How to Start a Catering Service


Starting a catering service can be a rewarding, yet stressful career, and it is much like starting a traditional restaurant; except you don't have a building where just any type of customer can come in and dine. You will be approached by individuals or companies that request that you prepare meals for very large groups of people. With proper planning you will be able to start your own catering business.

Take a few culinary courses at a trade school or college if you are inexperienced with cooking. You must be able to know how to prepare different types of foods or your business will never stand a chance. Contact the financial aid offices of nearby colleges offering culinary classes to find out if you may be eligible for financial aid, such as grants to pay for the schooling.

Decide if you will do general catering to any type of client or if you will only offer service for specific events, such as weddings and corporate functions.

Choose whether you will offer buffet, formal serving or both. Generally, if you decide to offer formal services or cocktails, you will need to hire additional people to help serve and gather after meals. Starting a business can be costly and you may not be able to afford to pay wages for numerous individuals at first.

Register a business name of your choice at your local courthouse and request a business tax identification number. Contact your residing courthouse on how to proceed with getting the proper licensing and tax identification so you will be able to open a catering business. Contact an insurance company for acquiring liability insurance for your catering business.

Contact food vendors and request pricing materials to figure out a menu and fair pricing for your catering services. Look in the yellow pages under "Food" for finding vendors. Normally, caterers charge per person whether it is sit down or buffet catering. Call around to caterers in a nearby town and express interest in needing a catering service. Ask what they serve and charge per person to determine a competitive pricing and to gather menu ideas for the area that you will be servicing.

Apply for a small business loan through a bank or contact the Small Business Administration, which is a government servicing for helping individuals receive funds for start up. Contact the Small Business Administration by typing in into your search browser.

Purchase buffet and catering equipment. Decide if you will rent, use disposable or buy dining utensils and platter. The Internet has many vendors that offer industrial and commercial equipment. Look into various options on transporting the prepared meals and how you will be able to keep the food hot. Consider buying a van and contact the commercial vendors for equipment that can be installed into the van to keep the food hot.

Create or purchase catering service contracts. A contract is essential to protect you, as well as protect the consumer or other business requesting your services. It is also necessary to have contracts for tax records. Consider speaking to a lawyer who specializes in contracts to help you.

Set up a separate checking account from your personal use account in your catering service business name. Consider setting up a savings account also so that you may be able to set aside income tax from the income that you receive. As a small business, you should contact a professional tax accountant on the necessary percentage to set aside. Expect to pay the IRS quarterly.

Start advertising in your local newspaper and hand up flyers on bulletin boards in entrances to stores to advertise your catering service. Insure that your telephone and information will be listed under the yellow pages in your regional telephone book. Contact the telephone service provider in the area. Call the local television networks and ask how you can buy airtime so that you can promote your business through a commercial. You may need to get a referral from a station for someone who can help create a commercial for your catering business.

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