Many famous food and lifestyle gurus started out in catering—like Martha Stewart, for example. Catering is a great business for those who love to cook and enjoy having their cooking complimented. Plus, it can be a part-time or full-time business. Of course, you will need other skills in addition to cooking to be a successful caterer. But, excellent food is the backbone of a good catering business.
Staying Safe and Legal:
--Find out about business license requirements in your area. Read the Business License article for more info.
--Contact your local health department to find out what permits are needed for food service. Many states require a separate commercial kitchen, but before you hire contractors and build your own, look into renting space from others—restaurants, churches and community centers might be a viable, much less expensive option.
--Another option is to cook the food at the location, which is a great idea if the events you will cater are hosted at spaces with commercial kitchens. And, check with the authorities to see if cooking food on site at your client’s homes is okay. This is a great option for catering dinner parties.
--It’s also a good idea to take a course in food-born illness. Some simple steps will help you avoid any hint of contamination.
--Check with your insurance agent about business insurance, and be totally honest about how you will conduct your business.
Catering Business Options:
There are numerous catering specialties you can choose to specialize in. Weddings, showers, dinner parties, corporate events, and even children’s parties are different ways you can focus your business. Start with what you are comfortable doing!
Other possible niche markets include focusing on specific types of cuisine, such as Thai, Southern, Mexican, or French.
Another option is to create just one type of food, such as pies. There are a couple of local caterers in my area who just make homemade pies and sell them to restaurants.
There is a saying that “People eat with their eyes” and that is meant to emphasize the importance of beautifully presented food. Plating, garnishing and arranging your dishes can be a fun way to show your artistic flair. Everything from serving dishes to linens to lighting can help or hurt the eye appeal of your food.
Once you get all the basics of your business lined up, start with marketing basics: business cards, a website or blog (including social media pages), and networking with friends and business associates as well as the local community.
My most-recommended tips for people in the food business: offer free samplings of your food. Great food sells itself and will help sell your business. So, take samples to every meeting or sales call you attend, blanket the neighborhood with morsels of your masterpieces, host your own sampling party, whatever it takes to get people to put your food in their mouth. This should be your biggest marketing expense, actually, because it will be your best marketing expense.
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