Starting and Operating Your Own Food Catering Business
You are a great cook, and all your friends look forward to coming to your house for memorable parties. They have been telling you for years that you should sell your lemon chicken or your strawberry cheesecake. Maybe you have spent time working for a caterer and that helped you develop the right organizational skills. Every time you go to a party, you find yourself critiquing their food and their service. You often feel frustrated, knowing you would do things differently if you were in charge of running a food catering business.
Nothing at your regular job ever seems as satisfying as your work in the kitchen. Maybe your kids are a little older, and you have some time to put your kitchen practice to work. Perhaps those cooking classes you took a short while ago have given you the confidence you need to show your skills in the kitchen.
You know of people who have started catering who have made money and thoroughly enjoyed themselves doing it. You have seen that it has given them the freedom to create their own schedules, and you are sure you could do it too.
If any of this sounds like you, then you have probably considered catering yourself. And why would you not consider it? People enter the catering profession from many different backgrounds, and with varying levels of experience. There is noting in the catering business that restricts you because of age, sex, or level of training. Some people come to the food catering business through a hobby of food and cooking, and others train professionally at cooking schools or by apprenticing. Still other people arrive from other careers, and are spurred by an interest in food, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Now, before you go out and buy supplies, hire staff, and take out advertisements, consider carefully what you want and need from starting a catering business and a career in food. Ask yourself the following questions:
Why do you want to cater?
If your answer is because you want an easy way to make a lot of money, then catering is not the right field for you. If you believe it would be a glamorous way to make famous friends, then look elsewhere. If it is because you love good food, either through cooking or eating it, and you want to make others happy with it, then you could be on the road to a rewarding catering career. If you happen to get rich and famous along the way, consider that a bonus.
What do you want out of a catering business?
Do you want full or part-time employment? Your answer will determine the scope of the catering you do. In the beginning, your catering business will almost certainly be slow (part-time) until you grow a client base. Be prepared for tough times at first, and busy times once you are established.
Do you want to build a large business empire, or are you going to cook and cater primarily for your own satisfaction?
Since you will be your own boss, it will be your own choice. Before you settle on an answer, you should know that unless you can afford to accept only the rare good jobs available to a new caterer, you will need to devote a lot of time and effort to building your business. It will be hard work.
What kind of food do you enjoy preparing?
Do you enjoy dinner parties the most? Do you love baking the most? Do you prefer to make hors d’oeuvre platters rather than full meals? Or do you only enjoy making desserts? There is room for almost any food in the catering world, but you need to be able to find your way to the people that want what you are selling.
How do you prefer to work?
Are you organized and methodical, or instinctive and free-form when cooking? Do you like to talk to people on the phone and in person, or do you prefer for someone else to handle the public? Do you enjoy creating menus and organizing tasks, or do you prefer following a preset schedule?
Starting a food catering business requires answering all of these questions, and none have right answers. But you must understand yourself and how you work in order to plan your catering business. By doing that, you will never find yourself with a setup that does not fit the way you work.