How to Write a Catering Proposal in 6 Simple Steps (Plus Free Template)

How to Write a Catering Proposal in 6 Simple Steps

Karen screamed for joy as tears casually rolled down her eyes.

After months of struggling to run her business, she was on the verge of securing a mega-contract with a big digital agency. This deal to cater lunch for 25-30 people daily would allow her to expand operations.

The only problem?

She had to submit a catering proposal to her potential client. And she had no idea how to go about it.

But she’s not alone.

As a drop-off caterer, I know you’re more concerned with preparing food, getting clients, and running your business. 

So, creating a catering proposal may be the last thing on your mind.

But if you’re in a position or perhaps if you ever find yourself in a position like Karen, where you must submit a catering proposal, then this article is for you.

I’ll show you the essential components of a catering proposal and how to write an excellent one for your business.

But before we proceed…

Are Catering Proposals Still Worth it?

Without a doubt, the global pandemic has affected the way most things are done in the catering industry.

As such, potential clients like the one who wanted Karen’s services may not require a catering proposal before awarding you a contract. They just wanted food catered and delivered to 25-30 people per day. 

However, this doesn’t eliminate the fact that you still need to present your business in a professional way to attract clients. 

Like, what if you could just send potential customers a link to your menu where they can easily place orders and you deliver? 

You’d prefer that over investing so much time writing proposals you’re not sure they’ll approve, right? 

Good.

Now, that’s where catering order automation software like HoneyCart comes in.

HoneyCart makes it super easy to automate your entire ordering process in a few clicks. You can create and manage your online menu where clients can conveniently place their orders. 

Also, you can set ordering policies like how much lead time is required before placing an order, when they can make changes, or when they can cancel an order, etc.

Use HoneyCart to automate your ordering policies to ensure customers follow all policies.
Use HoneyCart to automate your ordering policies to ensure customers follow all policies.

Once your online menu and policies are set, simply copy and share your customized link on your website, social media bios, or blog posts.

Clients interested in your catering services will simply click on the link and be redirected to your online menu to place orders for as many people as they want.

Take Elizabeth Choto of Grazedat Catering for instance. 

She added her HoneyCart link to her Instagram Page. 

Grazedat catering

This way, her customers now place orders for as many people as they want by clicking on her link while adhering to her ordering policies.

Grazedat HoneyCart Dashbard

This eliminates the need for crafting and sending proposals especially if it’s for large orders. 

The result? 

It has helped her reduce order processing by 80%.

In her words:

“HoneyCart made it super easy for me to build an online menu that was easy for customers to navigate and customize their orders and freeing up valuable time on my end for me to tackle other tasks. The time I spent processing orders has been cut by over 80% and it’s been such a relief and help to have more time on my hands.”

That being said, you’ll probably still come across some big catering clients who prefer to see a proposal before awarding you a contract.

For such big clients, you must know how to craft a proposal for when the need arises like in the case of Karen, our fictional character.

But you can’t create what isn’t well defined. 

So let’s start there.

What Exactly is a Catering Proposal?

As investors or banks would like to see a catering business plan before giving you funds, so would clients like to see a proposal before awarding you a contract.

However, a catering business plan shouldn’t be mistaken for a catering proposal. 

A business plan is a guide that outlines your goals and details how you intend to achieve them. On the other hand, a catering proposal is a document pitched to potential clients providing information about your catering services. 

In it, you’ll add things like your catering menu, prices, ordering policies, terms, etc. The goal of a catering proposal is to: 

  • Introducing yourself and the business
  • Highlight the services you offer
  • Describe the potential costs
  • And more importantly, present you as the perfect professional to execute the job.

This means you must be intentional about writing an effective proposal. An excellent one moves you closer to securing catering deals.

Now, I understand you wear many hats and take on a variety of responsibilities. As such, you probably don’t have the time to create a proposal from scratch. 

Well, I’ve got you covered.

We’ve developed a free catering proposal template you can customize to your specific needs. I know, creating a proposal, even with a free template, is still a daunting task for drop-off caterers. 

Don’t worry.

As we progress through this article, I’ll guide you on how to create one step-by-step. 

Download and make a copy of the free template to follow along with me:

Catering Proposal Screenshot

Essential Components of a Catering Proposal

Ideally, it’s important to speak with clients to understand their requirements before drafting a catering proposal. 

This way, you are not creating a one-size-fits-all proposal but something tailored to each client.

However, there are certain components that you must include in every proposal.

And they are:

Introduction

Briefly introduce your catering business. Here, you can share your background, relevant experience, and length of time in business, and any other information that will score more points for you.

Event description

Here you provide an overall scope of the event which includes event type (business lunch, family gathering, holiday party, or office party), event venue, possible dates, number of guests, etc. 

Menu & Pricing

Your catering menu is one of the first things potential clients look out for in a proposal. Again, it’s important to discuss with your client before creating a proposal. 

As such, you can create a menu customized to the client’s preference. Also, you should add the cost of each menu item to the proposal. 

Here is a free catering menu template you can use to make a custom menu for each client.

Terms and Policies

It’s important to add the terms and policies you need your client to know about your business. And ensure they read it before signing. This way, you have full legal backing in case anything goes wrong. 

Also, to be on the safe side, you should have proper legal counsel review any policies you use in your business.

