Min Read

Expert Strategies for Growing Catering Sales & Attracting New Clients in 2023

Looking for ways to grow your catering business? Dive into our comprehensive guide to uncover invaluable insights and effective strategies to increase your catering sales and attract more clients.

Growing Catering Sales - Photo of Chef putting an appetizer together

Restaurant owners and operators: are you ready to expand your catering sales in the back half of 2023? Beyond setting up a successful catering program to serve your potential catering customers, you must take a proactive approach to growing your book of business. 

We recently spoke with industry veteran and catering guru, Erle Dardick. His experience as the founder of Off Premises Growth Academy and former CEO of MonkeyMedia Software and The Catering Institute provides invaluable insights for anyone looking to boost their catering sales.

Here are the key strategies we’ll be covering:

  1. Create a robust outbound sales team
  2. Build and execute a catering sampling strategy
  3. Nurture relationships for long-term rewards
  4. Hire a catering ambassador
  5. Increase your visibility through community involvement
  6. Leverage your catering delivery as a strategic advantage

Create a Robust Outbound Sales Team

Catering sales don't just happen–they need a strategic outbound sales approach. 

An outbound sales team (or single salesperson to start), responsible for proactively selling your restaurant’s catering services, is critical for growing your restaurant's catering business. Even if your resources are limited, a single dedicated salesperson can make a significant difference in driving your catering sales. The role may start small but has the potential to grow into a catering sales manager role (or beyond!) and form the basis of a robust outbound sales team in the future.

This team's main tasks should include building relationships, cold calling, door-knocking, and actively targeting potential customers in your local area, especially businesses that frequently require catering services.

Equipping this team with the necessary tools and strategies ensures their effectiveness.

Train Your Team 

Training your sales team to sell effectively is paramount. Training not only involves teaching them about the intricacies of your menu. It also includes helping them understand how to respond to objections and craft compelling narratives around your services. Consider hiring a professional trainer to equip your team with the necessary knowledge and skills. 

Implement a Great CRM Platform 

Leveraging Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology can be a game-changer for your outbound sales team as it helps manage leads and ensure timely follow-ups.

Harness the Power of Networking

To maximize your outbound sales strategy, encourage your salesperson or team to leverage networking opportunities. Attending local community events, business expos, and chamber of commerce meetings can help them to connect with potential clients and spread the word about your catering services. 

An outbound sales team is your ticket to increased catering sales. With the right training, tools, and technology—your team can effectively pitch your services, overcome objections, and seal the deal. You’ll be setting your catering business on the path of exponential growth.

Build and Execute a Catering Sampling Strategy

The best way to get people to buy your food? Let them taste it! 

When Erle owned his deli, his team created gourmet food baskets to share with potential catering customers. He filled baskets with samples of their catering menu. Potential clients could taste the offerings and see the quality firsthand. 

Here are the steps to creating a sampling strategy that drives catering sales: 

Step 1: Identify your target clients 

Start by identifying five prospective clients in the community who you believe would benefit from your catering services. Potential clients could include corporate offices, event venues, schools, local clubs, or nonprofits. Once you've identified your "dream" clients, plan to drop off a catering basket to each of them on a specific day of the week.

For small restaurant operators, Erle suggests subscribing to databases like Dun and Bradstreet. These databases can provide you with SIC codes that can help identify potential business leads. By focusing your outreach efforts on these leads, you can improve your conversion rates and grow your catering clientele.

Step 2: Choose your basket contents

The catering basket should include various edible sample items from your catering menu. Ensure these items encapsulate the range of cuisines and styles you offer. 

For instance, include a couple tastings of appetizer options, a main course, a side dish, and a dessert. Don't forget to also include beverages. This will allow potential clients to experience the breadth and depth of your offerings.

Step 3: The personalized approach 

When delivering the baskets, it’s important to include a personalized note or message to the prospective client. This could be a simple introduction to your business, why you think they might benefit from your services, and an invitation for further discussion. This shows your potential clients that you are interested in building a relationship and not just making a sale.

Step 4: Follow Up

A few days after the catering basket delivery, have your sales team or catering ambassador follow up with the clients to whom you sent the baskets. This will give you a chance to ask for feedback, answer any questions they may have, and further discuss their catering needs.

