Why Catering Executives Shouldn’t Apply Common Marketplace Business Models to Catering Sales

Do you know how Groupon or Uber started their businesses? Groupon started by approaching merchants and asking them if they’d be willing to sell gift cards at a discount as a way to fill slow periods. It was free for merchants to sign up and Groupon only made money when consumers bought a gift card; Groupon took a cut of the sale.

Uber started by partnering with black car companies. Uber gave the black car companies access to their app which would send them on-demand rides. They were smart to partner with black car companies which offered a much better experience for riders compared to taxis and riders would then be enticed to tell their friends about it.

I certainly did. In Uber’s early days I visited San Francisco at least twice a month and finding a cab or even booking a cab was extraordinarily difficult. Then I heard about Uber and suddenly everything changed.

The black car companies loved it as it filled slow periods. Until then, they relied on pre-set appointments.

The business model? Uber took a cut of each transaction.

This is the Filling Empty Seats business model which is a win-win because the merchants get leads and business they otherwise would have missed and their risk is limited as they only pay a cut of actual sales.

As consumers, we’re accustomed to these types of marketplaces as they’re prevalent in our everyday lives – Amazon, Hotels.com, OpenTable and thousands more.

But that model is not applicable in the wedding industry. Sure we see it in hospitality with Trivago and Hotels.com BUT like the others these are also for a relatively low stakes item – hotel rooms.

We’re talking about booking a venue for someone’s wedding which is costly and involves a lot more people than simply booking a ride or a hotel room….decorators, officiant, caterers, and more.

{The Mistake Many Catering & Sales Executives Make}

I see a lot of Catering and Sales Executives expecting this same model to work on lead generation marketplaces, such as ShaadiShop.

There’s a fundamental difference with all of these marketplaces that does not apply to catering sales though – with Uber, Amazon, OpenTable, etc. the transaction is completed in the moment.

You book a hotel room on hotels.com, buy a digital camera on Amazon, or make a reservation on OpenTable – the transaction is complete and the only thing left is to fulfill it. But this model does not work for function space and I’ll explain why.

{Venue Function Space Sales Is an Interactive Sell}

That model does not work for function space sales because:

  1. Couples don’t book their wedding venue through such a low friction transaction as simply going online. The stakes are just too high for them – after all it’s their wedding day. They refer to sites like ShaadiShop for information and to get connected to the right people but no one is going to book on the spot. Consumers want to talk to someone, meet with them, and see the space before signing a contract. By the way, the same applies for ALL wedding vendors, not just the venue.
  2. So the way for venues to use sites like ShaadiShop is to get their name in front of the target audience. The objective is NOT to close a sale. The objective is to generate leads that venues wouldn’t get otherwise. You might be thinking that the venue where you currently work has partnerships with wedding planners to whom the venue pays a commission for closed leads. That might work for Western weddings but it’s not applicable to the Indian wedding market. Why not?

{Indian Consumers Don’t Scout Venues
With a Wedding Planner}

For Indian weddings, consumers do not scout venues with a planner. In fact, for most Indian weddings couples hire a day-of coordinator – someone who helps with coordination only within the last couple of months leading up to the wedding, which  is after the venue has booked and after all of the vendors have been selected.

The viable way to attract Indian weddings is to make a marketing investment. An upfront investment that reaps rewards as a result of your marketing efforts. Every DOSM and DOC wants to see returns on those investments – of course they do. So evaluate the options and make the best selection.

{Marketing Channels}

Like anything there are several channels: print ads, direct mail, radio, social media and search. Most couples are online and that’s also where advertisers get the most bang for their buck as online content stays there, whereas print is 1 time and done.

{Take Aways}

Since we’re so familiar with marketplaces where we spend money and receive a service right away it’s easy to apply that to our work in wedding venue lead generation but there are some serious flaws in that.

When you book a ride with Uber they take a cut of the transaction and you get a ride pretty much right away. When you buy a camera or anything else on Amazon, you pay and receive the item in a few days.

But no couples are going to book their wedding venue, nor their wedding vendors through ShaadiShop, WeddingWire, the Knot or any other site. The stakes are just too high.

So to expect those sites to close sales is a fallacy. Their role is to send venues leads and build brand awareness. It’s the Catering Manager’s job to close the sale.

This article is part of ShaadiShop’s series


{Some FYIs}

Shaadi = Marriage/wedding in Hindi/Urdu, which are two major languages spoken in South Asia

South Asian refers to people from: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives

South Asian is not to be confused with Southeast Asian which is a completely different region of the world.

South Asian is a more encompassing term as it refers to everyone in that region vs. Indian.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. If it has, please let me know in the comments; and you might like to follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest – whatever your preferred media is, as we frequently publish articles to help make  planning an Indian wedding just a little bit easier.

Samta Varia Founder & CEO ShaadiShop: Indian Wedding Venues


Contact us: sales@shaadishop.co

 The #1 Destination For Venues to Market Indian Weddings!
Contact Us for info on advertising with us.


“We’re so glad we joined ShaadiShop to market this hotel to the South Asian community in the Orange County area. Every wedding we close from their leads returns more than 3x our investment. Moreover, they pre-qualify leads and educate consumers creating a much better sales cycle for our catering team. Venues looking to reach this market, join ShaadiShop!”


Ryan Hurd
Catering Sales Manager
Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove

“We just booked a full Indian wedding through ShaadiShop at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. In addition to the business, we appreciate the exposure ShaadiShop creates about our venue, as the couple didn’t know about our resort until ShaadiShop told them about us. Additionally, we appreciate the pre-qualification work that ShaadiShop does to match couples and venues that are a good fit for each other. We had all the info needed to conduct the initial meeting. What a great service for venues to market to the South Asian community!”

Angie Florence
Catering Sales Manager
Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort

“Cannot say enough good things about the service from Samta and ShaadiShop who helped us research venues for our wedding this year. We wanted a non-hotel venue, and to get married within 6 months. ShaadiShop immediately found us venues, contacted them and educated us about all the things we needed to think about while selecting a venue. They put all the info together in a fabulous, super impressive, spreadsheet that helped us compare venues – seriously amazing and such a great help. Working with them made the whole stressful process MUCH easier and I can’t believe it was all free! ShaadiShop’s website is fantastic and such a great service for South Asians – so glad I found them!”

Anjli Shah, Bride

“Shaadishop helped me not only find venues but also understand how they work, the fees, and tips that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. Definitely a need service in the desi community. And best of all, it was free!!”

Hinna Shaikh, Bride

cover image: Lin & Jirsa