How to start a catering business in 2020?
Catering companies are often an ideal and flexible alternative to open and operate a restaurant. Catering companies give you the creative freedom to run a food service operation without standard or rigid hours. Furthermore, they often require less initial capital and financial risk than a restaurant full service. If you are considering starting a catering business, read on for more information on this food service segment.
Before starting your catering business
Before you start buying equipment or drawing up a business plan, it is important to understand what makes a catering business unique. On the positive side, operating a catering business requires much less risk and financial burden than opening a restaurant and at the same time it offers creative freedom. Many caterers can easily rent space or equipment, forgo staff if their operation is small, and reduce food waste when cooking by a familiar staff count.
Alternatively, attending an event often puts you and your food in a less controlled environment than an restaurant. When you have a restaurant, you are preparing food in the same kitchen every night and serving in the same dining room. With catering jobs, you are preparing food in a kitchen rented or on-site. During the event, you and your food are at the mercy of the venue's space, its amenities, the weather, and the staff you often can't work with.
It is also important to consider what type of catering business you are interested in looking for:
- Corporate events : conferences, cocktails, staff meetings.
- social gatherings : weddings, galas, charity events, birthday celebrations.
- Personal uses : Cook a meal at someone's home for a small meeting or date, or prepare meals ahead of time that customers can take home and reheat later
Once you have determined that a catering company is right for you, take the following steps to get your business off to a successful start.
1. Gain exposure and experience
Like any commercial business, it takes a certain level of experience to successfully run a new business. Consider working for an established catering company before opening your business. While it is helpful to research what you will need and how to operate, it does not compare with the practical experience and guidance gained through a working professional.
If working for a catering company isn't feasible, volunteer to plan small-scale events for people you may know. Host a party for friends and family or make a church lunch for a small crowd. Operating on a smaller scale first allows you to find and fix potential problems and get honest feedback from an indulgent crowd.
2 Choose a concept
Creating a solid concept or theme can improve the marketing of your catering business. Try to focus your concept on something that interests you or, better yet, that you are passionate about. If you've always loved preparing a great breakfast on the weekends, make it a themed breakfast concept you can offer at any time of the day. Other concepts may include brunch meals, casual sandwiches, desserts, sandwiches, comfort foods or any idea that gives direction to your business.
When choosing your theme, it is important to think about the demographic you will serve, how you plan to price your services, and whether you can access the equipment necessary to maintain your theme.
Create a menu
Create your menu before you start looking at workspaces and equipment. Determining what types of food you will cook means you can decide what equipment, appliances, and space you will need to successfully prepare your offerings.
While staying true to your theme and concept is important, you should offer a menu with versatility to accompany a wide range of tastes, preferences and dietary restrictions. Create a selection of offerings that are, for example, gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, or low-carb. And if your menu items are especially spicy, be sure to offer some less spicy or non-spicy options, too.
Once you have established your menu, determine how you are going to price your items or event packages. It is important to have a sample menu prepared and determine prices before meeting your first potential customers.
Test your menu
Try testing your menu and dish concept in small, pressure-free settings. Gather friends and family, or offer to cook for a small gathering or fundraiser in your community.
Be sure to ask for honest comments from your guests. You can even provide everyone with pen and paper to write their thoughts anonymously. Once you have successfully served your audience and received feedback, it is important to continue modifying your recipes. Practice making them over and over again while focusing on efficiency, taste and presentation.
3. Find a suitable workspace
Many states have laws and regulations to prevent catering services from operating from the kitchen from your home. If you're adamant about doing it, chances are you'll need to make huge modifications to your home and get approval from local government authorities. Instead, most catering services start by renting space in the kitchen or looking for a building to make yours.
If you are just starting out or operating at a low volume, your cheapest option would be rent a commercial kitchen space. This is ideal for those who work one or two days a week or only for a few hours at a time.
For high-volume operations or those looking to make this a full-time business, you'll want a place that you can access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with more storage and customizable equipment.
And if you want to offer tastings for potential customers or sell your products to the public, you'll need to rent a space with a separate store area from where you cook or bake.
Customizing your catering kitchen
For those looking to rent or buy their own kitchen, they will have the opportunity to personalize their space and build a kitchen that is conducive to their kitchen. Instead of keeping it generic, focus on which equipment will be most beneficial for preparing your menu items.
For example, if you are focusing on desserts, you will want to equip your kitchen with additional ovens. And if your specialty is southern home cooking, more fryers are a must.
No matter what kind of food you are preparing, the Catering kitchens must be well equipped with hot and cold maintenance areas. Since you are preparing food before your event, it is imperative that you quickly chill hot food or keep it to a safe holding temperature. Additionally, you will need proper equipment to keep your food at the proper temperature during transportation. In this link you can find the necessary equipment to start this business:
4. Evaluate liability issues
Before attending your first event, you should apply for proper permits and make sure your kitchen and staff are aware of food safety practices and regulations. If you are offering bar services, you must devise a safe service plan to ensure that your staff provide responsible service.
Prevention of possible problems
A little planning can go a long way when it comes to unexpected food service emergencies. Think about the common obstacles you might encounter with your catering business and work with the staff to establish a response plan.
Possible problems may include:
- Bad weather at an outdoor event
- More guests to feed than I expected
- Staff shortage
- Without access to power
5. Choose your staff
Finding the right staff members to help prepare and serve your offers can be a difficult task. When choosing personnel and introducing them to your business, be sure to consider the following:
- Decide if your operation is large enough to hire additional employees
- Start with a temporary agency until you can grow your business
- Create a dress code or provide uniforms
- Offer adequate training in service protocols and food safety.
6. Make a marketing and advertising plan
Once you have laid the foundation for your business, it is time to promote it. Start by finding out who your target audience is and move from there. This can be determined based on the type of catering operation you plan to run. For example, if you are interested in social gatherings, you can display your menu at bridal shows and contact event planners.
Other marketing strategies include:
- Create a memorable logo that embodies your theme
- Print your menu or pricing information to deliver to potential customers
- Create a website and social media accounts to connect with clients
- Build relationships with corporate event coordinators and venue owners
- Offer tastings at local fairs or charity events.
If you are looking for the creative freedom to run your own business without the financial commitment to operate a restaurant, dining could be an attractive option. And with proper planning using the steps above, your business will get off to a good start. No matter what type of catering you decide to do, be sure to create a delicious menu and a dynamic concept that future customers will come to.