If plan to start your own small catering company or just a part-time catering business, it is important to incorporate a website as part of your business.
Why is a website important? Because it is a 24×7, 365 days in a year of low cost promotional tool for your site. It’s important for your existing customers to reach you and your potential customers to find you. Really.
You need to invest time or pay someone else to design and produce the site for you. At most desperate measure, you may sign up using a blogger or wordpress.com free site- even though I don’t recommend this if you have long term plans for your little business.
Recently, we were looking for caterers to cater for our department function. We used to have existing caterers but our staff had critized the taste of the food. So, we had to source for caterers. And when my colleagues tried to do a goggle search, we actually had difficulty finding any contact details of the caterers because most of them located around our website do not have an official website.
Most of these caterers and restaurants supplying catering are only listed in food review sites. And as the reviews are submitted by those who have visited there, it often does not carry the company’s address and contact details. Even the well-known restaurants that we suspect may also offer catering do not have websites of their own.
Do you have an idea on how much of potential business you could be losing if you do not have an official website? Seriously, many companies do not understand the importance of this.
Based on our experience in looking for a caterer online, I would list down on what we look for in a catering company. You may want to take this into account and incorporate these information while building a website for your little catering business.
1. First impression- web design
Web design gives an immediate first impression on the business. It is how small scale or home based business are able to portray that ‘professional look’. No one need to know that you are operating from your home’s kitchen or the garage because often customers would not visit your ‘business premise’. If your website have a professional look, it gives people the confidence that this is a serious business and not the fly-by-night kind of thing.
Example I would like to quite is Cuppacakes. When Cuppacakes first started, it operated from home- but their first website with a blogspot domain, was impressive. It carries all the designs of their cupcakes. Later when Facebook became popular, they promoted using social network. Now, they have their own full fledged shop.
2. Website searchablity
In your content, you must take into account of SEO. So, ensure as part of your content design, your website is searchable. Don’t use graphic as your item icons unless you have taken care of the SEO. Some companies build their website using layout that are image based- where the text is just not searchable. Cosmetically it looks awesome, but potential customers would not be able to find you easily.
3. Clear navigation structure
I’ve developed other sites using WordPress whereby people have thanked me for making it easier to navigate around. If you use paid hosting (which I strongly encourage you to do), you can build a nice looking site using WordPress (a free open sourced platform).
For the website for your catering business, important information to include are:
- Company name, address and contact details- include a contact form- if not, you can also utilize the comment function in WordPress for potential customers to leave contact details
- Location map (you can link the free google map). If you work from home, then you can indicate what are the geopgrahical location that you can cover. In your tagline and various pages of the site you should also include the geographical location- so that when people search for “catering services in _____”, they can arrive at your site.
- The services you offer- example what are the type of food available, the packages, how many pax you can cater for and the budget.
- Updates and notices. For example if you are offering incentives such as “introduce a customer” or if you have been fully booked for certain dates, put it there on your site (so that the potential customers know that your business is good and how reliable your services can be).
And finally, most important of all…..
4. Testimonials from satisified customers
There was a food caterer who put in a free advertising site (they do not have a website of their own) that they ‘have a long list of satisifed customers’. But where are the list? What’s the proof?
Therefore, it’s best if you can include testimonials of satisfied customers. Or at least, take snapshots of events that you’ve held. Ask permission from your customers if you can include their name in your list of customers. If they are happy with your services and love the food, they would not mind. Or else, you can snap pictures from events like the banquet table that you’ve laid out without identifying the company.
Take a photo of events that you’ve held to show to your visitors that your business really exist. Because with so many internet scams and fly-by-night businesses, potential customers are worried of being cheated. When we are trying to source for caterers, we also have to look after our staff and big bosses. If the food is horrible or not enough, or the caterer is late, all the staff would remember and criticize us for it. So we are also very careful when looking for caterers.
Therefore to instill confidence and trust in your potential customers, you need to show reliability and that your customers can count on you. If they don’t know you, you need to convince them to give you a try. Positive testimonials are often what makes a potential customer picks up the phone to call you.
In the end, it is the quality, taste and services that your little catering business offers that would ensure the return of repeated customers and orders. In the past, there were a few caterers that we have always ordered from but we have stopped because the quality of their food had gone down (that all our staff complained) and another one kept increasing his prices till it was out of our budget. People would remember if the food sucks or the portion is too little.
Of course, a business can also rely purely from referrals and word-of-mouth. But if you are starting out and trying to compete with other established caterers, a website would place you on a definite advantage.
All the best in your business venture.