How do we reach decision makers when catering is on their mind?
It’s only mid-July, but school will be back in session before you know it. Now is the time to plan ahead and seize a fruitful catering opportunity that can reap sales rewards all year long. ATHLETICS!
Athletic segments in colleges, universities and high schools all utilize catering throughout the year. Catered meals are provided for the following events:
- Pre- and post-game meals for their athletes –both away and at home
- While travelling via bus to a competition
- Awards banquets
- Game day meals for the band and cheerleading squads
- Coaches meetings
- Game day media meals
- Game day meals for visiting teams
- Sponsor appreciation
Where to Start:
Begin with a search on a website such as www.switchboard.com and locate your local area college, university and high schools. Once you have compiled a list of targets, research the athletic teams (football, basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, etc.) and support/affiliated groups (band, cheer-leading and parent-sponsored booster clubs). You can do this by visiting the school website and clicking on the Athletics tab. Here you will find a listing of all the sports teams along with their respective coaches, assistant coaches, athletic directors, nutritionists, etc. and their contact information.
Don’t overlook the current customer database – a good customer relationship management database will allow you to search and identify education segment based orders from past years and past seasons.
Additionally, if your system captures quotes, review those from the July through September time frame to see if there are any missed opportunities there – orders that were not captured last year, but may be worth inquiry now because that big event is coming up.
Who to Contact:
Start from the top down – begin by contacting the Head Coach. If you are unable to connect at this level, approach the Assistant Coach and Nutritionist and work your way through the list until you reach the correct decision maker or someone who can help you reach the right person.
How to Engage:
- Start by introducing yourself and your Catering Program
- Be sure to emphasize that you have a program that offers convenient, healthy food options for their athletes and that you deliver to the locker room, dorm, practice field or game site!
- Many teams journey by bus to meet opponents and box lunches are ideal to fit the need of feeding the team on the go!
- If you currently cater for any other Athletic teams / groups, be sure to mention that you service these other groups – it gives you credibility and a competitive edge
- Arrange a meeting. Before schools resume session in August/September, Athletic Departments hold a meeting with the Athletic Department staff, team coaches and support personnel. Ask to provide a tasting meal for the meeting and then be allowed to introduce yourself and your services to the group
- Be sure to bring samples of the foods that best meet the needs of the Athletic segment – box lunches, platters, buffets, healthy items
- You will probably only be given a few minutes to speak at this meeting, so make your time count! Be sure to get the contact information for each person in the meeting so that you can follow up
- Make information shared with this group relevant to their needs – convenience, delivery, service, house accounts, portability and competitive pricing.
- Many school kitchens are closed over the summer, and sports practice and organizational activity precedes the cafeteria opening – it is prime time to attack the need…and next year, start early….connect at the end of the term for next seasons’ needs
Timing is imperative when trying to break into this sales segment. Athletic teams like to have their meal providers chosen before the season begins. Once competition begins, the atmosphere is hectic and very busy. These types of decisions are made prior to season.
After your tasting / meeting with the Athletic Department, be sure to follow up with each person in attendance immediately. In your conversation, reiterate the benefits you can provide them that specifically meet their needs as outlined above. Then ASK FOR THE SALE!
Coaches know their competition schedule in advance. Be a stellar service provider and tell them you can create varied menus for all these dates for their approval. If you make it simple for them, they will appreciate the effort and often choose the provider that makes their job easier.
Penetrate the Account:
As with any catering account, your goal is to penetrate as far into that business as possible. Once you have proven yourself to be a good catering partner and provider for these Athletic teams, additional opportunities arise.
Teams have award banquets at the end of the season, have sponsorship appreciation events, provide meals for the media on game day, etc. Always be inquiring about additional opportunities.
And don’t forget about the visiting teams. Once a competition schedule is finalized, you can see the teams that will be playing at your home location. Follow the same approach above (minus the tasting) and offer the visiting team quality catered meals while they are in town. This is a highly desirable service to many travelling teams as they do not always know who to contact to feed their players while on the road.
Athletics is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to education opportunity. Another tactic to penetrating the account is to utilize referrals. Ask your Athletic contacts who you can talk to in other areas of the education system. Use your Athletic contact and relationship to leverage your conversation. Other departments will be more likely to engage in conversation with you knowing you are providing catering services elsewhere on campus. Catering is utilized all over! Contact Student Life groups, Alumni, and Fraternities and Sororities. Remember too, that cafeterias are mostly closed on campus in the summer, and big orders can be found to feed functions like orientations, teacher pre-service days, and the many activities of summer.
Education websites are loaded with email addresses for various departments, and others can be figured out by the way the email addresses are configured. Enterprising sales professionals can identify 100-150 email addresses and be very effective with connecting on campus with a blast. And, again, do not overlook your existing educational segment database – pull a list of all addresses with .edu ending and send a mass communication. And to pinpoint timing, look for order patterns from existing education and athletic segments to determine the best time to reach them when catering is on their mind!
Summertime is not just about pool parties, picnics, and summer camps – it’s an amazing time to jump on catering sales opportunities that will offer great revenue all year long.
Let’s talk catering.