How to Start a Catering Business
Do you have a passion for food and serving others, but want to have great variety in your work? Then starting a catering business might be just for you! Starting a catering business allows you to create culinary masterpieces while working closely with event organizers. And the best part is that these events can vary greatly giving you the opportunity to expand your menu and give amazing food to a lot of people. One day you could be making food for a wedding, and the next day for a business lunch. Both giving you the opportunity to grow your business.
If all of these things pique your interest, starting a catering business could be your next career move. But now you’re wondering, how to start a catering business from home? And what are the benefits of starting a catering business? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Below we will walk you through everything you need to know before starting your catering business.
Benefits of Starting a Catering Business
Starting a business of your own can be stressful, but it can also be a fun and exciting time. From working your own schedule to choosing your own projects, there are many benefits of starting your own catering business.
Choosing Your Schedule
One of the biggest benefits of starting your own catering business is the ability to decide when you work. You won’t have an employer telling you when to clock in and when to clock out.
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While you will be able to dictate when you work, you may not have as much flexibility as you imagine. Catering events can have expected times based on the type of events you cater to. If you specialize in weddings and parties, more than likely you will be working in the evenings and weekends. However, if you build a clientele of corporate businesses, you could be working primarily during lunchtime.
Some events have set times they occur but choosing to specialize in a specific type of event can help you decide when you work.
Turning Your Passion into a Career
So, you love to cook? And you love to work with others and serve others. And now you’ve decided that you are ready to run your own business and learn how to start a catering business.
This is one of the best reasons to start your own catering business. You will get to do what you love and turn it into a career. Not many people have the opportunity to love what they do, but you do!
How to Start a Catering Business
There are not set rules on how to start a catering business, but there are many things that you should look at and consider when starting out. Working through specific tasks at the beginning, will help make tasks later in the process easier for you to complete.
When navigating how to start a catering business from home, it is important to start with the basics and build on from there. Some of the key items to start with and build upon are:
- Deciding on a name for your business
- Obtaining a business license
- Creating a business plan
- Learning how to plan a catering menu
- Making necessary business purchases
- Marketing your catering business
Depending on if you are starting from scratch or if you have been in the industry before, your tasks for starting your catering business might vary.
Create a Catering Business Name
Now that you have decided to start a business, it is time to decide what to call it! There are a variety of directions you can take this, but it is important to remember a few things when deciding:
- Can you include a personal aspect like your name?
- Are you specializing in any specific area?
- What other names do local catering businesses have?
Along with these questions it is important to evaluate a name that might help you market better online through SEO. Think of words you can include that potential clients might search for including:
- “catering” example: New Orleans Comfort Food Catering
- “event catering” example: Miss Mary’s Event Catering
Obtaining a Business License
Once you have decided on a business name for your catering business it is time to make it official. Each state and area will have a different business licensing process, but in general the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will have resources for you no matter where you are located.
Creating a Catering Business Plan
Creating a business plan can sound like a daunting task, and sometimes it might seem like it is not worth it or that it is completely unnecessary for starting your catering business. However, a business plan can be important for a few reasons.
A business plan can be necessary if you are looking to get additional funding when starting your catering business. By starting your business plan at the very beginning, you can make adjustments as you start working through tasks and are already prepared if you need to go ask for a loan or other small business funding options.
Maintaining a business plan will also work as a guide if you run into difficult business decisions. If you are not sure about a decision you can refer to your business goals and financial goals and ask yourself what decision will help you stay on that path.
How to Plan a Catering Menu
Now let’s be honest, this is the fun part of running your own catering business. Learning how to plan a catering menu that will show off your skills and please your clients should be an exciting process. But there are many things to consider when planning your menu:
- Who are you catering to?
- Will you offer a set catering menu or offer your clients some flexibility?
- Will you serve alcohol and what liability does that open you up to?
- Are you serving seated plates or buffet style?
Make Necessary Business Purchases
Now that you’ve planned out how to start your catering business it is time to start making your necessary purchases. There will be some start up purchases that you will need to look at. These could include:
- Van/vehicle for transporting food
- Fridge/freezer space to store food
- Serving platters and utensils
- Cookware and/or bakeware
- Food once you start serving
After you have been working for a while additional costs may start to appear as well. Hiring staff to help prepare or to serve clients, plates for bigger catering events, and more storage space are just a few of the items that might not be start up costs but might need to be purchased later on.
Let’s say you’ve been working on how to start a catering business from home and have decided to do food preparation out of your house. But once you start to grow, will that always be feasible? If you are able to expand out of your kitchen, your next step could be using a commercial kitchen.
Marketing Your Catering Business
Once you are ready to start serving food, it is time to start marketing your catering business. While you can use social media and a website to get started, there are few ways to ensure leads. However, building relationships with venues and creating memorable food (in a positive way) will also help you grow your business.
Building Relationships with Venues
Now is the time for you to start researching and creating relationships. Depending on where you are located, you may have many venues that you can work with. These venues could be for corporate conferences, weddings, parties, or family reunions. Once you find these venues it is time to reach out to them.
Why would you want to work specifically with venues? Some venues require any catering at their location to be from a set contractor list provided by the venue. Venues like to know that they can trust who they work with and that their reputation will not be damaged due to a poor catering experience. Being a preferred contractor for a venue could help you gain clients without having to reach out to each client individually. While it might seem like a lot of work at the beginning, it will save you time later.
Even if a venue does not have a preferred contractor list, building a relationship with the venue coordinator could help you grow your catering business. Venue coordinators may be asked about who to work with, and if they know and trust your service, they could recommend you.
Use Social Media
While building a clientele, it can be important to build relationships and grow through word of mouth. But when you are starting out, or if you go through a slow time, having a social media presence to draw customers can help.
So you need to use social media, but how do you begin to use social media? One of the first steps you will want to take will be to create a social media plan. Items that you should include in this plan might be:
- Goals related to your social media
- Content calendar
- Branding/messaging tone
- Social media channels you will use
When you are first learning how to start your catering business from home, it might be financially beneficial to run your social media yourself. However, if you start to feel limited with the time that you can put towards social media or you simply do not feel comfortable using social media for your catering business, you can hire someone or a third party business to assist you with this.
Once you start catering for events, you can start asking for referrals. Did you provide outstanding service for a client? Did you accommodate their extravagant needs? Yes, then awesome! If clients are happy with your work, ask them to send you referrals when they know of them. Don’t be afraid to ask for repeat business and be prepared to check-in with clients after the event to let them know that you would like to work with them again.
Protect Your Catering Business
You are ready to serve clients and you have worked hard to get your business started, now it is time to protect your investment. Catering insurance can protect you from financial ruin in case of a lawsuit or insurance claim. This could be from injury at a catering event or if your property is stolen or damaged. Each policy is different, so it is important to review your coverage details.
And if you still are not convinced that you need catering insurance or want to understand more about coverage options check out this guide.
While figuring out how to start a catering business can seem like a daunting task, it could very well pay off. Being able to run your own business and being passionate about your career is something many people dream of. But not you! You are going to start your own catering business. We wish you the best of luck and look forward to helping you along the way.
Learn more about Catering insurance