All of us dream about starting our own business. The kind of business we start should be compatible with our abilities and personality. If you have a passion for cooking, a head for planning and can keep your cool under pressure, consider starting a catering business.
You don’t need a big initial investment to start a catering business. You can keep your costs low at first by renting needed equipment. Most of your spending can wait until you get your first contract.
Catering is not affected by downturns in the economy. In good times or in bad, there always seems to be a market for catering: catered parties for rich clients, business lunches and meetings, birthday parties, wedding receptions and more.
If you’re not sure about starting a catering business, test the waters first. Ask your friends or your office to let you “pretend” cater a dinner party or lunch meeting. They pay you for the groceries and you do the work for free. Experience first-hand the challenges of planning and running a catered event.
When you start a catering business, you’ll need to check state and local laws. Zoning laws could affect where you do your cooking and how much of your catering business you can actually handle from home. The city you live in may require a permit. It won’t be fun or easy getting everything set up legally, but when it’s the law, you don’t have a choice. Starting a catering business illegally is a bad idea.
Decide on a name and then create your identity. The entire process of naming your catering business and creating an identity is known as “branding.” Don’t rush through this important step. If your catering business really takes off, you can brand things like spice mixes, sauces, baked goods and other food items. Sell these from your website or give them away as gifts to clients. The point is to keep your name in front of your potential customers as much as possible.
You probably won’t need to set up a separate office when you first start your catering business (unless you want to). But you will need to make sure you have some basic office supplies around so you can look professional.
If you’re serious about succeeding, start working on a business plan for your catering business. A business plan is a blueprint for a successful business start-up. Good plans are the result of careful study and hard work. Your business plan explains how your catering business will operate, how it will be structured and managed, how it will be financed, and how much profit it will make. If you need cash to start your catering business, your business plan is what investors and lenders will use to make their decision.
The children’s TV character Aardvark Arthur Read wisely pointed out that “the catering business is tough when you only know how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” But if you enjoy working with people, have good intuition about what they like, and have the planning and cooking skills to make it happen, starting a catering business may be your dream come true.