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Intro

Catering companies and restaurants are constantly hustling to grow their business and improve their paper-thin profit margins. So third-party ordering sites like ezCater may seem like great tools to increase your catering sales and get exposure to new customers. But with their fees ranging from 10 – 30% of the catering order cost, these third party sites will quickly eat into your profits. They also stand as a barrier between you and your customer, slowing down communication and keeping all the customer data. Still, these sites can be a great way to gain exposure to new catering clients that may not have been familiar with your business. ezCater, for example, is the top organic result when people search for “online catering.”
Alejandro Flores-Munoz explains how ezCater helped him grow his Denver-based catering business Stokes Poke when he first started out, and how HoneyCart is helping grow to the next level.
Alejandro Flores-Munoz explains how ezCater helped him grow his Denver-based catering business Stokes Poke when he first started out, and how HoneyCart is helping grow to the next level.
That’s why third-party ordering sites are useful for customer acquisition. But they should NOT be where your repeat catering customers order from time and again. Instead, you should be sending your repeat customers directly to your own website for their catering orders. By using a simple, customizable online ordering software like HoneyCart, you can make it easy for catering customers to place orders online directly with you. And you can set it up without any coding or complicated technical knowledge required. Just provide a convenient customer ordering experience — without giving a big commission to a third-party. In this article, you’ll learn:
  • how to create a compelling pitch to overcome any hesitation your current third-party site customers may have about ordering directly from you.
  • three tactics you can use to encourage your catering clients to order directly through your website, instead of through a third-party ordering site.
Let’s get started.

Create a Compelling Pitch to Order from You

So what do you say to someone who asks why they should order directly from you, instead of ordering through a big online catering site?

Better customer service

Remind the customer that you’ll be able to provide better customer service if they order through your online platform. You can offer more precise delivery times, plus they’ll know who to contact if something goes wrong. You can also provide better pricing to the customer through discounts and a loyalty rewards program. Since you won’t be paying hefty commissions to the third-party ordering platform, you can pass on some of those savings to your catering customers.

Support local business

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
People love to support local. One survey showed that 93% of consumers reported a preference for local businesses over the larger national brands. And many people don’t understand what third-party ordering sites do to these small businesses. Let your customers know that you have to give a HUGE commission on each sale to the third-parties, making it harder to keep your company afloat. You can also tell the customer that many catering companies and restaurants have to raise prices or charge steep delivery fees, just to make any money on the order. As local business owners and operators, your customers will be understanding of the challenges you’re facing in running your small business. They may even decide to stop using the third-party sites altogether. Once you’re comfortable with these arguments, you can start applying them to the following three tactics.

Tactic #1: Leave marketing material with every delivery

As many as 74% of customers who place food orders online would rather order directly from your catering company or restaurant, rather than through a third-party. So why do they order from sites like ezCater? Because that’s where they go to discover which restaurants offer drop-off catering. But once they’ve found you the first time, it’s your job to build that relationship to earn the next sale. To start, leave a letter or brochure with the drop-off order. Introduce the customer to your restaurant or catering business, and share your website URL and social media handles. Make sure it’s very clear that in the future, they can order directly through your website’s online ordering platform. Include some of the benefits to ordering directly from the “Create a Compelling Pitch…” section above. And to sweeten the deal, include a discount code for their first order on your website. Another idea — use custom takeout containers or branded stickers on your delivery food. If you include the discount code for your own online ordering right on the container, you’ll minimize the risk that it will get tossed out with the food bags.
Photo by mrtakeoutbags.com
Photo by mrtakeoutbags.com
Finally, for a catering account that you think could really pay off, provide a few tasting samples of different dishes with their order. Give them a little taste of the rest of the menu so they’ll be intrigued and want to order from you again!

Tactic #2: Email or call every past catering client

Including marketing material and a discount for orders through your website is great for future catering business. But how do you get former catering customers to order again — and order through your restaurant or catering website? You’ll have to reach out to them directly. A phone call or an email to anyone who has ordered from you in the past will get your catering service top-of-mind again. And you can let them know that you provide drop-off catering directly through your website. To find contact info for previous customers, look for:
  • Old email confirmations
  • Business cards
  • Positive ezCater or Yelp reviews
Find contact info for previous customers from ezCater reviews
Find contact info for previous customers from ezCater reviews
And in the future, always grab a business card or contact information when you make the delivery. Introduce yourself to the person who ordered so they can put a face to your name. By spending a little time establishing a friendly rapport with the catering client, you increase the chances they’ll think of you when they need catering for their next breakfast or lunch meeting.

Tactic #3: Offer Incentives

Part of the appeal of third-party ordering sites like ezCater is that they offer discounts and loyalty rewards to the catering client. But so can you!

Discount for first order

Third-party ordering sites often ask caterers to give discounts or extra rewards in order to appear higher in their directory listings. Skip the middleman by offering a better deal for customers who order directly through your site. Remember that you’ll be saving the 10% to 30% commission that these companies usually charge, so you can find room for a discount and still make more profit on each order. Set up a one-time use discount code that customers can use the first time that they order directly through you. If you don’t want to do a discount, how about a free add-on? An order of salad, chips and salsa, or cookies cost you very little, but could provide enough of a push for customers to order from your website. These incentives don’t have to last forever. After a few months, most of your customers will hopefully have been convinced to order directly from you. At this point, you can scale back these discounts, or end them completely. But you still want to provide some type of motivation to order directly from your site. That’s why you’ll offer a…

Loyalty or Rewards Program

Photo by Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash
Photo by Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash
A lot of corporate catering clients have regular, recurring catering needs. So they get very excited about loyalty programs that save the company money. The big third-party sites offer a loyalty discount…so why can’t you? ezCater’s rewards program lets customers earn 5% back on each order. What if you offered an 8% back incentive instead? Your catering customers will save more money, and you won’t have to shell out a percentage to a third party. Plus, by signing on for your loyalty program, they’ll be getting a more personalized experience — something that’s important to 80% of consumers. In fact, you have the opportunity to provide the best of both worlds… You can set up an easy-to-use online ordering system for drop-off catering, like the one we provide at HoneyCart. There are no commissions and the platform is completely customizable. It will live right on your website, instead of redirecting customers elsewhere. But you’ll also provide personal, local service to your catering clients. They’ll know exactly where to go if they have a question because they ordered directly through you. Simple!

Wrapping up

On average, 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers. Only 35% will come from new customers. So don’t let the profits from the majority of your clientele get eaten up by third-party ordering site fees. With margins so tight, you need to work hard to keep every last dollar you can. Keep your ezCater or Platterz account as a marketing tool to increase your exposure to local catering clients. But once you’ve made that first sale, it’s up to you to get the customer to make the switch over to your own website. You can save thousands — while also providing a better customer experience to your catering clients. That’s a win-win.