10 Tips for Starting a Catering Business

buffet with finger-food starters
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For many entrepreneurs, catering is a gateway to the restaurant business. If you already own a restaurant, catering can increase your sales and build your reputation. Either way, here are 10 things you should know before launching a catering business.

The Start-up Costs Are Modest

If you enjoy cooking and entertaining but have never worked in the restaurant industry, you may want to consider catering a few parties. You might even start out among friends and family. You can try out your recipes, stretch your creativity, and test your organizational skills. You can gradually take on bigger jobs, and bigger costs.

Catering Requires Permits, Licenses, and Insurance

Catering is a real business, and you need to make sure it is a legitimate one. Taking the proper measures to ensure your self-catering business is legal and properly insured protects you and your customers.

Restaurants Have an Edge

A plus of owning a restaurant is that you already have the bulk of the catering equipment you need at startup. You may have to purchase a few items like chafing dishes, but you already own most of the supplies in bulk.

You Need to Be Realistic

Don't accept jobs that are bigger than you can handle, especially if you are catering out of your house. An event for 100 or more people requires extensive 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 so you can prepare. Otherwise, recommend a bigger catering operation!

A Pop-Up Restaurant Is a Good Trial

A relatively new way to segue in the restaurant business is a pop-up restaurant. A temporary location can be a great way to test a menu concept and woo potential customers and investors with a smaller upfront investment. A pop-up can last anywhere from a single night to a month or more.

Your Menu Should Be Flexible

Even if you have a set catering menu, don’t be afraid to be flexible with your offerings. Creating a customized menu for a party may take a little more time, but it shows you're willing to accommodate their needs and tastes.

You Need to Know Your Competition

If you are planning on going into any business, you need to know your competition. Do your research to find out what else is available to your potential customers, and at what price. It's not hard. The best established will have websites.

A Staff List Is Key

Catering is usually a weekend or evening gig. There are plenty of people who are looking just for part-time or occasional hours. Keep a list of people who are available for work. This is even more important if you have a restaurant. You can't always pull your regular restaurant staff off the floor when you need them.

Check Out Your Venues

Off-site catering involves special planning. Be sure to check out any venue beforehand to make sure it has everything you will need and you know where everything is.

Enjoy Yourself!

Catering often involves happy events like weddings, anniversaries, and 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.