How to Start a Catering Business

Everything you need to know about starting your own catering business

Creating delicious dishes for special events is an extremely rewarding profession. It is also the ideal job for anyone who is interested in working in the hospitality industry. Although it may sound a relatively straightforward job, it actually involves a lot of preparation to produce a perfect result.

Regardless of the type of catering business you want to set up, you will have to draft a business plan. This will involve creating contacts, promoting your business, and deciding which sector you would like to work in.

What is a catering business?

If you are looking for a qualified person to prepare for an upcoming event, then you will need to contact a catering business. They will organize, prepare, and deliver meals to your home or to a specified location. Sometimes the catering business will need to prepare a chosen location for special occasions. This can include providing a service for parties, ceremonies, private, public, sporting, or corporate events. In recent times, catering businesses are also being contacted for home dinners where a special meal of high restaurant quality is desired.

Start off with small projects

The advantage of opening a business like this is that you can start out with small numbers and build up to bigger events. This could include starting with private dinners, corporate events, aperitifs on the occasion of a start-up or even birthday parties or baby-showers. Such events allow you to take steps and acquire contacts to get your name out there and then grow your business step by step.

Do your research

Indeed, it is also worthwhile finding out which other companies are working in your area and what services they are providing. Once you have done your research, you need to establish which area of catering you can provide. You have an array of areas to choose from, including:

  • confirmations
  • weddings
  • corporate events
  • communions
  • birthdays

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just an idea of some events you could cater for. The next step is to draw up a business plan. This is where you’ll also get into the specifics of financing. You need to plan where to find your start-up funds as well as estimating your initial costs.

The bureaucratic side

Once you are sure that you have all the professional and personal requirements to pursue a career in catering, it is time to take care of the bureaucratic part. This requires a lot of precision. However, there are plenty of tools to help you start a catering business.

Keep in mind that if you are not familiar with the legal side of things, it might be a good idea to contact an accountant who can help you fill out all the documents you need to start a successful catering business properly.

Health and safety regulations

Aside from registering a business name and obtaining a license, you’ll need to check out local health and food safety regulations in your state. Therefore, find out which permits and licenses you will need and pay any relevant fees before starting out. The food industry has many potential risks, including kitchen fires, transportation accidents, and food poisoning, so make sure you have all your insurance bases covered.

If you plan on working out of your own kitchen, you may need to get a loan to bring it up to standard. Catering staff are responsible for organising, preparing, and delivering everything needed to satisfy the guests at a party. Indeed, to open a catering agency, you will need to make an initial investment, which you will then recoup as you earn money.

So let’s see what requirements you need to open a catering business. Bear in mind that you will have to be supported by qualified personnel to make your business successful.

Setting up a website

Whether you are planning to cater to small or big events, you will need to promote your work. Indeed, the only way you can do this is to set up a website where potential clients will be able to reach out to you. This is a straightforward process, thanks to the number of hosting providers who cater for small businesses. BlueHost offers an easy one-click WordPress installation tool. Here, you can get 60% off hosting and a free domain name.

Although this may seem a challenge, it will help you attract customers. Start by choosing a name for your business. Keep it short and simple and relevant to your job. Once you have chosen a name, you can then work on designing your website.

Showcase any photos of events you have catered for and include reviews from any clients. You could also give examples of sample menus and general price guides, along with a brief description of what services you provide. Remember to include your personal details so potential clients can contact you for a quote.

Professional requirements needed

When it comes to professional requirements, we can say that, in principle, you do not need special qualifications. However, you’ll need to check out the local health and food safety regulations in your state to find out which permits and licenses you will need.

To stand out from others, consider attending specific courses for the management and organization of a fully fledged professional catering business. There are many such courses that prepare you for the catering world, providing you with useful tips to succeed. Attending such courses will also provide you with a qualification that could come in handy when organizing an event with a client. You will be able to put into practice what you have learned from your mentors.

Personal skills

Although you may not require any professional qualifications to be a caterer, interpersonal skills always come in handy. Therefore, use your charisma to approach future clients and your staff. Having knowledge in management skills will also enable you to organize your work in the best possible way.

Problem solving skills

When working with people, it is fundamental to possess problem-solving skills. You will need a team of collaborators who are competent, reliable, and professional. In fact, the typical clientele of this sector expect to receive a certain type of service and want to deal with cheerful and professional staff.

