How to Begin a Business in Catering
Do you thoroughly enjoy hosting parties for your friends and family? Are you constantly keeping up on the latest food trends? Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? If you answered yes to these three questions then maybe you should consider beginning your own business in catering. Luckily, a business in catering requires a relatively low startup cost with minimal overhead as your business gains traction and attracts more clientele. Below you will find a three part guide that will aid you in figuring out your catering niche, beginning your business and attracting clients.
Part 1 - How to Figure out Your Catering Niche
1) Write down the kinds of food you enjoy making. Your business in catering is no different from any other business and should come from a place of pure passion and interest. Listed below are types of foods to consider focusing your catering business around as you begin to develop:
- Lunch or Brunch meals are a possibility for your business if you love to cook up quiches, salads, sandwiches, or tarts that are wonderfully enjoyed during the daytime hours (Your business could cater during school functions, business luncheons or daytime ceremonies)
- Cocktails and Appetizer hours are becoming very trendy and caterers are in demand, so if you enjoy mixing some liquor along with your batter this could be your niche
- If you have a flair for baking specifically than catering desserts only could be your cup of tea
2) Time to create your menu. The advantage of creating your menu first, allows you to determine the amount of kitchen space your catering business will require, the type of appliances you will need to install and how much startup cost you will initially fund.
- Create a menu that will suit a variety of different taste buds! Although, you may specialize in a certain type of cuisine, you will want to ensure that your menu pleases a range of tastes. For instance, if you’re an expert in spicy foods make sure to include non-spicy options on your menu as well.
- Make sure not to overshoot on your menu, it needs to remain manageable. Cook foods that you know you are comfortable creating and that you can efficiently source ingredients for.
- Don't forget to include vegetarian and/or vegan options on your menu for clientele who do not or can not eat meats or other animal products.
3) Try out your menu’s choice dishes. Host a dinner party with close friends and family before you settle on a final menu. After the party inquire about positive criticism on both the service and the food.
- Once you’ve received your feedback, try tweaking your dishes to make them more crowd pleasing
- Make sure to practice, practice, practice; you know you have the techniques, now you must fine tune them to speed up preparation time and perfect your presentation prior to launching your new catering business
Part 2 - Securing your Supplies as well as Your Space
1) Search for a rental space. No matter how big or small you are starting out, it is highly likely that your local law prohibits operating a catering business from your home kitchen. To find out what your county allows you will need to read your local jurisdiction’s health codes.
- Consider starting out in a commercial kitchen space. There are plenty of kitchens that allow their space to be rented out for a few hours to a day at a time. If you are only catering on weekends or just a few times during the month than this could be the most economic option for you.
- If you are catering full time then you will need to search for a permanent space. It is necessary to acquire a space with running plumbing and electrical. Make sure to ask your landlord as well as your local zoning office what the requirements are to install proper grease traps and ventilation hoods.
- If you are planning to sell food directly out of your kitchen or host special tastings then you will need to search for an appropriate storefront that includes an area separate from the kitchen that provides comfortable seating for your clientele.
2) Setting up your kitchen. Commercial catering requires industrial equipment that is typically more expensive than commercial kitchen equipment which calls for a budget. You will need to sit down and figure out exactly how much money you will need to successfully run your business.
- Your menu will serve as a base for which equipment purchases are necessary to run your catering business. For instance, if your menu is primarily filled with baked goods then you will need to install two ovens at the very least. Or if your menu is chalk full of fried foods then you may need to opt for several fryers.
- If you plan to hire a team then consider installing more than one sink in order to create a more efficient prep space.
- Plan for food storage in advance. You may need several refrigerators or possibly even a walk-in freezer to efficiently store your food. Not to mention, heated and unheated areas are highly imperative for holding and/or storing prepared food at the correct temperature.
- Lastly, budget all other kitchen equipment you may need, including pots, pans, and utensils.
3) Purchase all catering equipment you will need at your catering events. You can find a great variety of Restaurant & Catering equipment at eBay on the cheap, and get an extra savings with eBay promo codes. The type of food you plan to serve will determine the equipment you will need. At the bare minimum your event will require serving platters and utensils.
- Decide if your business will provide formal display trays, tiered platters, glassware, plates, and silverware or one time use plates and utensils.
- You need to remember to purchase proper equipment to keep your hot food hot and your cold foods cold, such as liquid fuel burners for keeping chafing dishes warm.
- You will need to consider if your business provides linens, napkins, and/or table decorations/centerpieces. Some catering businesses even go as far as offering optional tent rentals.
Part 3 - Time to Set Up Your Business
1) Secure all necessary licenses and permits. Make sure to do your research. You will need to review your region's laws regarding food and alcohol distribution during catering events. You must secure all required licensing and permits before you begin your services.
2) Pick your price points. It is imperative that you have all necessary ordering paperwork ready during your catering consultations, and tasting events. You may even need to hire an accountant to take care of all bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is how you will keep track of all invoices, income, and expenses.
3) Purchase a vehicle for transportation and any other equipment required for appropriate food transport. Make sure that the vehicle you purchase has enough room to store all food, equipment, linens, and tableware your catering event will need on site.
4) Hire a wait staff. Decide whether or not you need help with food prep, delivery, and/or event services. If you do not want to initially hire a permanent staff, you may want to look into utilizing a temp agency for your servers and cooks until your business is more stable. Additionally, you will need to train your staff to provide the proper service you want to offer your clientele as well as proper uniform attire.
5) Discuss opening accounts with local food suppliers. When just beginning your business, you might get away with utilizing your local wholesale food clubs to purchase your food stock but once you gain enough traction with your business you will find a much more manageable way to do business with larger more specialized supply companies. A larger chunk of your produce can be purchased from your local region's farmers which not only supports small businesses but also your local economy. Plus, alcohol suppliers tend to cut you special deals if you agree to display their logos at your catering events.
6) Spread the word about your new wonderful catering business. Marketing your business will help you find new clientele. For example, you can create a facebook page, pass out fliers that contain your menu, and/or take out an ad in your local newspaper prior to opening your company. You can even host mobile tasting events where you can book clients ahead of time. Try submitting your business information to local banquet halls and wedding venues so that they may refer you new clients as well. Word of mouth recommendation is one of the most effective ways of boosting your catering business.
All you need to do is try your very best and your business will be booming in no time.