How to Start a Catering Business for Dummies

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Caterers service more than just weddings. From company cookouts to family reunions, caterers have a vast pool of potential clients. They generally work long hours, weekends, and holidays, and may operate on a part-time or full-time basis. A catering business is an excellent business opportunity for someone who not only enjoys spending hours laboring over a stove, but enjoys satisfying customers' palettes and providing a professional and appropriate atmosphere.

Things You'll Need

  • Liability insurance
  • Caterer's license
  • Commercial vehicle

Take a job working for a caterer, paying close attention to food preparation, costs, and the organization of the business. Caterers, who must meet rigid deadlines, work in a relatively high-stress environment. You should be fully aware of all that is involved in running a successful catering job and the role that each team member plays before starting your own business.

Contact your local health department about the laws governing food service in your county. Generally, caterers must be licensed. Food that is resold must be prepared in a licensed kitchen. Some states won’t allow caterers to license their home kitchen. In that case, you can rent a licensed kitchen from a church, community hall, bakery, or lodge. The commercial vehicle in which you deliver your food will also be subject to certain regulations. Obtain a business license and purchase liability insurance for your catering business.

Consider taking a cooking course to broaden your knowledge on different types of fare and ingredients, presentation methods, or food trends.

Create your menu, based on your client’s preferences. You may cater family reunions, company cookouts, fraternity and sorority events, charity groups, government banquets, birthday parties, and weddings. Your menu may consist of comfort food, desserts, or more elaborate fare. Ask friends and family for feedback.

Purchase a commercial van for your catering business, then purchase your equipment. This may include beverage dispensers, cake stands, take-out supplies, plate covers, serving bowls and trays, chafing dishes, disposable supplies, insulated food carriers, bar ware, portable serving equipment, display ware, tablecloths, and vases.

Advertise your business via online directories. Post in popular wedding and event forums. Start a free blog and discuss topics geared towards your clientele, such as etiquette, decorating ideas, and recipes. Register with your local Chamber of Commerce and start networking with other businesses in your area, such as florists and hotels. Advertise on Craigslist.org. Leave brochures at businesses.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hire an assistant, if necessary. Place an ad on bulletin boards at cooking schools. Once you have employees, you will need to obtain a federal tax ID and purchase worker's compensation insurance. And don't forget to purchase professional-looking uniforms for you and your assistant.

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