How to create an effective catering marketing plan

Editorial Team

4 min read
Chefs pouring soup into small pumpkin gourds

“Build it and they will come.” This idea that—with the right real estate, product or service, and market analysis—you can bring in foot traffic is true for many new business openings. However, catering businesses have a unique challenge. There’s no permanent location to announce your grand opening and launch your business.

Marketing to get your catering business off the ground takes a different approach than advertising other types of businesses. A catering marketing plan should identify online and offline ways to raise awareness of your business and get potential customers to experience your service firsthand. Here’s how to approach creating a catering marketing plan that can help boost demand for your new business. 

1. Start with your branding

When you planned your menu and chose your business format, you likely had a specific customer type in mind. Keep this audience in focus as you start to brand your catering company. 

Branding includes basic elements like your business name. But, it also means getting into more visual aspects, like your logo, colors, and font. Design a website and take high-quality pictures of your dishes to promote your menu. Spend some time writing the story of why you started your catering business to give customers a sense of what makes your company unique. 

It’s also smart to claim social media profiles under your brand name. Set up a Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter page to give potential customers plenty of ways to find you. 

2. Figure out how to reach your audience

Catering marketing is almost the exact opposite approach of “build it and they will come.” Instead, you want to figure out where your target customer is paying attention and go there. 

Do some research to find out where potential new customers are located, what events they typically plan, how frequently they host these events, and adjacent companies with whom you could partner. For instance, if you know you want to cater weddings, consider reaching out to local wedding planners, online wedding registries, and wedding venues in your area to boost your profile for upcoming nuptials. 

Be prepared to take payments no matter where you serve. Whether you choose to host pop-up workshops, corporate catering like Lonni’s Sandwiches, or participate in farmer’s markets like Waffles in Paradise, you’ll need a way to accept all payment types. Clover can help with Clover Flex and Clover Go devices that travel wherever your catering event takes place. 

3. Market your menu at events

Showcase your menu as much as possible at events–think festivals, business lunches, private functions, farmers markets, and even in your own backyard. For example, when Valda Shakespeare of Chef Shakespeare packs up her food trailer to serve at events, she often receives catering requests. Showing up at events–with her Clover Mini– has helped her kick-start catering activities and up community exposure to her food.

Getting out in the community as much as possible will help you connect with potential customers and showcase your menu. Even if you never want to run a restaurant, a pop-up event can go a long way toward boosting the profile of your catering business. 

4. Raise your profile online

Your catering marketing plan should outline how you will advertise on social media and other digital channels. A specific content marketing plan can help you identify videos, images, and live Reels to share with followers. Mine the events you go to for content and feature customer testimonials, pictures of your food, and profiles of your catering team. 

There are also specific catering directories that you can add your business to, including WhoCaters, Food for Thought, and Food411. Invest time in search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure customers can easily find your catering website and see it no matter what device they use. 

5. Launch a referral program

Anytime you host a promotional event or bring in a new customer, encourage them to refer you to others. Referral rewards are an easy way to generate word-of-mouth marketing: by some estimates, referral marketing can increase profits by 16%

Clover makes it easy to manage referrals and reward loyal customers. The Clover Rewards app gives you a way to tailor your rewards to specific customers, thereby saving in ways that might not have high visibility to other customers. Alternatively, a customer referral reward app such as BuyFi makes it easy to track and reward those who spread the word about your business. 

Creating a marketing strategy for catering businesses takes a little time and testing to see what works. But, by getting out in the community, activating the right online channels, and rewarding your biggest fans, you’ll be scheduling events in no time. 

To learn more about how Clover restaurant POS systems can help you run your catering business, contact a Clover Business Consultant today.


This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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