16 Tips to Grow Your Online Catering Business and Website

FoodStorm Catering Software with Online Ordering

Last year, one of our most popular blog articles was 15 High-Impact Marketing Ideas for Catering Businesses as caterers looked to grow their catering business and online ordering website. In 2020, providing your catering and food ordering offering online and the digital marketing to promote it has become not just a nice to have. It’s an essential to running a successful catering operation. With stay-at-home orders and lock-downs due to the coronavirus pandemic, the focus has shifted from offline to online, and this trend is here to stay.

Caterers need to be investing just as much time in managing their online presence, online ordering / eCommerce and related marketing activities as they are in preparing their catering and operations. Ghost Kitchens (also called Dark Kitchens or Cloud Kitchens) are also on the rise, offering online ordering as standard and have once again lifted the bar for online catering. With lower running costs, they are able to invest significantly more in technology including their catering online ordering website and digital marketing. There might be caterers out there who have an inferior product offering, but if their digital presence and marketing is on point, they will win business. 

Try these essential tips for growing your online catering business and catering website:

1. Get a relevant domain name

A great online presence starts with a great domain name! Make sure to find a domain that makes sense for your business, is memorable, and helps your SEO. Check to ensure the technology you use for your catering solution will support your domain name, and if necessary is able to setup a relevant subdomain which leverages your domain such as order.mygreatcaterer.com or catering.mybusiness.com

2. Refresh your catering website and catering brand

Your website says everything about your business including the quality of your offering, service, professionalism, passion for innovation and the catering experience you offer. A sharp, professional brand is so important for every caterer. Consider elements like your logo, colors and the layout of your site. Make sure you stand out from the crowd! 

As Black Star Pastry can attest, a brand with a cult following and a branded shopping cart to match can attract more customers and provide a seamless shopping experience for your fans / customers.

Your site is a sales tool. Make sure it’s “conversion-centered”; easy to navigate to place an order, book an event, and check out your shopping cart. Of course, great product photography is also essential – see tip #16 below.

3. Mobile experience is key

With at least 50% of users ordering on their phone, ensure your site is mobile optimised or you will miss at least half of your sales!

Making sure your catering website and ordering experience is “mobile friendly” is important, but also keep in mind that when your customers are using their phones they are in a different context to sitting at a desktop. Mobile users are more likely to get distracted, so make sure the experience is quick and simple. It’s important to let them finish up later if they need. (See tip #9 – Abandoned Carts – below)

4. Make sure your website technology is fit for food ordering (and catering!)

There are lots of eCommerce solutions out there like Shopify, WooCommerce, Square Online Store etc, and they all claim to be simple to set up. Unfortunately, none of these are built for food ordering, let alone the complexities of catering. Make sure your website supports online ordering for food, with features such as:

  • Pickup and delivery options.
  • Cut off times and closures, with the ability to set your own rules.
  • Dietary requirements.
  • Customisable menus.
  • Menu item modifiers and selections.
  • Set your delivery areas and delivery charges.
  • Multiple payment options, including account payment, credit card, and deferred payment options.
  • Customer login and order amendments.

As Roche Bros Supermarkets found, online ordering will open a new sales and customer service channel, so be prepared to manage these orders.

You will need the ability to manage these orders in the kitchen with a robust ordering and production management system in the back end. Automated order confirmation, quotes and proposals, integrated invoicing and production management are all important in ensuring your operation can efficiently manage your uptick in online orders.

FoodStorm supports all these online ordering options, and a whole lot more and has been built from the ground up as online catering ordering software.

5. Advertise your great new catering website and online ordering capability

There are a number of ways to attract customers to your site, but the first point is the obvious one – add your snazzy new domain name to your existing marketing mix!

If you have a physical presence make sure you are reminding your customers to visit your website to place orders. Add your website to your catering packaging. If you are a bakery, cafe or food business that offers catering in addition to your core offering, then promote your catering on your physical coffee cups, napkins, packaging etc – many customers might not know that you even offer catering.

6. Upgrade your SEO

These days, most new customers will find your catering website via online search, so Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is critical to building your catering website business. 

Regularly sharing relevant content with key words and phrases will help your catering business be found online. Research which keywords are relevant for your catering business and use them on your website and blog posts. There are many lists and suggestions online to key catering SEO terms

In addition to website content, modern platforms will also allow you to set up meta tags which provide information about your web page in the HTML. The information isn’t displayed, but is read by search engines as they read your catering website.

The “authority” of your website is also a factor – this is impacted by the number of unique domains / websites linking to your website, the authority of those links, and a number of other factors search engines take into account. By having your website featured in blogs, news articles and on other authoritative websites, you will also be able to increase your number of “backlinks” which in turn boost SEO rankings.

7. Consider paid digital advertising for your catering website

Paid Advertising, otherwise known as Pay-per-click (PPC) is the alternative to SEO, where you bid for a position in a search and pay for each click through to your website.

With platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook and Bing Search you can set how much you’re willing to spend for a customer searching a particular keyword to click on your ad. PPC is a great way to immediately start reaching your target market without the need to invest time in SEO.

8. Make sure you keep local marketing in mind

This year more than ever, marketing to your local community is important, as there is growing support to shop local within communities. Customers are willing to support local businesses, but they need to know about you.

