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How to Start a Catering Business

How to Start a Catering Business

For anyone who loves to cook – especially for large groups and special occasions – learning how to start a catering business can be a lucrative business option.  There are a number of event types and customers that use caterers, from office parties and corporate lunches, to weddings, graduations, and anniversaries.

What You’ll Need to be Successful

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make before you start a catering business is what kind of food you will specialize in.  While many caterers cover a wide range of food genres, most have one area they consider their specialty.  For example, some caterers specialize in Asian or Italian food, while others provide bar-B-Q services to their clients.

Whatever you choose, you’ll need to be very good at cooking it.  If you need to brush up on professional cooking techniques, consider attending some community college or culinary school classes.

After you’ve learned how to start a catering business and your company is under way, you will want to make sure you are continuously looking for new, interesting, fun ideas to add to your repertoire.  Gaining a reputation for creativity is something caterers thrive on.

Of course one of the primary considerations when you start a catering business is where you will prepare your food.  You’ll need to have access to a commercial kitchen, and health inspections will be required.  You can often find commercial kitchen space to rent on an as-needed basis, so you don’t have to incur the huge investment of building one of your own.

In addition to a standard business license, you will other licenses and permits, depending on your state and county requirements.  Be sure to check with your health department and get everything you need before you begin servicing customers.

While you can rent a commercial kitchen that will often come equipped with standard cooking tools, pots, and pans, you will want to have your own tools as well.  Remember, you will also need a way to transport food from your kitchen to the events you are catering, which might mean investing in some heated and refrigerated cabinets inside a catering van.

When it comes to hiring people to help you in your catering business, many people use temporary workers for specific events, until they have enough business to keep a hired staff busy.  Many temp agencies specialize in food service workers, so call around and find your best option in your area.

Marketing Your Catering Business

The key to finding customers for your catering business is getting out in the community of people who are your target audience or who your target audience is connected with.  For instance, if you plan to specialize in weddings, get to know all the wedding planners, florists, and wedding photographers in your area.  If you hit it off with these folks, you might just get some great referral business.

If you plan to focus on corporate lunches and events, go out and talk with office managers at the companies in your area.  Also consider attending networking events in your area – or even sponsor an event and provide the catering for free, in exchange for the marketing exposure.  And whenever you go to meet potential customers, bring some food!  When you start a catering business your delicious creations can do the selling for you!