Setting up a catering agency not only requires you to know how to cook and prepare meals, but you also need you to be ready, and above all organised, to transport the meals once they are ready.

Explore the market

Look for a market niche to explore. Choose a part of the market that is still unfamiliar or where there is little competition. It may seem more laborious, but it will be easier to enter the market by offering a service with high demand and low supply.

Once you have built up your customer base, you can start offering the services for which you feel best suited. However, initially, it will be easier to focus on a service where you do not have many competitors.

The costs of opening a catering business

Before opening a catering business, it will be necessary to invest in a professional who can help you set up a business plan. Together, examine the sector and the market, identifying your target audience and needs, as well as carefully analyzing the competition. The initial costs needed to start up a small business vary depending on whether you need to purchase professional kitchen equipment or if you will be working externally. Although the initial investment may not be insignificant, a catering business involves high profit margins and a very high demand from the market.

Professional and friendly staff

Quality and variety of the buffet are not the only specifications to be taken into account. The professionalism of the staff in charge of the service is crucial to the success of the event. In fact, you can’t improvise as a professional waiter. Indeed, if the job of waiter is carried out at a high level, your clients will note it and may recommend you to others.

Staff must welcome guests in a friendly and discreet manner, serve the food explaining the particularities of the dishes, recommend wines to go with them and satisfy the guests’ requests. In addition to professionalism, a waiter must always behave with the utmost cordiality when on duty: a smile can often work wonders.

Attention to detail

Regardless of the type of event you have decided to organise, the choice of buffet is fundamental. If you are catering for a corporate event, you must guarantee the utmost attention to the quality of the raw materials and the skill with which they are used for preparation.

It is equally important to offer guests a varied menu, where you can satisfy the tastes of all the guests. Offer a wide variety of dishes, including hot and cold food, meat and seafood, platters and finger food. There should also be a dessert area for those who just can’t resist treating themselves to a dessert.

Before any event, find out if any guests have food intolerances and create a specific menu for them. Another element to be taken into account is certainly the care taken in setting up the buffet. Guests at an event will appreciate the attention to detail and decoration, the choice of quality trays, plates, glasses and cutlery, and the elegance of the presentation.

Setting up the perfect venue

Apart from creating perfect dishes for your guests, it is also necessary to satisfy the eye with solutions that enhance the food. It is essential that the setting of the room is in line with the target group of guests and the type of reception. Indeed, a business event setting needs to be more sober than an 18th birthday party or wedding.

For a complete gastronomic experience, everything around the plate should enhance the food, so work on the details. Coordinate tablecloths with the furnishings and the mise en place of the table should respect a balance between the decorations, the cutlery, the arrangement of the napkins, the decorations and the dishes themselves.

Create a marketing strategy

Whether you plan to have a large or small business, it is essential to create a strong image. Hire a graphic designer for business cards, brochures and menus and create a profile on social networks. Also, place ads in local newspapers and promote yourself on all platforms that allow it.

Use online platforms on Google to set up a business account that allows you to create a profile and increase your client portfolio without getting up from your desk. To understand how to optimise your profile and exponentially increase your client base, start by looking at the profiles of those offering the same service. This will give you an insight into the market and help you create an appropriate strategy!

The ideal place to start up a catering business

Once you have dealt with all the bureaucratic issues, it is time to evaluate the ideal place to open a catering business. If you intend to use external restaurants to prepare the food, you only need a small space to store your equipment and possibly welcome any potential clients. Ideally, it should have adequate space for customers and staff parking as well as space to allow your suppliers to unload goods.

Alternatively, if you are going to prepare your food, look for a venue that has a kitchen. However, the premises must not be smaller than 25 square metres and must be in full compliance with the building regulations, especially for the activity you are going to carry out.

Conclusion

That said, starting and operating a profitable catering business is not an easy job, but is immensely gratifying. To make it to the successful end, you must know what you’re getting yourself into. Indeed, the venture is quite demanding and needs competent people who love their job. The good thing with catering is that the initial overhead costs are relatively lower compared to opening a restaurant. In addition, the growth potential of such a business is almost limitless, meaning you can build it incrementally. Therefore, you can actualize your dreams of owning your catering business. You just need to develop the right mindset. So, gather all necessary resources and have a team that will work towards achieving set goals.

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