If you enjoy cooking and want to go into business for yourself, consider starting a catering business. As a caterer, you will help people plan their event menu, and then prepare, deliver, and serve the food they have chosen. You may cater for all kinds of events, from weddings and birthday parties to receptions or large conferences. Keep in mind that you'll also have to deal with customers; you won't just get to be in your kitchen cooking all day long. Here's how to start a catering business:
- Find out about the regulations. Contact your local Health Department for information on requirements in your location. You will probably need permits, insurance, and inspections of your kitchen. Food safety is the most important factor to consider when setting up your food preparation facilities. In some states, you may not run a home-based catering business because you must have a kitchen separate from the one you use for personal cooking. Also consider whether you will offer an alcoholic beverage service. This could range from wine and beer to a full bar service. You'll need specific permits to handle alcohol if you do decide to offer it.
- Choose your niche. Do you want to cater for large events, or small in-home parties? If you will be cooking large quantities, you'll probably need to rent an industrial kitchen. Some catering could be done out of your home. You should develop a few sample menus to suggest to clients. You may wish to offer certain styles of food; if so, make sure you have the specialized equipment needed to make them in large quantities.
- Raise the funds. Your startup costs will include equipment and supplies as well as advertising. Catering is not a business that you can get into with no money down. If you plan to get a loan, make sure you have written business plans before contacting the bank.
- Determine your catering options. Decide how the food for catered events will be chosen, as well as details on delivery and serving options you will provide. Don't forget about clean-up and removal of dishes and leftovers. Put all of these in writing so there will be no confusion. Try to offer as many services as possible. This information should be packaged with sample menus, and photographs of food you served at previous events.
- Advertise. The type of advertising you do should be related to your niche market. You can market to large companies, or get a booth at a bridal expo to market to wedding parties. Don't forget to give your contact information to conference halls or other venues where people may hold catered events, as well as wedding and event planners. When starting up your catering business, consider handing out free samples at local events. At the very least, design a brochure and business cards to hand out to interested people.
Many people find the catering business to be fun and profitable. Before you start, you'll need to develop a business plan. Starting a catering plan requires a lot of work, and you may be under a lot of pressure as the days of your first catering events arrive. Great food with excellent presentation and customer service skills are the key ingredients for a successful catering business.