Your business could fall into one of several categories. Each category markets itself to a specific segment of the catering market. Regardless of where you see your business, you will have to be innovative to differentiate it from the rest of the competition.
Middle of the Road
Your concept is to provide catering for the average banquet. You'll feature roast chicken and farm-raised salmon dinners. Your prices will be competitive with other caterers. This is both a blessing and a curse. The competition in your area will likely be fierce, and you will compete with on-site banquet caterers as well as off-site caterers. On the other hand, demand for the type of catering you provide is steady, and your services will be highly recognizable to your potential clients.
Simply Homemade, a company in Massachusetts run by E. Tracie Ritchie, offers buffet-style catering for 20–200 people. The menu includes baked ham, sausage and peppers, and apple crisp. Nothing is elaborate or constructed. All the dishes are things your mom made when you were growing up if you had an Italian-American mom in New England who loved to cook.
You want to target the top 20 percent of catering clients. Your menus will be upscale but not outrageously decadent. You'll feature items like filet of beef, bay scallops, and heirloom tomatoes, but maybe not Wagyu beef and farmstead cheeses. You will have to work hard to avoid being lumped into either the middle-of-the-road or ultra-premium group. You will have to be especially careful with pricing if there are few or no other premium caterers in your immediate area.
You'll focus on the top 5 percent of all catering clients in your area. You'll emphasize exclusivity and feature special ingredients like Maine lobster tails, Kobe beef, and line-caught salmon. Your prices will be high and so will your level of service. Clients will expect the very best from you.
Feast & Fêtes is the catering business operated by celebrity French chef Daniel Boulud, who runs the acclaimed New York restaurant Daniel. From intimate dinners to lavish galas, the company provides the haute cuisine available at the restaurant combined with personalized service.
A specialty or niche positioning includes everything from being your town's only ethnic food caterer to specializing in diet or sugar-free catering. You need to work hard to promote your image. Be particularly careful that your idea is innovative rather than obscure.
As a specialty or niche caterer, your challenge is not to differentiate yourself from your competition; it's to make your services known and understood. Your marketing materials must address what you offer, why clients will value you, and how you will make their event special. You could rely on a successful gimmick, such as Douglas Coffin's pizza truck. The tricky thing about gimmicks is that they have to work. They need to become an integral part of your company's identity, so that they automatically associate your company and your gimmick.
Douglas Coffin, Inc. of New Haven, Connecticut, (
Another alternative is to specialize in a unique service. Gail's Vegetarian Catering (