How to Start a Catering Business in Georgia

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Catering is a rewarding occupation for those who love to cook.
Catering is a rewarding occupation for those who love to cook. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Catering in the land of Paula Deen can be both demanding and rewarding. Though traditional Georgia cooking requires the use of lots of butter, sour cream, and mayonnaise, many customers like to branch out from southern fare and offer their guests a wider variety. To get the most out of your catering business, you need to be ready to prepare different types of cuisines but serve it up with that famous southern hospitality.

Things You'll Need

  • Business license
  • Cooking equipment
  • Linens
  • Serving equipment

Order a business license from the Georgia Department of Revenue. Their online web portal allows you to register your business and get your license. Later you can pay your taxes and file returns on this web portal as well. Some counties may also require you to have a local sales license so make sure you contact the county business office to confirm.

Choose whether you are going to base your catering business out of your home or a retail space. If you are starting small, it is more economical to simply prepare the dishes at home then transport to the event. This will save you the cost of renting a space until your business supports that level of expense. Contact the U.S. Small Business Association's Georgia District Office to receive assistance for loans or grants to help with your start up costs. Regardless of where you cook, you will need the proper equipment. Large scale catering requires a commercial size oven unless you have the time to cook multiple items separately.

Join the Georgia branch of the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE). This organization offers training courses along with the chance to network with other people in the catering business. There is an annual conference where members get together and review the latest ideas and technology in the hospitality industry. The NACE also provides a Professional Catering Executive certification to members that successfully complete the training program. There is also a Georgia branch of the National Restaurant Association, which include caterers in their membership. Education and certifications are also available.

Experiment with Georgia-style menus such as seafood and traditional southern recipes of fried chicken, greens, and peach cobbler. The coastal region around Savannah is well known for its shrimp and grits, lowcountry boil and gumbo. Include these selections as menu staples to get started. You can add other items as your customers request them. Purchase linens and serving equipment from a wholesaler. Depending on your budget, it may be easier to buy a generic set-up such as white and black linens in round and rectangle. Keep serving platters and trays simple by using restaurant quality commercial size silver trays and warming dishes. As your business grows, you can always diversify your presentation options.

Advertise with event venues, wedding planners, and churches. Some popular Georgia venues include the Tybee Island Inn, the Gardens at Great Oaks, the Margaret Mitchell House and Bryson Hall. For more casual events, consider working with the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech to cater sporting events. Ask to coordinate efforts with local bakeries to provide the food while they provide the desserts. This may be a good way to increase your client base until you have established your business. Set up a website with photos of prepared menu options to give potential customers an idea of what the food will look like. Provide your contact information, credentials, experience and include descriptions of the types of events your company can support so customers can make decisions about whether your catering business is a fit for them.

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