View Full Version : Catering Start Up

03-25-2009, 08:50 AM
I would like to ask you guys a couple of questions. I'm wanting to pursue/build a catering business with my BBQ. I currently do small things like ribs, butts and briskets for folks and friends in and around the neighborhood. The largest I've done was for my church and fed approx 150 people. I cooked 3 cases of butts, the church provided sides.

With todays economy where/what/how is the best way you guys have found to promote your business? I know you can't beat word of mouth, but do you have any tips on other low cost ways?

Do you prefer onsite or delivery? And what's a good rule of thumb for waste management? I certainly don't want to cook more than will be eaten, but I want to have enough.

I appreciate your replies on this. Thanks in advance.


03-25-2009, 10:56 AM
We are currently doing the same thing. Go to Road Foods.com and look at vending opportunities in your local area. We put a business card on each styrofoam box that we sell. You can also purchase a domain at godaddy.com for about $150.00 and put the web address on your business cards. As far as waste management, thats tougher. We learned through trial and error. We get about 20-25 sandwiches from a 9lb boston butt and go from there. Also, theres lots of good threads on here regarding "portioning" ribs for catering and events. Good Luck!

03-25-2009, 10:58 AM
Go to printsmadeeasy.com for your business cards. They did an awesome job on our cards with logo for about $45.00 per 500 cards. The cards were exceptional quality.

03-25-2009, 11:55 AM
Thanks guys. I have the website and cards already. I use www.vistaprint.com (http://www.vistaprint.com) for my business cards. You do your own design and they are very affordable. I got 250 cards in color and color post cards for $30. Check them out, they may save you some money.

I need to focus more on getting the word spread locally. Does anyone do mass faxing or anything like that?

03-25-2009, 12:14 PM
Definately get a website going. I was amazed at the local calls I got base on a search for "bbq clearwater fl". We did the godaddy cheap setup and it allowed for email accounts and multiple pages. We have now fallen off the first page listing but it was definately a source of calls for a couple of years.

03-25-2009, 12:52 PM
magnetic sign for your vehicles & t-shirts or hats & wear them all the time & give to friends & family.

03-26-2009, 07:11 PM
As a way to promote activity and stay in front of prospective customers, I use Constant Contact. http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp

You can add a sign up link to your web site and use email to regularly 'touch base' with your past customers and prospects. I try to do a monthly to bi-weekly mail blast in a news note format. Specials, successful events, menu ideas are all of interest to new prospects as well as past clients who may hire you again.

Some other things you can do for exposure require work output, and effort, but it's also a chance to 'practice' and get the quality of your food out there.

When I first started my personal chef service, I donated gift certificates to a couple of local groups to use as auction items. The scope of the gift was totally in my control, so I was able to limit my cost. By 'giving away' $300 of retail labor value, my donation became a 'high end' and 'high dollar value' item in the auctions. As such, my gift certificates became marquee items in the auctions, so my company name was splattered all over every flier and ad for each of the auctions. My actual out of pocket cost ended up being only the cost of food at less than $100 for each certificate. Trust me, I got WELL over $200 worth of advertising out of those two gifts. Oh, and as both were gifts to charitable organizations, I was able to write off the cost as a donations.

The other thing you can do is partner up with a local sports league or team. Little League, AYSO, Pop Warner, and most High School teams almost all have some sort of snack bar type set up for their games. Most of the time these are big money makers for the leagues and/or schools. Yet, for the most part, at least in my area, the menus are VERY limited. (nachos, burgers, dogs and not much more) I've approached a few leagues and offered to cook up some quality Q to offer a more premium menu at a slightly higher price to the customer. The by my donating the 'labor factor' of the BBQ the actual food cost of this 'high end' menu ends up being pretty much the same as, or even less than, the burgers and dogs. Yet, by charging an extra dollar or three, the league makes far more money. (Yes, I set the menu prices with future full pay BBQ business in mind. No point in under cutting the market, or slitting my throat before I even get that part of my business up and running!) We do this on a very limited basis for each event. Pork, and/or Tri-tip are options and when it's gone, it's gone. I intentionally undercut by a small fraction what I expect we may need for a game. That way we never have left overs, and it creates urgency with those who ‘miss out’ to buy early at the next game.

The league, or team, covers the cost of food; I ‘donate’ my labor. The deal I make is that I get to advertise my service via cards, banners, flyers etc. at the games in consideration for my food prep and labor. The high schools generally even offer to mention my company name over the PA as part of their appeal to fans to support the school by buying at the snack bar. In addition to the advertising, I get access to the school kitchen facilities to prep food for the games, and they have NO problem with me prepping extra stuff in their state inspected facility while I’m there. (Read, free access to a commercial kitchen!) Again, in my estimation, I get back far more in business exposure and advertising than the time and labor costs me. And, that’s even before I factor in the value of the commercial kitchen access.

Ok, sorry this got so long winded. I hope the ideas help.

03-26-2009, 07:25 PM
That helps alot StrikeEagle! Thanks for taking time to share that. Down here in TN, I've thought about trying to approach sports facilities to see what I could do. I'm thinking of hitting the rodeo circuit with it to. There are all kinds of chuck wagon races, horse shows and other events going on. Thanks for the info.

03-26-2009, 08:42 PM
That's some great stuff right there, Eagle! Thanks for sharing...feel free to always be long winded when you are sharing valuable info like that!

big brother smoke
03-26-2009, 09:11 PM
Nice information here. Website and Google adwords really help and you get to set the amount you spend for advertisement.

03-27-2009, 04:28 AM
Yellowpages.com has worked very well for us this year. $65 a month. So far we are in the top 5 catering companies that come up with most bbq catering inquirys. Thy also helped us with google. I've book enough gigs in the last month to cover the entire years subscription. Also, when you do decide on your marketing ask the client how they heard about you when they call. Hope this helps...

03-27-2009, 07:31 AM
Yellowpages.com has worked very well for us this year. $65 a month. So far we are in the top 5 catering companies that come up with most bbq catering inquirys. Thy also helped us with google. I've book enough gigs in the last month to cover the entire years subscription. Also, when you do decide on your marketing ask the client how they heard about you when they call. Hope this helps...

Ditto man they have gotten me three gigs already.

03-27-2009, 08:28 AM
In addition to all of the above, join your local Chamber of Commerce. They are a great resource. Network,network,network. The more you can get your name out the better. And did I mention network ??

03-27-2009, 10:13 AM
Thanks for all the advise guys! I appreciate it.

03-30-2009, 06:01 AM
Lots of great ideas here, guys.
Thanks for the input...we all benefit from the collective ideas in these threads!:idea:

03-30-2009, 11:53 PM
That constant contact is slick! Thanks for that.

Smokin Mike
04-10-2009, 11:40 PM
thank you u guys, very good info here!