Good Eats: How to Start a Catering Business

“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.” –Elsa Schiaparelli


Alan D. Wolfelt was once quoted to say that food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate—and if there is anything we can conclude about food, it is the fact that it is a universal unifying element that brings people together. After all, everyone has got to eat at some point. If you have a particular penchant for whipping up sumptuous food and a flair for business, then perhaps starting a catering business venture might just be your calling. So, in the interest of serving good food, consider putting your entrepreneurial spirit and extraordinary talent in the kitchen in a catering endeavor. Start small and offer a few catering menu packages initially, and from there, if it flourishes then you can expand and offer an extensive menu.

In any case, here are some tips that will help you on a startup catering business:

1.)    Find a Niche

Regardless of how adept you are at cooking food, you cannot expect to cover all fields at once. Before getting into the business, sit down and do some brainstorming. Think of the type of food you excel at cooking or the types of events you feel yourself gravitating to. Make this your starting point or in essence, your niche. As you are starting out small, you might want to save catering for weddings and big events until you have a more established name—or have already expanded.  Small wedding showers, bachelorette parties, and engagement parties, on the other hand, are things you can handle quite comfortably. Think of a menu you want to serve your clients and research what your competitors are offering. Lastly, price your menu items accordingly and reasonably in a manner that allows you stay competitive and make a profit as well. Take note: Pricing greatly varies depending on the place where you live, the dish and the ingredients you intend on using.

2.)    Make an inventory

Now that you have nailed down a niche, it is time to have a list of the items you will inevitably need to start your catering business. After all, if you expect to be cooking for a number of people on a regular basis, you cannot logically expect your existing kitchenware to handle all that heavy cooking. Have an inventory of what you do have and might be able to use and list some items you would need to purchase. Some of the items you will likely need are an industrial dishwasher and stove. A separate freezer and set of utensils would also be recommended.

3.)    Establish relations with vendors

In order to have a functional business, you would need vendors and suppliers to provide you not only with food ingredients, but a myriad of other items as well. More often than not, consumers expect their caterers to provide them with the full package along with the catering service. As far as they are concerned, food should not be the only thing you provide but you should come equipped with tables and chairs. Apart from this, linens, glassware, and utensils are things you would need from vendors and suppliers. So, research vendors and suppliers ahead of time and compare prices.

4.)    Establish a business

To get a good handle on things, it is best if you crafted a business plan that would not only cover the additional investment you would need to get started but the first 3-6 months of expenses and revenues as well. Obtain the necessary requirements such as business permits and licenses and have the health department come and inspect your kitchen to see if it passes health codes.

5.)    Do some marketing

Of course, you would need to market your business in order to have customers come knocking on your door. Reach your potential clients by developing a marketing program that is not only relevant but trendy as well. Know where your prospective clients lurk and advertise—especially on social media platforms. Lastly, for a professional finish, design business cards, brochures and a good website.


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