How to Start your own Catering Business; what you need to know

Perhaps you have considered starting your own catering company, but you are not quite sure where to get started. Maybe you are clueless as to what you may need, or where to attain the resources for what you need. I have compiled a list of areas to consider as well as integrated resources that you can use to get you started.
Please note: The order in which I have listed is not important. You are able to purchase, apply, Market, or establish the details of your business as you see fit. I have merely organized the areas in detail, so that you may view the breakdown, and be inspired to begin your business Venture.

Where to Begin

To begin your business venture, you will need to:

  • Registrar Your business/Attain Licensing
  • Understand Laws/Regulations/Requirements
  • Acquire Business Accounting Software/Get Office Ready
  • Decide On the Menu/type of food to sell
  • Purchase & Store Necessary Materials/Equipment/Supplies
  • Know Where/How to Market your ‘Brand’/Gain Customer Base

Accounting and Legal Organization
You should visit your local City Hall in order to register your business name, attain proper licensing, pay fees and get information geared toward your specific business. You will also need the proper billing software in order to bill your clients, track your earnings, and pay your employees. I highly recommend using QuickBooks Pro Software as I have personally used their software, and personally believe it is the best Bookkeeping software you can buy to keep your business organized.

Getting Your Office Setup
If you plan to start a business, it is best that you do it the correct way from the beginning. This way you will be organized, and prepared when it is tax season. With that being said; make sure you have an area allocated strictly for your business office. You may choose to work out of your home, or you could rent out an office space. The choice is entirely up to you, however, when you first start out your business, it would be advisable to not add the cost of an office rental until you have established a solid clientele and income base.

Here is what you will need for your office:

  • A Locking file cabinet
  • Files and Hanging Folders
  • Labels
  • Pens/Pencils/Highlighters/Sharpies
  • Stapler & Staples
  • Paperclips
  • A 3 tier Inbox desk rack labeled: ‘To Bill’, ‘To Pay’, & ‘Incoming Mail’
  • Computer & Printer/copier/fax machine
  • Printing paper (You can go with basic white or be colorful)
  • Business phone (Either Landline or Cellphone)
  • Business Cards
Your Menu, Preparation, Display, Tranport

Deciding on the type of food you wish to sell; will be your starting point. With your choice in mind then you must consider the following questions:

  • How & where will your food be prepared?
    -Are you Baking, Frying, Grilling, or is it a cold Prep?
    -What Equipment do you need to buy or rent?
    -Will you Prepare the food in Catering Truck, Your clients location, or commercial kitchen?
  • How will you display your food?
    -Will you Pre-prep and package your food?
    -Will you offer buffet style and plated packages?
  • How will your food be transported to your client?
    -Will your food be delivered to your client or available for pick-up?
  • What Products/Seasoning do you need to buy?
  • How will you store your food? Hot or Cold?Your menu choice will determine your equipment, materials, display, and prep time. For example:
    If you are offering a buffet style setup for your client, and you are offering a variety of foods; such as hot items, and cold items, then you will need the proper equipment to store and display your food. You will need Chaffers & Sternos, or heat lamps to keep your food hot.  A hotbox would  be needed to store back up, hot food, for refilling. Room temperature safe items; such as salads, sandwiches, & fresh fruit could be displayed on platters. Items that need to be kept cold and require ice need; such as seafood or Yogurt, would need the appropriate display containers/or display boxes. You would also need a refrigeration unit handy for your back-up supply.

In order to learn more information about food service safety, proper food temperature control, and to attain your own Food Handler Certification go to: www.servsafe.com

  • Marketing
    Now comes the most important part; your customers. A customer cannot purchase your products or service if they are unaware that you exist. You must decide how you will market to your customers. When you begin your marketing strategy. You need to consider the following:
  • What is your customer demographic?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How far do you plan to travel, to offer your services?
  • What Season’s will your catering be the most popular?
    Narrowing these questions down will help you decide how you will find and service your customers. This is the age of the internet so establishing a website for your business will be essential; complete with menu options, pictures of your product, and contact information. Having a blog section of your website would also be a good idea, and interacting with potential customers can help you gain exposure. However, having a blog section is not an absolute necessity.

    Social Networking is also a key essential to establish your visibility, but unless you plan to have a far reaching audience and offer extended services, it would be best to just focus on a local audience. When you are first staring out I would suggest getting out in your community and connecting with people. Keep business cards with you at all times. Visit local Churches, schools, and small businesses. Become active in your community, and partner with local Charities. It is a good way to put your business out there and make a positive difference at the same time.

    For a list of products, and additional information, please visit our resources page under Catering Supplies.
    Thank you for reading!