Step 5: Adjust based on feedback

Use the feedback from these prospective clients to fine-tune your strategy. If they highly praised certain dishes, consider including them more frequently in your samples. If some dishes didn't meet expectations, find out why and make necessary adjustments.

Last but not least, be consistent in this strategy. The aim is to keep your business top of mind for your community. Keep at it! 

When clients can directly experience the quality of your food and presentation, they're more likely to consider you for their next catering need. Implement a similar approach by creating a sampler that showcases your unique catering offerings.

Nurture Relationships for Long-Term Rewards

In the catering world, relationships matter—a lot. 

According to Erle, cultivating relationships with the entire business line is important. 

For example, establishing rapport with administrative assistants, who often place catering orders, can lead to increased business. Show appreciation after large orders or regular business with thank-you notes. Over time, these small gestures can foster loyalty and translate into repeat catering orders.

Another effective way to nurture relationships is by regularly checking in with your clients. These check-ins don't necessarily need to be sales-oriented. This can be a simple phone call or email to better understand their satisfaction with your services or their future needs. If you're aware that a client usually holds an annual event, checking in a few weeks before the event could ensure that your restaurant is top-of-mind when it's time to organize catering. 

Hire a Catering Ambassador

A “catering ambassador” can be a game-changer when it comes to growing your catering sales. 

This person, stationed in your store during peak hours, can interact with customers, answer catering-related questions, and even gather information about potential catering needs. 

You want to create a direct link between your in-store customers and your catering services, turning everyday interactions into potential catering sales.

During less busy periods, the ambassador could focus on planning and refining the catering menus (including last-minute catering menus), implementing your delivery strategy, and even performing taste tests. They could also take the time to proactively reach out to potential clients, follow up on leads, and coordinate the delivery of sample catering baskets. 

Your catering ambassador ensures that your catering services are not just an afterthought, but a consistent and dedicated effort, allowing for a higher quality service and an improved customer experience.

Increase Your Visibility through Community Involvement

Erle recommends finding high-profile community events to sponsor as a way to increase your brand's visibility. This demonstrates your commitment to the community and allows potential clients to see your brand. It provides an opportunity to showcase your food and services to a broad audience who might consider you for their next event.

Here are some ideas: 

  • Sponsor a local charity run or marathon by providing refreshments for the participants
  • Volunteer to cater for a local school's annual fundraiser
  • Participate in food festivals where you can set up a booth to serve your specialties
  • Show up at annual parades, holiday events, or community celebrations in your city
  • Attend local business networking events, like chamber of commerce meetings
  • Sponsor a local sports team

By being a visible part of the community, you're not only promoting your brand, but also building meaningful relationships that can lead to more business opportunities.

Leverage Your Delivery as a Strategic Advantage

The best sales tactic? Word of mouth. 

In the competitive catering business, every aspect of your service can become a distinct selling point–and delivery is no exception. 

A seamless, professional delivery experience not only impresses your clients but also reinforces their decision to choose your catering services. It’s a part of the overall customer experience, and doing it right can lead to word-of-mouth referrals, enhancing your reputation in the market.

Nash, a powerful delivery platform, can help grow your catering sales. Nash handpicks drivers for your catering services, ensuring that your deliveries are executed on time and with catering expertise. 

This proactive step of upholding your image as a white-glove, high-value catering service can speak volumes about your commitment to quality, resonating with your customers at every stage– from food preparation to its final delivery. 

Nash also helps improve internal efficiencies and operations, making your catering program one that the entire community will rave about. 


In a nutshell, growing your catering sales in 2023 requires a multi-pronged approach that combines sales, marketing, relationship building, community involvement, and strategic use of resources. 

The key is to start now, refine as you go, and embrace a culture of catering sales throughout your organization and community. 

Remember, each new client you gain is not just a single catering order, but an opportunity for continuous business and exponential growth.

Interested in seeing how Nash can help grow your business? See how it works. 

Deliver catering orders with confidence

Take control of your most complex, high-value catering orders with Nash. Tap into our global provider network for reliable delivery wherever you grow.

Learn More

Deliver catering orders with confidence

Take control of your most complex, high-value catering orders with Nash. Tap into our global provider network for reliable delivery wherever you grow.

Learn More

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