How to Write a Food Industry or Catering Business Proposal

Do you need to write a proposal to promote your food-related business to a prospective client or to get funding? It doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. The goals for any business proposal are: introduce yourself, highlight your products and/or services, describe the costs, and convince the client that you are the right choice for the job or you are worth investing in. To speed up the proposal writing process, you can use pre-designed templates and get ideas from sample proposals.

Whether you are describing a catering service, pitching a food service (deli) to be installed within another company, buying or selling a food franchise or food vending business, requesting that a grocery store of specialty store chain carry your food product, or even asking for funding to start up or expand a restaurant, the proposal structure will be similar. Here’s the basic structure to follow: introduce yourself, then summarize the prospective client’s needs, describe your services and costs, and finally, provide information about your organization, your credentials, and your capabilities.

For a food-related business, you will also need to include some detailed information about your services, menus, or products that are of interest to the specific client. For example, a catering service might need to include menus and décor themes from which the client can select, and a food vending operation might need to explain how machines will be operate and which items will be stocked.

Always keep in mind that the purpose of a proposal is to persuade your potential clients to give you their business or loan you their money. You must prove that you can deliver the products or services they need. A simple price list can never substitute for a real proposal.

Proposals should be targeted to a specific client. This means you need to gather information about your client so that you can present a proposal tailored to that individual client’s needs. It’s never a good idea to send all prospective clients the same sales letter. Clients are much more likely to accept a proposal tailored just for them.

So, let’s get back to the order described above. Start your proposal with a Cover Letter and a Title Page. The Cover Letter should deliver a brief personal introduction and contain your company contact information. The Title Page is just what it sounds like: the name of your specific proposal (for example, “Proposed Catering Plan for Your Awards Banquet”, “Proposal to Place Food Vending Machines in Community College Buildings” or “Business Plan Funding for Hot Stuff Bakery”).

After this introduction section, add topics that describe the needs of your client. If you are presenting a proposal for a complex project, you may need to write a summary to precede the detail pages. In a proposal for a corporate client, this is normally called an Executive Summary. For a less formal but still complex proposal, it’s more often called a Client Summary. In this summary and the following detail pages, you should demonstrate your understanding of the client’s requirements, goals, and desires, as well as discussing any restrictions or limitations you are aware of. This section should be all about the client.

Next is your chance to advertise yourself. Follow your introduction section and the client section with pages that describe what you are offering. These pages might have general headings like Services Provided, Samples (offering the client to pre-sample selections from your menu or food products), Benefits, and Services Cost Summary, Product Cost Summary, Entertainment (if provided with food service) as well as more specific pages that detail the products and/or services you can provide and explain the associated costs, the number of people that will be served and so on.

Your specific business will determine the specialized topics and pages you need to include in your proposal.

A catering service might need to include topics like Specialization (to highlight a specific niche you excel in) Services Provided, Options, Cost Summary, Events, Entertainment, Rentals, Special Needs, Policies and a Contract and Terms.

A deli or fast food franchise might want pages such as a Location Analysis, Future Potential, Financial Information, Income Project, Feasibility Study and other business opportunity templates describing the business opportunity.

A company selling a product to a store might include Product Cost Summary or Price List, Distribution, Market and Audience, Marketing Plan, Ingredients, Packaging, Footprint, Cost/Benefit Analysis, Quality Control and Benefits.

Specialty businesses such as event planners, party planners and wedding planners typically have to incorporate catering services as just one component of a larger proposal and will deal with additional topics such as the Venue, Performers, Products, Logistics, Packages and so on.

A business proposing to provide school lunches for students would need to provide additional details to show they can handle the volume and safety requirements. You can add topics for Requirements, Facilities, Safety Plan, Training Plan (for how your employees are trained), Certifications, Insurance, Quality Control, Experience, Capabilities, Capacity and so forth.

If you’re asking for funding to start a food business (anything from a coffee shop or bakery to a full size restaurant), you’ll want to add pages such as a Competitive Analysis, Industry Trends, Market and Audience, Marketing Plan, Insurance, Liability, Time Line, Funding Request, Services Provided, Products, Company Operations, Balance Sheet, Income Projection, Sources of Funds, Uses of Funds, Personnel, Legal Structure and any other topics required by the lender.

In your last proposal section, provide your company details, including pages such as Company History or About Us, Capabilities, Testimonials, Our Clients, or References. Your goal in this section is to convince the prospective client that you can be trusted to deliver the goods and/or services they need and want.

Those are the basic steps for organizing and writing the proposal. But you’re not quite finished yet. After you have all the information down on the pages, focus on ensuring that your proposal is visually appealing. Incorporate your company logo, use colored page borders, and/or select interesting fonts and custom bullets to add color and flair. Just be sure to match your company style when making these selections.

To finalize your proposal, it’s essential to proofread and spell-check every page. It’s always a good idea to get someone other than the proposal writer to do a final proof, because it’s very common to overlook mistakes in your own work.

