How to Start a Catering Business
- Things to know about catering
- 6 steps to get started
- How to hire and manage employees
- How to handle emergencies
If cooking and event planning are your two biggest passions, you can successfully combine them into a well-paying job and make a career as a caterer. In this article, we’ll look at what it takes to enter the catering industry and how to make consistent profits on catering.
Things to know about catering
Catering refers to providing food service at a variety of events, including weddings, birthday parties, conferences, picnics, etc. A caterer takes care of cooking, delivering, and serving food at an event. Catering can be private (birthday parties, picnics, family celebrations) and corporate (negotiations, team buildings, office lunches).
A significant advantage of this type of business is easy scaling and step-by-step investments. Catering small events for individuals is a great way to start. Once you see that you’re doing fine, you can hire more employees to help you and grow your client base.
Catering is much more than just preparing food and delivering it to a client. This business requires a great deal of self-discipline and responsibility. Before you start, make sure you have everything you need to succeed. Here is a quick checklist:
- Experience in the HoReCa industry. You’ll have to handle a wide range of tasks, such as buy groceries, negotiate with supplies, plan your time and logistics, etc. If you have experience working as a manager at a restaurant or hotel, it will be of great help to you in launching your own business. If you feel that you lack some crucial skills, it might be a good idea to do a restaurant management course.
- Responsibility. In addition to having excellent cooking skills, you must be punctual, responsible, and well-organized.
- Sociability. Your ability to build healthy relationships with your clients can make all the difference in your success as a caterer. You need to be able to find common ground with different people, tailor your services to their needs, and make compromises.
- Stress resistance. Even with the most thorough planning, you can’t avoid unforeseen mishaps, such as a broken plate, burnt pie or car that won’t start. In situations like these, it’s important to remain professional and solve problems without falling into panic.
6 steps to get started
1. Pick a niche
Decide on the type of food/cuisine you’re going to specialize in. Here are some of the most common options:
- sweets and desserts;
- snacks and cocktails;
- healthy food;
- vegetarian food;
- kosher cuisine;
- banquet menu;
When choosing the right niche, take into account the following factors:
- Your passion and interests. Take a moment to think about what food you’d like to focus on. You must love what you do, especially when it comes to cooking.
- Your geographical location. Study the needs of potential clients in your neighborhood. If there are many families with kids, consider catering children’s events.
2. Study the market
Find out what other caterers work in your neighborhood. Gather information on their range of services, menu, prices, and target audience. Think about how you can distinguish your business from your direct rivals.
An important thing to remember is that you’re selling not only food, but also comfort and positive emotions. What is it that you can you offer to our clients besides delicious food? Identify the strengths and advantages that will make your unique selling proposition and separate you from the crowd.
3. Get a license and insurance
To start a catering business, you’ll need a catering license. The procedure for getting the license may differ across countries, so be sure to check out the laws and guidelines applied in your area. Once you’ve obtained all the necessary permissions, you’re good to get started!
Another important thing to consider is insurance. While purchasing insurance is optional, it can save you both money and nerves in case of client complaints, injuries, and property damage.
4. Rent premises and purchase equipment
In this chapter, we’ll look at a number of important issues, such as buying kitchen appliances, renting premises, and picking the best transportation option for your business needs.
- Premises. You can cook in your kitchen at home or rent premises precisely for that purpose. If you for the latter, make sure your premises are spacious enough to accommodate a large fridge, several stoves, and other household appliances.
- Tableware. Make a list of tableware that you’re going to need. It must include various types of plates and dishes, glasses, cups, kitchen utensils, napkins, tablecloths, and other indispensable items.
- Equipment. The kitchen equipment you’re going to need depends on your niche. If you focus on desserts, you’ll need at least two ovens. If you’re catering barbeque parties, you can’t do without professional BBQ grills.
- Transportation. Make sure your car can accommodate all products, kitchen accessories and appliances that you’ll be taking to your client venues. If your vehicle is too small, think about renting or buying a pickup truck or minibus.
5. Come up with a menu and prices
Create several menus so that your clients can choose the food they’d like to enjoy on their special day. Also, you can take custom orders and come up with original menus tailored to your clients’ gastronomic tastes.
You can charge a fixed price for an entire event, or set a rate per person or per hour of catering. Your prices must incorporate the cost of products, transportation costs, as well as the time you spend preparing the food and serving it to guests.
6. Market your business
Develop a smart marketing strategy. People can learn about your services from differences sources:
- Online. Google and socials are effective platforms for bringing together contractors and clients. Create accounts with Facebook and Instagram. This is the best way to build a following and spread word about your business.
- Word of mouth. Start with catering family events, parties held by your friends and colleagues, etc. Make sure everything goes flawlessly. If your first clients are happy with your services, they’re sure to recommend you to their acquaintances. Benefit from networking and build business contacts with event planners, photographers, animators, etc.
- Offline. Don’t underestimate the potential of traditional forms of advertising. Participate at HoReCa events, organize tasting parties, distribute flyers, etc.
How to hire and manage employees
As your business grows, you’ll inevitably need more people on your team, such as chefs, barmen, baristas, waiters, sommeliers, etc. How many people you’ll need depends on the type and scale of the events you’re catering. You have two options. You can either have a payroll or outsource employees for each specific event.
The best way to search for professionals is to post ads on job-searching websites and ask your family and friends for references. When interviewing a contender, be sure to introduce them to all ins and outs of your business and outline the tasks that you expect them to do. If your employees need to polish their professional skills, encourage them to do a course or training.
How to handle emergencies
As a business owner, you must be prepared for force majeure situations. Outline the problems you may face and come up with a solution for each of them. Here are some of the most common mishaps in the catering business:
- your car or truck may break down;
- you may spoil a dish;
- you may break a dozen expensive plates;
- one of your employees may get sick.
Catering is a tricky business to run. It requires a mix of different qualities, such as creativity, discipline, and excellent organizational skills. Start with small events and scale your business as you’re building a good reputation and expanding a client base.