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RESTAURANT STARTUP GUIDE

Menus, Marketing, & Management tips to grow your restaurant business.

 

Why You Need a Catering Website

Virtual Real Estate: The Importance of a Catering Website

In catering, a lot of marketing has always been word of mouth. You provide outstanding food and event coordination, people tell their friends and they and their friends remember you the next time they need catering. You tell friends, and friends of friends, what you do. Business rolls in. You work around the clock doing what you love. Your financials are solid, even strong. Do you need a website at all?

The answer from those in the know is a resounding yes. Most of the world can get onto the web— and many people spend a lot of time on there. In late 2009, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 74% of American adults use the Internet. 60% use broadband at home, and 55% surf the web using wireless connections with laptops or handheld devices like smartphones. People aren’t just looking for things online when they’re at home. They’re searching the Internet while taking the train to work, answering a question at a social gathering, clandestinely checking email and football scores during work meetings and finding other reasons to get on the information highway.

Probably because the Internet is so clearly where the people—a.k.a. current and prospective customers—are, it’s rare these days to discover a business without a website. As Rita Skojec, former catering, food writing and hospitality entrepreneur puts it, when asked if a catering company needs a website: “I wouldn’t have any business today without a web presence.”

Do-It-Yourself Web Design?

Do you need to hire a web development company to design and manage your company website? Opinion is split. “Don’t pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to build your website,” advises Jessica Hulett, current private chef and writer and former editorial web producer for companies including AOL.com, iVillage and Time Inc. “You can find free templates online, and sites like Wordpress (which I use) have a lot of options for customizing.” She adds that many companies offer templates and website hosting, including GoDaddy.com and 1and1.com. Others, like Dreamhost.com, don’t offer templates, but they have plug-ins that work with sites like Wordpress that do.

Professional Web Design for Caterers

On the other hand, Main Event Caterers just outside of Washington, DC worked with a web development company on its website. General Manager Cheryl Bennett recommends that most catering companies follow suit. “It takes massive time and expertise to build a website,” she says. She points out that even seemingly simple features often require advanced, time-consuming programming. “The average Joe just doesn’t have the time to do that,” she says. “The websites of both caterers and restaurants are going to be changing constantly.” She notes that it’s just good management to make sure that your employees are using their time as well as possible—and having existing catering company employees work on website development and maintenance may take them away from using their stronger talents. She adds that it’s more affordable than ever to work with a web developer. “It’s not cheap, but it’s really not all that expensive either,” she says, “especially when you consider the return on investment from a really good site.”

Skojec and her husband were early adopters with web technologies, establishing a website for their bed-and-breakfast in 1995. Skojec suggests that caterers work with professional web developers. “Especially if you have a high-end product, you need a high-end website,” she says. “It’s money well spent.” She also points out how strenuous work in catering can be. “It requires a great deal of your time,” she says. “If you’re cooking a very upscale menu, you need time for sourcing of products. You have to visit the site and see what your cooking locations are going to be.” Unexpected challenges are common, she adds, as are long hours, leaving little time for existing employees to develop and maintain a website.

 
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