Think you have a knack for turning a chunk of ordinary dough into a mouthwatering blueberry cheesecake? What about making your own version of a chicken Kiev or better yet, a whole buffet fit for a Thanksgiving feast? Your friends and family might think so too, and you may have a modest kitchen filled with delights waiting to be cooked and baked, because that’s what you love to do-cooking for your loved ones.
How about turning that passion into something you can gain profit on? In fact, you have probably already toyed with the idea of opening a restaurant or a catering service of your own, once before, only to brush it off as some silly musing that can’t be bothered with. Maybe it’s time to reconsider. Especially that the catering industry always have a lot to offer for even those who have little to no experience in handling a business.
You might think that just because you have awesome cooking skills even without training, having a startup capital to start your own catering business would be enough to make it successful. Wrong. It takes more than the ability to open one to run a catering company of your own. It takes a good deal of hard work to make it work and the right plan to go with it, so that you can determine whether or not this is a good decision or you can use the plan to guide you through its management and operations before you start accepting clients of your own.
For many years, catering has been one of the most important part of planning and hosting events that make or break any wedding reception, fundraising gala, business conferences and other major or big parties and events. For this reason, the catering service management leads a team to help their clients plan and hold events properly as well as other programs at various venues and hotels with a lot of different themes for every occasion to work with.
Many people who find choosing food and beverage and managing events enjoyable and fun, with the right amount of challenge oftentimes dream about having a catering business of their own. Fortunately, a location would never run out of events and occasions to celebrate, from weddings, to prom nights to birthdays and large corporate meetings, there’s always something for the caterer to plan next. The thing is, you’ve got competition by the numbers. Then again, the success rate of catering services tend to be much higher than restaurants since the overhead costs are lower because the crew only needs to work when there is an event. If you have a restaurant that is also accepting catering services for clients, then so much the better.
Here we have gathered some tips that you might find helpful when you decide to start a catering business:
Anyone thinking of entering the catering business industry should work for are established caterer in the area first and have a taste of what’s it going to be like for you to have a better understanding of the business. You can’t ask to be in charge of the cooking just yet. Instead, apply as a server since it’s the best experience you will have gained that would be valuable if you’re serious about starting your own company soon. It will also help you realize and get ready for the fact that catering is a very physical work that demands long hours on your feet and lots of pressure on the date of the event.
You don’t face a challenge unarmed. In the case of starting any business, you wouldn’t just start one without the equipment or tools necessary for its operations. Make a list of all the items you would need to begin catering, because there will be many. Do an inventory of what you have available in your own kitchen that you can bring to business and what items you need to purchase. For example, the dishwasher you have kept for years and is still good to use might not have the same capacity to wash dishes needed for your business to keep going or you might have to use a different fridge to keep uncooked food frozen which wouldn’t fit in your current one. You would also have to purchase dishes for transferring food, serving carious dishes, glasses, coolers and any other tool for keeping the food hot.
Try to find a niche in the market where you can thrive more at, that the competition may have failed to notice. As someone just starting out, you might not yet have the financial capacity, influence, or resources to cater a wedding reception with a hundred guests to serve but you could do with bridal and baby showers, engagement, and more sophisticated tea parties and do just fine. Develop a menu to present and offer to your potential clients. Do a research and analyze what the competition is offering. Check the market and determine what the local restaurants are offering in their catering services. Observe the trends. Capitalize on your specialties and also base the menu on what your target market wants. Learn to set the pricing to stay competitive while also making profit. This is where it gets challenging because it would depend on where you’re located, how much time it takes to prepare certain dishes you serve, how much the ingredients would cost and the profit margin you’re looking to achieve.
Catering is just not about cooking. You’ll soon discover that it’s about building and establishing invaluable relationships with other people in the industry like your vendors. You see, caterers are often expected to also be in charge of the tablecloth, napkins, linens, china and glassware, utensils and at some point, even tables and chairs at events, on top pf the menu. Take the time to research the suppliers in your area in advance because you would also be dealing with them.
Create a business plan covering the added investment required to get you started for the first quarter or three-six months of expenses and revenues. Get the proper licenses for your business to operate legally. If it’s not legal, it doesn’t exist for your clients. It’s that simple. Obtain the paperwork like business license from the state and from the city or locality if necessary. You also need to pass business inspections for health and sanitation standards from the county or state health department and see if it complies with the required health codes and regulations of the state for catering businesses because you’ll find that many residential kitchens do not. Before the inspections, you might want to invest on a kitchen upgrade or finding one that has already passed inspection. You can also get in touch with The local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Development Center to help you find out what licensing is necessary for your business.
It’s time to build a network. Get in touch with those you personally know in the business and local community to gather more information regarding what people are looking for in caterers so to help you identify what it is that your potential customers want. If you don’t really have personal contacts who can help you out, make your calls to a few people in the neighborhood or the around the area which could also be your potential customers. Establish first that you’re not calling to sell anything but just have a few questions about what they like customers to offer at certain events. Don’t just call anyone. Spend some time researching the appropriate person to contact in each company or business if you don’t want to have phones and doors slammed in your face and ears.
Writing a business plan and making its implementation a success boils down to addressing all issues related to your business venture before embarking in it, instead of answering them as they rise. Planning is always essential to a business’ success, more so with something that involves food, people, and events. A business plan doesn’t have to be complex to create if you can complete one part at a time.
The business plan outlines the goals of the business and what steps you’re going to take, what strategies are going to be implemented to achieve those goals. It needs to be detailed, concise but clearly laid out, with the goal of directing the business’ direction as it starts and should be updated every year onward. Ideally, writing your plan would include your executive summary, business description where you would have an outlook of the industry and market as well as competitive analysis for your potential stakeholders.