When the final touches have been completed, print it or save it as a PDF file, and then deliver it to the client. The delivery method you should use will depend on your relationship with your potential client. While it’s common to email PDF files to clients, a nicely printed, personally signed, and hand-delivered proposal may make more of an impression and demonstrate that you’re willing to make an extra effort for the client.

So, to sum up, a food-business proposal can vary widely in content depending on the business and the project. Each company’s proposal contents will need to be a bit different. But all these proposals will have a similar format and follow a similar structure.

If you’d like to get a jump start using pre-designed templates with simple instructions and tons of suggestions for content, you can use Proposal Pack which includes all of the material mentioned above. The product also includes many sample food business proposals that will give you great ideas and help you easily create your own successful proposal.

Ian Lauder has been helping small businesses and individuals write their proposals and contracts since 1999. => For more tips and best practices when writing your business proposals and legal contracts go to http://www.proposalkit.com

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Catering Menu Ideas and Advice

Developing a selection of menus for your catering business can be challenging. To a certain extent you can question the client as to their preferences but from there you are on your own. You will have to come up with your own menu creations that also fit in with the client’s requirements. Some clients may not know what they want at all and you may have to show them a variety of menu options.

Here are some catering menu ideas for you to consider as you proceed to put your own menus together.

Type of Event

Think about the people who will be attending, the kind of food they might like and what kind of volume they may consume. Things that you may have to think about here include age, gender, culture and socio-economic background. Will the event be formal or casual?

Timing of an Event

This is an obvious one really. Whether you serve dishes suitable to a breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, morning tea or afternoon snacks will depend on what time of day a catering event is scheduled.

Theme

Clients may have a theme in mind for an event and want you to work in with it. Even if they don’t it is quite a marketable concept to have menus in themes that tie in with table decorations and server uniforms. Regional themes work best for food such as an Italian or Asian theme.

The Client’s Budget

This is going to have a large impact on what is possible in terms of a menu and your catering services. The budget will determine the ingredients that you can use, what dishes you can serve and in what volumes you can serve them.

Number of Guests Attending

Working out an average amount that you expect the guests to eat will help you to plan a menu. You have to make sure that you prepare appropriate servings that give everyone enough to be satisfied without having too much left over food that may go to waste.

Some catering companies have rough guidelines for the amount of food required per head. For example, caterers may estimate that the average adult will eat 180 grams of meat, chicken or fish, 180 grams of carbohydrates (potatoes, rice or pasta), 160 grams of vegetables and 80 grams of salad. Every catering business owner has a different opinion here so adjustments can be made once you know what you are doing.

Where will you be Preparing the Food?

This will determine what equipment you have access to and thus what dishes you will be able to create. If you are preparing the food onsite then you won’t have the hassle of transporting it to the venue. If you are preparing it from your own commercial kitchen then you may be able to do more much more than if you are using facilities that you are not familiar with.

Good Menu Combinations

Foods should go together on serving trays or plates in a way that they will compliment each other with regards to taste and visual appeal. Menus for an event should also be planned out in the right combinations so that the overall menu has the right balance of meats, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates and fats and oils.

Wherever possible you should give people variety. Let them add their own salad dressings, sauces or condiments.

Catering to Dietary Requirements

When consulting with a client you should ask them if they would like you to include dishes in the menu that cater to specific dietary requirements. You might include some vegetarian or vegan dishes and others that may be specifically for people with food allergies.

Having certain dishes that you can say are low fat or low in carbohydrates is a good idea for catering to those who may be on diets.

Contemporary Food Trends

People expect something special from a catering business these days and you have to give people new and exciting dishes. Depending on the client and the guests the best way is usually to balance some modern cooking styles with classic dishes.

What Foods Make Good Business Sense?

It is great if you can work out which dishes and food items allow your catering business to make the most profit? You need to understand a lot about the current market prices for all commonly used ingredients. Some foods are seasonal and are therefore usually only profitable when they are in season.

When presenting a client with a variety of menus that your catering business offers give them the chance to upgrade to more expensive options involving more expensive ingredients.

The Number of Courses

The more courses you include, the more service staff you will need and the more dishes and cutlery you will need to bring. Remember that some ingredients should feature only once in a multi-course menu. You wouldn’t want to have a chicken soup on the menu if you also had roast chicken as part of the main course for example.

Study Menus at Restaurants

Whenever you are eating out at a restaurant or at a catered event, seek inspiration from menus that have been put together by other people. More importantly, judge the reaction of the people who are being served and eating the dishes in question.

Over time you can improve your menus by taking note of which dishes were popular and which were hardly touched. Drop the losers and go with the most popular dishes while testing new dishes from time to time.

You will also notice that once you get started you will get numerous new catering menu ideas popping into your head and through customer feedback.

Planning your first set of catering business menus doesn’t have to be a nightmare if you go about it in an organized manner. Just pretend that you are having 120 guests over for a dinner party!

For articles on preparing a catering business plan as well as many other topics visit –

Starting a Catering Business

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