How To Start A Catering Business
Want to know how to start a catering business? Believe it or not, you do not have to be a famous chef, or a culinary genius to start a catering business. If you have ever planned, shopped for and prepared an excellent meal on time, all while staying within the budget, you are almost there. Of course, running a catering business is not just cooking; you will be wearing more than a chef’s hat for this gig. You will be cook, manager, consultant and perhaps even delivery person. Learning the catering business comes naturally for some, while others may require a bit of training, in either a formal (classroom, online, internship) or informal setting like your aunt Sarah’s kitchen. Once you know how to cater an event, the possibilities are endless in terms of turning your skills into a lucrative business, let’s get started.
- Determine your style and what cuisine you will offer. Will you specialize in elegant soirées, or will your niche be down home Southern cooking? Don’t panic if you have not quite figured out every single detail, you know the most important one and that is that you want to start a catering business. Your menu and the services you offer will most likely change as you develop your business and learn the catering industry. Make sure that your business reflects your authentic style and personality, create your signature.
- Whether you start in your kitchen or a loft in the city, you will need to contact your local government (county or state). They can guide you to the required forms, licenses, and permits for your catering business. If you’ re not ready to start on a large scale, contact a restaurant, or kitchen facility that already has the necessary licenses and lease space from them on an “as needed basis”.
- Create a business plan. Whether your business is home-based or you have a snazzy professional kitchen outfitted with all the latest equipment, you will need at least a basic plan and a budget. Be prepared when seeking start-up capital, banks and investors will usually require you to provide a professional, detailed business plan. Seek the help of professionals for your legal and accounting needs, contact your local SBA Hotline Desk 2 and request their free guide.
- Create a menu and price list. Your menu should consist of foods and services that you prepare best. Pay close attention to pricing your food, this is where most caterers make mistakes and under charge. Many factors come into play when determining your pricing, including, but not limited to; overhead, labor, supplies, food, and of course-a profit.
- Get out there and spread the word that your catering business is open for business. Word of mouth is your greatest advertisement, so make sure every morsel is fresh and delicious. You and your staff should be courteous and professional, and that starts when you answer the phone.
- Attend Food Expos and subscribe to Trade Magazines, keep abreast of trends and equipment for your catering business. You want to be in the “know” about food, the USDA National Agricultural Library web site spills the beans on everything from the composition of food and nutrition to healthy recipes for the holidays.
- Turn on the gas and start cooking!
If after thoroughly researching the ins and outs of catering you still feel you are not prepared to enter this industry, consider working at a catering service, or subcontracting out your services as a chef or cook while you learn the ropes by getting hands on experience. You may also contact established caterers and offer your “specialized” services; you may provide services or menu items that may enhance their current offerings.
The beauty of the catering industry is that you can begin at any level. You can literally grow at your own pace as a caterer by booking as many, or as few, gigs as you like. Consumers have a new appreciation for food and food services- let them see what you have to “bring to the table”.