by Bruce Mattel and The Culinary Institute of America
Catering is a popular but competitive field. If you develop an identity or a signature style, you can create the competitive edge you'll need to succeed.
Most people associate caterers with mainstream events such as weddings and holiday parties. Caterers who seek out a specific group or niche market have the opportunity to become the preferred caterers when that specific style of catering is needed. And caterers who know how to customize their services to appeal to a specific group or type of event usually continue to grow their businesses.
For example, you might decide to specialize in outdoor barbecue catering and market your business accordingly. You would set up your business with the specific equipment needed for this type of catering and create a customized barbecue menu. If you perform well at the initial events that you contract, you'll have good word-of-mouth referrals. You'll earn back your initial investment for the specialized barbecue equipment quickly, making it difficult for other mainstream caterers who need to rent equipment to compete for this type of party.
Here are a few more examples of catering niches:
Party platters: Whether dropped off by the caterer or picked up by the customer, party platters are a great way to create a buzz. Sales reps find they can get more attention from a medical or editorial staff when they provide a free lunch. Automobile dealers often want finger foods for potential customers coming to their showroom during a special promotion. Real estate agents may provide food and beverages to potential buyers during an open house showcasing a property.
Five-star dining at home: Although popular, this service is still a niche market in large cities. Instead of going to a high-style restaurant, clients want a five-star experience in the comfort (and, usually, elegance) of their own homes, often for a special dinner for either business or pleasure.
Special dietary catering: Your identity might be kosher or weightloss foods, if the demographics in your area can support it.
Vegetarian or even vegan catering is popular with entertainment industry professionals. If your catering operation can travel to movie sets or rock concerts, or deliver meals to customers, so much the better.
Read the full chapter in PDF format on the Wiley.com site.
This page created October 2008
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