The Basics of Starting a Catering Business
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Published by TOP4 Team
The catering industry offers many doors of opportunities for smart, driven and disciplined entrepreneurs. Food is always in demand, and even in times of recession, food businesses enjoy sustainable and robust support from their customers. Whether you’re looking to build a food empire or would love to establish a foodie community, catering can be your vehicle to achieving your business dreams.
As with most in-demand, highly competitive industries, it takes more than just basic business sense to get your catering venture to survive and serve your target market well. It’s important to make decisions based on an informed perspective, and hands-on knowledge prior to business building makes a huge difference in seeing your venture grow and prosper.
Opening and growing a catering business isn't for the faint of heart. But it can offer you a fulfilling, rewarding and enriching experience if done right. Are you up for the challenge?
You need to put in your work hours.
No matter how many books you’ve read, tutorials you’ve watched and attended and formal classes you’ve enrolled in, nothing can prepare you for a life in the catering business than pure work experience. Get a job first, preferably under an established caterer or server. If you decide to start from the bottom of the ladder, get ready for long hours and backbreaking work, and don’t expect the pay to support a high-end lifestyle. But the hands-on experience and insight you’ll learn all the way will be invaluable as build your own company.
Be very clear about your finances.
The capital you need to fund your venture will depend on many factors, such as whether you’ll be opening a full-time kitchen or simply be operating from home. The kind of food you’ll serve and therefore the market you plan to cater to will have a huge impact on your budget. Food supplies, cooking equipment and utensils, on-site setup such as table, chairs, linen, china and serving accessories and staff salary are just some of the basic expenditures you need to take into account.
Prioritise health and safety standards.
Establishing safe and healthy protocols and work processes is an important investment for every catering business, no matter how big or small you are. If you fail to meet local and industry standards, you face legal issues, penalties and may lose the trust of your customers. Zoning approval, fire codes compliance and operating licenses are just some of the requirements you need to prioritise in the beginning — before you even start cooking. Health and safety codes apply whether you plan to set up a home-based catering business or rent a licensed commercial kitchen or food preparation facility.
Aside from obtaining food and safety licenses, make sure to complete other legal documents and requirements that apply to you before you fire up your stoves. In some cases, a business license from the state is sufficient, but mostly you'll also need a city and national license as well. Industry qualifications, such as food handler’s license may also be necessary, if not a beneficial bonus for your venture.
Spread the word out about your business — start by developing a solid marketing strategy. There are many ways to reach your potential clients and, again, this depends on your market and brand identity. You can establish a website and make a buzz on social media. You can partner with events companies or event venues so you can take advantage of their established client base as well. You can join industry trade fairs, such as wedding supplier expositions, wherein you can showcase your set-up and have a taste testing booth to present your menu to potential clients.
Learn from the top catering businesses in Australia today.