1. Starting a catering business is less expensive than buying a restaurant. Many people want to open their own restaurant, but few understand exactly how much work is involved in the day to day business of selling food to the public. If you enjoy cooking and entertaining (plus and plus) but have never worked in the restaurant industry, you may want to consider catering a few parties. Feeding friends and family is different from feeding the masses, for money. Catering will help you stretch your creativity (menu, name, etc) and test your organizational skills.
2. Catering still requires permits, licenses and insurance. Like a restaurant, a catering business is still, well, a business. You need to make sure it is legit. Taking the proper measures to ensure your self-catering business is legal and properly insured protects both you (from scary lawsuits) and your customers (in case something goes wrong). Read on for more about catering legal basics.
3. Restaurants already have most catering equipment. Another plus of owning a restaurant is that you already have a bulk of the catering equipment needed. You may have to purchase bigger items, like cambros or chaffing dishes, but small stuff such as plates, flatware and glasses you already own in bulk. Read on for a complete list of catering equipment.
4. Be realistic about the size of events you can cater. While you want to build your catering business and expand your customer base, be careful about accepting jobs that are more than you can handle. Especially if you are catering out of your home. A catering event for a hundred or more people requires a lot kitchen space, storage and staff. If the venue has an onsite kitchen and walk-in cooler, ask about renting it for a day or two in advance, to prepare.
5. Self-caterers can try a pop-up restaurant as a trial run. Another segue into the restaurant business are pop-up restaurants. Pop up restaurants are just as their name implies – they pop-up, often in unusual places. Many burgeoning restaurant owners use pop-ups as a way to test a menu concept or to woo potential investors. Because of their temporary nature (pop-ups can last anywhere from a single night to a month or more) this style of catering is a great way to test the waters and see if you really want to open your own restaurant. Read more about how to start a pop-up restaurant.
6. Be flexible with your catering menu. Even if you have a set standard catering menu, don’t be afraid to be flexible with your offerings. Creating a customized menu for guests may take a little more time, but it shows how willing you are to accommodate their needs and tastes. Read more about writing an effective menu.
7. Know your catering competition. Just like opening a new restaurant, if you are planning on going into business, you need to know your competition. Jump on their websites, make some phone calls. Know what type of food they offer and at what price.
8. Keep extra staff for catering. Catering is often a weekend or evening gig. Often you will find people looking for just these types of hour. This is ideal for stay-at-home parents or students looking for some extra work outside of school hours. Keep a list of staff who want to work just catering jobs, and it will help you avoid pulling your regular restaurant staff off the floor when you need them.
9. Know where you are catering. Off-site catering involves a lot more planning than if you are doing with within your restaurant. Be sure to check out any venues beforehand, to make sure they have everything you will need (like running water and electricity).
10. Enjoy yourself! Catering often involves fun events like weddings, anniversaries or birthdays. Pat yourself on the back that your business has been selected for important days like these. Keep a good attitude and know that your hard work is paying off.