So if they do anything contrary to what’s stated on your terms, you will have the right protections in place.

Now that you know some of the key elements to include, let’s take a look at how to write a catering proposal.

To follow through the steps, don’t forget to download (and make a copy) of the template here

How to write a catering proposal in 6 easy steps

Step 1: Write a cover letter

If Karen writes her catering proposal, the first thing she’ll need to include is a cover.

Why?

Because it’s the first thing your client sees when they read your proposal. It’s as important as the proposal itself. And it’s an opportunity to sell yourself and give clients a great first impression. 

And you know what they say about first impressions. As Aleya Harris, the current Marketing Committee Chair for NACE pointed out in this article:

It’s what helps people to decide if they want to stick around or make a fast exit.”

As such, your cover letter needs to be top-notch to win your clients over.

But first, what’s a cover letter?

Wikipedia defines it as “a letter of introduction attached to or accompanying another document such as a résumé or a curriculum vitae” or in this case, a proposal.

In other words, it’s a brief, one-page summary that introduces your business and provides a quick overview of your services. This is where you include information like the client event type, date, time, venue, and location of the event.

Most cover letters also include the minimum guest count guarantee. Without a doubt, cover letters add a personal touch to your proposal.

Head over to the free catering proposal template we provided for a cover letter sample.

Step 2: Include Your Menu Items & Cost

You’ll agree with me that food is one thing most people look forward to at any event.

So, to ensure the event you are catering for is a success, your offerings have to be mouthwatering. You never know how many referrals you’ll get from one event.

As such, you must pay critical attention to this part.

Based on the client’s preference, you can include a variety of menu items people can choose from. And if the client doesn’t have a menu preference, feel free to get creative with your offerings.

Also, don’t forget to add the amount each menu item costs.

Step 3: Add Extra Charges (if any)

Besides food and drinks, if there are other items or services you provide as a drop-off caterer, this is the section to list them.

For example, if you are providing items such as linens, tableware, equipment, silverware, dinnerware, serving dishes, and more, you can list them as well as the cost of each item.

Also, if you include additional staff, you can list all labor costs necessary to perform assigned tasks adequately. Labor costs are usually paid hourly times the number of hours and staff.

Additional charges

Step 4: Total Quote

This is the total amount of all the charges in the sections above the client is expected to pay before or after the event. 

Here, you break down all the items or catering services you are providing and the cost attached to each of them.

You can do this in a tabular format to give the client a better overview of the total amount they have to pay. 

And if they want to add or remove anything to fit their budget, they can easily do it within this section.

Total Quote

Step 5: Explain Your Policies

As with any business, it’s important to have policies in place that clients must follow. This is a recipe for a successful event.

However, listing your policies isn’t enough. You still have to take a step further to clearly explain them. This is necessary to avoid any unforeseen disagreements between you and your clients.

The policies in catering an event sometimes depend  on the client but the most common ordering policies to explain in your catering proposal are:

  • Minimum guest count guarantee
  • Cancellation policy
  • Tax & service charge
  • Time frame
  • Deposit
  • Acceptable payment terms

Step 6: Signature and Payment Information

The last section is where you place a statement of agreement for the client’s consent and a line for his or her signature.

Below this, you can add where and how your client can make a payment just as it’s in the catering proposal template.

Conclusion: Drive Catering Sales with HoneyCart Software

Running a drop-off catering business turns you into a marketer and salesperson at the same time. 

You must wear both hats to attract more clients and drive sales.

And as in-person activities are starting to resurface after the pandemic, you have to be more proactive in getting clients. 

Meryl Snow, a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants agrees.

In her words:

“In a turbulent market, a proactive sales approach is a necessity. There simply isn’t time to sit around waiting for prospective clients to find you. This year, you’ll need to spend some time actively prospecting as the market—and the industry—grapple with the ‘new normal’ and the changes ushered in with the pandemic.”

As such, a proposal does a great job of presenting your catering services professionally to potential clients when you are prospecting.

What’s more? 

It gives you an edge over your competitors when bidding for catering gigs.

But are catering bids the most effective way of attracting and converting clients?

Again Meryl Snow has something to add about this:

“While active prospecting does take more time than playing the waiting game, it can easily be done efficiently to ensure that you’re proactively gathering business and putting your best business foot forward in a tough year.”

And what’s one efficient way to ensure you are putting your best foot forward?

Investing in a commission-free catering order automation software like HoneyCart without sacrificing your precious profits to third-party sites like ezCater.

HoneyCart, built with drop-off catering in mind, gives you the option to:

  • Create and manage menu items
  • Set ordering policies
  • Set minimum order amount
  • And other amazing features

The best part?

With HoneyCart, you get a unique link to share and take online orders. This way, potential clients looking for this option can simply order for as many people as they want for any event while adhering to your ordering policies.

Jim Lenz, co-founder of Two Unique Catering found this to be the case when he switched to HoneyCart. Without HoneyCart, he would have lost lots of clients.

According to Jim:

“Processing orders by phone or email was time-consuming and full of human errors. Of course, time is money. Additionally, many clients were looking for a platform to place their order so without this platform I believe we were losing business opportunities.”

Ready to drive catering sales

Start your 14-day free trial right away. No credit card is required.

Oh! About Karen…

She used the steps outlined in this article to create a great catering proposal. 

And guess what?

She landed the contract!

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