Do You Know Your Catering Customer Types?


As restaurant operators, we rarely have the need to discuss formal sales techniques. However, we practice it on an intuitive level because for the most part we are very customer service savvy. Because we are tuned in to people and their needs, we subconsciously understand the kind of customers we are serving and what they want.

However, once we start a catering program and have sales people (Catering Sales Managers) that are going after large catering customers outside our 4-walls, it’s important that we identify our customer buying types and have the ability to mirror their characteristics throughout the sales process.

In order to have a high sales closing percentage our CSM’s must understand the different buyer types and needs.  There are three customer buying types:

  • Relationship
  • Bottom Line
  • Informational

The Relationship Buyer

A Relationship Buyer likes to share stories and have a personal connection. It’s important to mirror this behavior while working with this type of customer. This is accomplished by acknowledging or validating their feelings and showing you care. Most Relationship Buyers are found in the B2B segment as administrative professionals. What’s important to note is that the buyer is usually ordering food for a boss or a client. If the lunch goes wrong it’s a direct reflection on that individual.

The Relationship Buyer wants to shine in their office place and if they doesn’t like you, they won’t trust your company to make sure they looks good by providing an on-time, delicious lunch. A couple of indications that we’re dealing with a “Relationship Buyer” are as follows:

  • Tells you personal stories about themselves or their family
  • Asks you about your family or personal information
  • Has a high level of sensitivity
  • Make decisions based on emotion

For this type of client, the sales person will want to do things such as make sure to have a birth date on file to send out a birthday card or make note of children’s names to create a more personal relationship.

The Bottom Line Buyer

The Bottom Line Buyer is a transactional buyer. They want to know how much it will cost per person, if you take certain credit cards, if they can order on-line, and if you have any loyalty programs.

A Bottom Line Buyer isn’t interested in speaking about anything personal. They just want to know the specifics and get off the phone. Most times they would prefer not talk to anybody! They are usually abrupt, to the point and sound like they are in a hurry. A couple of indications that we’re dealing with a “Bottom Line Buyer” are as follows:

  •   No personal connection
  •   Zero tolerance for excuses
  •   Short or distracted on the phone
  •   Results and price driven

Pharmaceutical reps are a good example of a typical Bottom Line Buyer. When a CSM contacts a pharmaceutical rep to try to gain their business, it’s important to remember to keep it all business and to the point.

The Informational Buyer

The Informational Buyer wants to know everything and anything about our product. They typically have a lot of questions and look for vendors that are very knowledgeable about their offerings.

This customer can be found in any organization and in any customer segment. However, most often this buyer type is found within the private party space. The private party space is a much more personal event, and the customer is much more emotionally connected to the execution, and, therefore, usually more nervous than our other buyers.

These customers will call the CSM at all times of the day and night. They will think of new questions each day up until the day of the event. A couple of indications that we’re dealing with an “Informational Buyer” are as follows:

  • Will or will not be personable
  • Asks a lot of questions about your product
  • Likes referrals and testimonials
  • Decision based on competitive comparisons

When a CSM is contacting a client to try to gain their business, it’s important to exhibit a very calm, confident, excited and knowledgeable demeanor. The client needs to feel the CSM is as personally vested as they are.

If you have a Catering Sales Manager that you would like to give some sales training to, please don’t hesitate to get in touch;