Often the idea of setting up a catering business stems from the love we have for preparing food for others. One of the major benefits of starting your own business is the freedom that comes with being self-employed.
Make a business plan
A business plan is essential to determine strategic steps to take towards a successful catering debut. Your plan should give you an idea of how you are meant to cover your overheads and how profitable the business is likely to be.
Know about your specialty & create a menu
Before beginning a catering business, you should be aware of the requirements and you need to know what your specialty is. There are various types of food that can be served by the caterers. For instance, you can decide to broadly specialize in lunches and brunches. Or you could narrow it down to a particular cuisine, like Indian or Mediterranean. If you’re the type of person that thrives on being creative, you could try your hand at catering for wedding receptions or business seminars. The possibilities are endless…
Once you decide on your specialty, you will also need to finalize the menu. Try to add a variety of dishes to maximize your chances of making a sale. Every meal can be presented with add-ons, which will help to grab the attention of the customer.
Your catering prices
An important strategy for a successful food business lies in setting the right prices. This usually means finding a good balance between making profits and offering competitive prices. Most of your customers will shop around for the best possible deal, so you will want to stand out. The prices that you set should be in line with your current experience, skill level, training and to the quality of your service. The prices for the dishes should be affordable. Make sure that whatever price you charge will be enough to cover your overheads, so that you are not operating at a loss. It’s ok to set the price for minimal profit at the beginning of your career, and slowly increase your profit margin as you gain more customers and start making a name for yourself. Just make sure that you don’t drastically increase your prices for no reason!
Fixed pricing allows you to set a price per menu, per person or by the dish. The more courses you offer, the more complex the menu is and as such you will have to adjust the price to reflect the base ingredients and extra labor costs involved.
Make sure it tastes good
Before serving the food to the customers, it is essential to taste the food yourself. You can also arrange a small party at your place and have your family and friends taste the food. Welcome their opinions to make changes if any. Keep on practicing until you start serving delicious food and are rewarded with nice comments.
Find a space & buy equipment
If you have the space, there is no reason why you can’t start your catering business from home. Most entrepreneurs take this approach, and it works. Of course, once you feel the need to expand and you have the clientele to back up your expansion plans, find the right space to rent or purchase.
Since you will be cooking larger quantities, you need to make sure your kitchen is fully equipped. The equipment required will include a large refrigerator, a deep freezer, possibly more than one mixer, high-grade cooking utensils and serving materials.
Other equipment you might require will include:
- Steel utensils.
- Disposable plates, forks, knives and spoons.
- Stove, oven, toaster
Get the required license
For every food business, you need to pay close attention to the customer’s safety. We have all heard horror stories about restaurants and caterers that do not adhere to certain norms of food hygiene, leading to food poisoning among customers. Since you don’t want to add to those statistics, make sure you get all the relevant licenses and respect the regulations. There are about 15 licenses that will be required, so make sure you speak to your local authorities for guidance.
Once you’ve been in business for a little while and have built up a clientele, you may want to take on a few helping hands. It is always best to factor this into your budgeting from the very beginning, so that you know how much you can afford to pay in wages. It’s always best to hire professional cooks, who will have a higher hourly rate than an amateur.
Many catering businesses offer additional services besides food. For example, you can rent tables and chairs and organize for special themes by arranging for the decoration.
In order to protect your business from any lawsuits which can arise from injuries at events, general liability insurance is handy to have. If you plan on serving alcohol along with food, you will need a liquor liability insurance to protect yourself from lawsuits related to alcohol consumption at events.
Promote your products
Now you are all set to beginning operating, you need to promote your business and let people know how appealing and tasty your dishes are.
Share your details on social media, distribute pamphlets and business cards to every potential customer and network as much as possible. Your goal is to create a buzz around you so that people will want to see what the fuss is all about. Make sure to use every catering job you take on as a marketing opportunity for more work.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re not an overnight success. Keep working hard and grow your business so that eventually, you’ll be able to give some of the more established caterers a run for their money. Above all else, have fun!