Use Google My Business to set up and rank for local searches in your area. This will let Google show your business in geo-targeted searches, and also lets you manage reviews for your business – further establishing credibility with the local market.

You can also use local SEO or PPC to attract local search traffic (like “London Corporate Catering”) or local events (like “Christmas catering in Glasgow”)

9. Don’t lose your customer’s abandoned shopping carts

What’s an abandoned shopping cart you say? 

If a customer visits your website, adds some items to their shopping cart but then doesn’t proceed with their order and leaves your website, they have “abandoned” their cart. Maybe they had a question about your menu item, or perhaps they got stuck with payment options, or your delivery costs were too high. 

A modern shopping platform will keep track of that abandoned cart for you as an unfilled order to ensure there is still an opportunity to engage with the customer, and convert the sale. 

Give your customer the opportunity to call you, and proactively market to them to remind them they have a shopping cart they can still check out.

10. List your menu on online shopping platforms

Platforms such as Google and Facebook also have Shopping specific platforms. These allow you to reach the hundreds of millions of people shopping online each day across their platforms.

FoodStorm integrates with Google for Retail to streamline the listing process for you, and allows for consistent product offering no matter where your customers find you. 

11. Get reviews for your website

Immediate feedback is important to ensure you are keeping your customers happy, and customer surveys and reviews provide you instant insight to make any changes where necessary. 

Ask your customers to provide you reviews online review sites, and monitor these reviews. Reply to your reviews – even bad ones – and demonstrate you care about the feedback your customers provide.

12. Go Social

Most caterers have some kind of social media presence, and promoting your brand on Facebook, Instagram and other social media remains important. Have you also considered some of the lesser publicised options?

  • LinkedIn – Do you offer corporate catering? Many corporates are looking at how they can best support, satisfy and engage staff both at their offices and those working remotely – catering is a great way to support this! You’ll find a plethora of potential corporate customers on LinkedIn that wouldn’t necessarily be looking for their next board meeting caterers on Facebook. Make sure to set up your business on LinkedIn, connect with your loyal customers, and consider promoting your site on LinkedIn’s advertising platform.
  • Snapchat filters – Did you know it’s easy to create a personalised Snapchat filter? Some caterers create Snapchat filters for their venues, or even for major events they are catering to.
  • Pinterest – Pinterest can give you some create and organise your catering ideas, but have you also thought of promoting your business through Pinterest? There are a range of options available to help you reach more customers, including adding the “Pin It” button to your website which allow your visitors to to pin items from your site to their Pinterest boards. These can go viral and increase your exposure.

13. Make the most of repeat customers

The most successful caterers continue to build relationships with their repeat customers – and that’s both in person and over the phone, but also digitally. It might seem a little old-hat, but email continues to be the most successful way of keeping a strong relationship with your customers. 

The most successful online caterers:

  1. Regularly communicate with customers to build a relationship – it’s not just a one-time “we’re back in operation!” email.
  2. Communicate new deals and offers (almost every week!)
  3. Send emails which look amazing – with a professional template and equally professional product photos.
  4. Use animated GIFs in a smart way to make the message more engaging.
  5. Stick with strong and consistent branding that matches their main website.
  6. Segment their customer base into different lists to provide a more personalised approach to communication.
  7. Utilise promotions to attract repeat orders (see below).

14. Utilise Promotions

Customers love a good deal! Provide incentives for your customers to order with you, and encourage their loyalty to return. Promo’s can also be useful in launching your new website, launching new menu items, engaging with loyal customers, or even attracting someone back to their abandoned cart.

  • 20% off.
  • Buy one get one free.
  • Free Delivery.
  • Promotional Limits (ie item free for first 100 customers).
  • Buy a Salad Get a free Soup.

Make sure your catering technology platform can provide the flexibility for the type of promotions you see yourself offering to your clients.

15. Maintain your brand beyond the initial website experience

With all the work on your great new catering website and branding, it’s important to continue the experience consistently throughout your customer journey

  • Quotes and proposals should match your brand, and display the level of professionalism you will deliver.
  • Email – No-one likes to receive a bland email. Bring your emails to life with branding to match your website, emoji, GIFs – whatever you need to include to bring your brand to life.
  • Overall, the language you use and experience for your customer should be consistent be it personal communications, marketing or transactional communication.

16. Don’t forget, it’s still all about your food! Make your product stand out

The final, and most important point – you are a caterer so your menu and how it is presented is critical.

Spend the time to get your food photographed by a professional photographer in high resolution and with appropriate lighting. The current trend is to use use bold-colored backgrounds and “birds eye view” shots give the best representation of your offering. 

To make your food stand out to search engines, you can also optimise your menu for SEO! FoodStorm allows you to add SEO meta information for menu categories and menu items so that the search engines also get a great taste of your specific menu items!

Partner with the experts

Want to learn more about how you can set up your online catering business for online ordering? We would be glad to help you tailor your online catering ordering experience and prioritise the most impact-ful tips. 

Learn more about how FoodStorm’s catering software can help you increase catering sales and reduce costs.

We’re also glad to work with your existing partners, marketing agencies and digital consultants (as applicable), or we can point you in the right direction.

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