How to Start A Catering Business

By James Coop

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Do you have a talent and passion for food service?

Do you love creating delectable dishes in attractive displays and/or plate presentation?

Do you also have a head for business logistics, organization and coordination of special events?

If so, then you just might have what it takes to start a catering business.

You will also need people skills to negotiate and communicate with clients to get a clear vision of their expectations for their event.

You’ll want to figure out how you can best bring their vision to life so you can walk away at the end of the day with a satisfied customer.

A completely satisfied customer will call you for their next event and tell their friends and business associates about you to generate even more business.

If this sounds like a job match made in heaven for you, the catering business may be the right career move for you.

How Big Is The Catering Industry?

IBIS World reports that the catering industry generates about $12 billion a year from the services of more the 235K employees at nearly 112K businesses.

Why Starting A Catering Business Now Is A Good Idea

This growth rate is expected to continue through 2020 and perhaps even slightly increase. Both private citizens and businesses are becoming more likely to use their discretionary incomes for hiring catering services for special events rather than trying to do it themselves.

Consumer and corporate spending is on the upswing, reaching new highs, allowing potential clients the luxury of paying for the convenience of extra services.

This makes now a lucrative time to jump into the world of catering and try to carve out a piece of the multibillion dollar pie for yourself.

Catering Business Facts

Here are some facts and figures about the catering business you should consider:

Catering business startup costs

$10K to $50K, according to Entrepreneur.

How much do caterers make?

Catering wages can run from $8.57 to $19.57 per hour or $18,548 to $50,783 a year. Catering director and manager salaries run from about $39K to $89K a year.

How much do caterers charge?

The key is to gauge what you need to make to cover your overhead costs and make a decent profit with what your market will support as a price point. What It gives a ballpark estimate of $9 to $25 per plate for a small party, not including drinks and extras. If you have to travel any great distance to get to the event site, that will have to be figured into the cost for that event. Don’t underprice yourself out of a profit. Weddings can run from $20 to $400 per plate. Some charity events command even more as part of the fundraising aspect of the occasion. It is not unusual for caterers to charge $15 to $25 per waiter and $45+ per hour to bring in a chef, on top of the per plate or per person charge. Cake cutting and corking fees for wine and champagne can run in the vicinity of $1.00 or more per slice or bottle. Some caterers include a 15 to 20 percent tip in their fee and others leave it up to the client. Be sure this is spelled out clearly in the event service contract.

How do caterers find customers?

Community networking to establish a mutual referral network among wedding planners, bridal boutiques, cake decorators and bakers, florists, card and party supply shopkeepers, corporate and charity event planners, ad agencies, campaign offices, theaters, cruise lines, yacht charter services, country clubs, hotels, jewelers, musicians and so on. Hand your brochures and business cards out like candy and keep in frequent contact with your possible lead sources. Provide samples of your goodies to make a splash that brings you to mind when a client mentions that they are looking for a caterer. Sales letters and brochures through direct mail to businesses with a follow-up call can garner some business as well. The local print publicity for catering a charity event can also get your name into the public awareness, as well as appearing on local TV or radio talk shows or taking out traditional ads in the paper or the Yellow Pages and online directories. A professional website, blog and an active social media presence can drive even more business leads to your door.

What skills are required?

Menu planning, plating and presentation to match the event style, cooking, safe transportation and delivery, food service and clean up, hygiene and sanitation, safe food handling, the ability to keep up with food and party trends and deliver what the customer wants, people skills, organization, time management, record keeping, planning, pacing; health regulations, product liability laws; bookkeeping, accounting (payables and receivables), payroll, HR, physical stamina and the ability and willingness to fill any hole in the service chain from back of house to front of house as needed.

What do I need to operate a catering business?

Business license, food handler’s permit, tax structure, insurance, a commercial kitchen, a phone and a delivery vehicle are the minimum necessities besides a bookkeeping/accounting/payroll  and scheduling system.  Brochures and business cards are must for marketing. A computer, printer and software to help organize and track these essentials will simplify your job as your business grows. Display materials for setting up the food tables in an aesthetically appealing fashion. Branding your delivery vehicle to be immediately identifiable and recognizable is an easy way to advertise just by driving around town on other business.

Catering Business Ideas

Create an excellent food menu

Market yourself as a caterer for special occasions 

Struggling with what to name your catering business, here are a few ideas:

Stardance Catering Tasty Delights
The Catering Zone We’re Cookin’!
Cuisine Queen Purely Tasteful Cuisine
Banquets & Buffets (Place or Street Name) Catering & Grill
Zest Relish
Catering Creations 4 Seasons Gourmet Catering
Taste Matters (name)’s Catering Service
Catering Done Right The Carriage House

Youtube Videos 

Related Content

How to Start a Home-Based Catering Business by Denise Vivaldo

The Everything Guide to Starting and Running a Catering Business by Joyce Weinberg

Start and Run a Catering Business by George Erdosh

Catering Magazine

FSR Magazine: Top 3 Things Restaurant Owners Can Do Now to Launch a Catering Division by the Holidays

Entrepreneur: Starting a Business: Catering

The Corporate Caterer: How to Start a Corporate Drop-off Catering Division

Essentially Catering Magazine

FSW Season’d: How to Start a Home Catering Business

FSW Season’d: How to Start Your Own Catering Business

Build a Business: How to Start an Outdoor Catering Service

Jay’s Catering Company Blog

Rent-a-Chef Blog

Belvedere Events and Banquets Blog

Peter Callahan Blog

Special Events: 25 blog topic ideas for event and catering companies

Edward Beaman Blog: Caterer Blogging: 10 Blog Post Ideas for Catering Companies

Stratford Career Institute: Cooking and Catering What Training Is Necessary for a Career in Catering? NLP Training Courses: Catering Catering Training Programs and Career Information Education for Catering: Training and Career Education Programs

References Caterer Salary Director of Catering Salary Catering Coordinator Salary

Entrepreneur: Business Idea Center: Catering

Entrepreneur: Starting a Business: Catering

Inc.: How to Start a Catering Business

National Federation of Independent Businesses: How to Start a Catering Business

IBIS World: Caterers in the US: Market Research Report

What It Costs: What it Costs to Cater a Small Party

Cost Helper: Wedding Caterer Cost

Next Day Flyers: 5 of the Most Irresistible Marketing Ideas for Catering Business Owners


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