Kraft and Cattleman’s and mixed them together. It was a close copy of our sauce. The customers didn’t know, and we didn’t have egg on our face.
Provide a great value, not a cheap price. You should never compete on price. But always make sure your clients perceive you as a good value.
Audit, audit, audit. Always make sure and mystery shop your phones, check a drop-off catering to see how it looks. Attend full service caterings and be a fly on the wall. Ask your clients what they want and what you can do better.
If you focus on the fundamentals, you will build your catering to be a significant part of your sales mix.
I guarantee the same $35,000 marketing budget spent to build dining room sales will fall short of getting you the $100,000 in sales. Besides the $50,000 in profits $100,000 should yield you, there are other benefits.
Every catering job is paid advertising for your restaurant. The more catering we did, the better our dining room and drive-thru did.
Catering sells more catering. Go out and do a great job and guests will want to know, “who catered the party?”. You’ll pick up new catering jobs as a result. And you should be picking up repeat catering clients as well. So with a good catering salesperson, part of their first year sales will return and they’ll find new clients to add to the mix!
Catering success does beget success, but you must embrace it and focus on it.
I feel very lucky to have stumbled into a career that keeps me so pumped up. I love finding new ways to help you and my clients go from restaurant owner/worker to business owner.
I truly hope I am helping you reach your goals. Please feel free to share any successes!
Well That’s All For This Issue!
Restaurant Catering Software
P.S. – If you need help growing catering sales, then please go to www.RestaurantCateringSoftware.com and download my free eBook: Cater or Die!
P.P.S. – I make a limited number of time slots available each week for a free Catering Strategy Session with me. (You also get a catering menu critique and free analysis of your website for “Catering Effectiveness). For complete details and to grab one of the limited spots, please go to:
P.P.S. – Anyone wishing to reprint my articles may do so. Please email me for the bi-line to use for proper author’s credits.