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Catering, Food Handling and Awareness *OnTopic* Forum to educate us on safe food handling. Not specifically for Catering or competition but overall health and keeping our families safe too.


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Unread 10-07-2013, 09:08 AM   #1
stokestackbbq
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Default Working with event planners- kickbacks / commissions?

I just finished my first season doing some catering out of a concession trailer (stokestackbbq.com). It went pretty well- did 17 events, net around $30K while working another 9-5 job. Just quit last month to take this on full-time.

I'm looking into ways to expand my business for next season. I fired off some emails to event planners in my area, and got quite a few responses. Some of them seem to have "preferred caterer lists", I'm assuming you have to pay a commission to get on them.

My first meeting with one of them is tomorrow, and I'm wondering if there's anyone here who can shine some light on how this works. I don't want to walk into this completely unprepared.
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Unread 10-07-2013, 10:00 AM   #2
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I wish I could help. Keep us informed, I would like to know what you find out.
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Unread 10-07-2013, 03:02 PM   #3
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My personal take on this is that if I have to BUY my customers then I may consider another line of work. I advertise and produce a quality product. I will not pay a middle man to put me on their "list". If I did, this cost would have to be tacked on to my retail prices and I would have a hard time justifying that.
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Unread 10-07-2013, 04:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bizznessman View Post
My personal take on this is that if I have to BUY my customers then I may consider another line of work. I advertise and produce a quality product.
I hear ya. I'm not really into this way of doing business, but it may be a fast track to establishing a customer base. Right now, I'm relying on craigslist / kijiji and word of mouth for my advertising. I do have a small advertising budget but haven't figured out where to use it yet!

Where are you advertising your catering services? I'm all ears when it comes to expanding my business.
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Unread 10-07-2013, 05:20 PM   #5
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I would not assume anyone is paying to get on "the list". As an event planner, their first goal is making their clients event perfect, not a quick buck. Go in and prove you have a good product, are reliable, are licensed, etc. You have to show them you are legit and that they can trust you to make the event planner look like a rock star at the end of the event. The people on the list make the planner look good, that's all.

If you have an advertising budget, why don't you throw a private party somewhere and invite event planners in the area and don't forget to hit the local hotel planners as well. Have your private event, wow them with your food, your presentation and give a quick rundown of your capabilities. Then follow up with everyone asking to take care of a small party for them.
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Unread 10-07-2013, 07:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stokestackbbq View Post
I hear ya. I'm not really into this way of doing business, but it may be a fast track to establishing a customer base. Right now, I'm relying on craigslist / kijiji and word of mouth for my advertising. I do have a small advertising budget but haven't figured out where to use it yet!

Where are you advertising your catering services? I'm all ears when it comes to expanding my business.

Twitter and Facebook are GOLD!!! (and they are cheap) The majority of our business is from "word of mouth" and references. We haven't really had to do much media advertising.

Being in a rural area (small town) everyone, and those within 20 miles, know us from past events. In a suburban market you would probably need to so some media/print advertising. Flyers work well. Get into a local farmers market or festival and spread the word that you cater. Get YOUR name inserted in THEIR advertising (no I'm not cheap, I'm FRUGAL). I have biz cards with email addie, phone, etc that I give out like free candy.

Marketing is marketing but there is nothing like the smell of great BBQ wafting through the air to advertise your business. It seems like every time we cook we get calls/emails asking for information.
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Unread 10-08-2013, 01:38 AM   #7
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Event planners have thier own web sites and publications, like bridal shows and such. What they want is for you to buy advertising with them and also booths at various trade shows. Find a venue you want to persue and that is events that you should look for good advertising
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Unread 10-08-2013, 05:27 PM   #8
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I've had a venue or two kinda hint like they want a cut of my catering price if they send or recommend a client to me. They did not come right out and say it but I could read between the lines quite well. My thoughts were that it goes both ways, maybe a bride contacts the caterer first and if they don't have a venue I'd recommend a good one that works well with me. I have not had one offer me a cut if I send them work.

Like Bizznessman said, I'm trying to build my business so that the client knows who I am and wants me to cater regardless of the venue or planner.
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Unread 10-09-2013, 11:45 PM   #9
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Right on guys. I appreciate the advice.

I am all over facebook and twitter, and I'm working on building a youtube presence as well (just finished a pretty sweet promo video actually).

Can't say I love the idea of buying my customers, but if I've gotta give up 10% of gross to get a NEW customer that I wouldn't have had otherwise, I don't see a problem with it. I wouldn't want this event planner marking up my per-person rates to make a buck, but I'll sacrifice a couple dollars for a new sale!

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Unread 10-10-2013, 01:23 AM   #10
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Very well made vid!!! Good production, good presentation and great FOOD!!!
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Unread 10-10-2013, 01:26 AM   #11
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very professional ...real nice job...when you have a first class looking product tied in with taste they will come! nice...
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Unread 10-10-2013, 07:04 AM   #12
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Wow! Impressive video! Your food makes even this Pitmaster drool!

I shouldn't think you'll have any problems building up clientel!
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Unread 10-10-2013, 07:30 AM   #13
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Very nice video!!
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Unread 10-10-2013, 05:35 PM   #14
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Mind me asking what what a video ad like that costs? Very nice.
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Unread 10-10-2013, 05:50 PM   #15
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I've done some event planning in the past, and it is a high stress job. You have to count on vendors to do their job, and do it well.

Don't assume they want a kickback or for you to buy onto their preferred list. Some may do that, but the best make their money off the success of their events, which means that their preferred list is made up of people that they can count on to make them look good.

If they recommend you, and you fark up, they lose credibility. If you do a great job, they look good.

Catering, like a lot of creative businesses, is all about building relationships and trust.

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