If you are an accomplished chef and love spending time in the kitchen, starting your own catering business at home might seem like a natural step to take. A catering business can be relatively simple to start compared with other businesses because it doesn't require a lot of specialized equipment or inventory. But there are a few things you should take into consideration before deciding to undertake this project.
Make a general business plan. What types of events would you like to cater? Is there a market for this type of service in your area? How much competition would you have? Is there any particular niche you want to fill or quality that would set your catering business apart from the others?
Look into food and business laws in your area. While many home catering businesses are operated under the radar, you may have to follow a number of guidelines if you want to become fully licensed. One challenge is that many states require food services to prepare food in a specially zoned commercial kitchen. There are a few ways to get around this requirement, however. One is to prepare food in the kitchens of your customers. For example, go over to people's houses before parties. In this case, you are selling your service (cooking) rather than the food you have prepared, so you may not need to use a commercial kitchen.
Dedicate space in your home for various business uses even if you cook elsewhere. Include an area for storing bulk food supplies that you use for catering, a place to keep your papers organized and for using a telephone and computer.
Keep thorough records. Save receipts for any equipment or food you purchase, plus copies of invoices you send to customers and careful records of payment you receive.
Decide whether you will work alone or involve anyone else in your catering business. It can be helpful to have more hands on the job, but it also can make things more complicated from a business standpoint. If you need employees, you may need to be a registered official business and you may also incur certain obligations in terms of paying Social Security tax or providing insurance for your employees. If you don't want to work alone, consider setting up a partnership instead.
Make promotional materials, such as business cards, a website, advertisements and sample menus. Decide how you will price your services.
Let people know that you are going into business and consider offering to cater a few parties for free to get some exposure for your new home business.
Make a contract detailing what services you will provide. What foods will you prepare, and how much of them? When will you arrive at the event? What type of serving containers will you use? Will you provide any plates, cups or utensils? Will the food be hot or cold? Will you need any refrigerator space, water or electrical outlets? Will you serve the food or remain at the event? Who will clean up? What is the cost for your services, and when will you be paid?