How To Start a Catering Business: The Ultimate Guide

Marketing 19 minute read 14th July 2023

A catering business can be a lucrative and rewarding venture, but it requires careful planning and execution. If you are wondering how to start a catering business, take note that it isn’t just about cooking and serving. Starting a catering business is no different than launching a restaurant or any other hospitality establishment. Consider factors such as target market, competition, pricing, startup cost, and marketing strategies.

Obtaining the necessary catering licenses and permits and purchasing quality equipment, ingredients, and catering supplies are also important. Furthermore, you need to build relationships with local event planners. It can help you establish a strong reputation and grow your business.

Those with hands-on experience in the hospitality industry require no introduction to starting a catering business. They know the starting line and are well ahead of the competition.

However, many young entrepreneurs are just starting their catering businesse, and need a helping hand. For them, this article is the ultimate guide. They will get a kickstart on how to open a catering business, whether at home or by launching a startup.

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How To Open a Catering Business?

Launching a catering business is less cumbersome compared to opening a restaurant. However, that doesn’t mean establishing it is a hassle-free process. There are plenty of steps and numerous business obstacles you need to cross before you begin your catering journey.

Here are the ten most important steps on how to open a catering business. It doesn’t matter how you envision your company to be: home-based, small, etc. These steps will take you from point A and assist you in steering your catering business up.

If your need is different, like for a home-based or small business, you can find suggestions below. Remember, the points explained for specific business needs are additional tips derived from these suggestions. So, if you want to know how to start a catering business, follow these steps first.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #1: Determine the Type

The first step is to contemplate the type of catering business you want to start. Will it be a full-service catering company targeting corporate events and holiday parties? Is it a specialty catering business? Are you considering catering to weddings only?

It will also help you decide between on-site or off-site catering. With on-site catering, you will prepare food and services at a specific location. On the other hand, off-site catering involves preparing the food in a central kitchen and delivering it to various locations.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #2: Name Your Business

Once you have identified your catering type, the next step is to come up with a catchy and memorable name. Your business name:

  • Should reflect your brand’s identity.
  • Be easy to remember.
  • Should also be unique.

Along with your business name, you can also come up with a clever slogan. You may need the services of a designer to create your logo. You can create a logo for free with Canva if you possess basic design skills.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #3: Get the Catering License and Insurance

After deciding on the type of business, obtaining the necessary catering license and insurance is important. Permits vary depending on the location and what category you need them for. For example, a home-based business may have different or additional permits. It’s best to research the specific requirements in your area and consult with a lawyer or accountant if needed.

Obtaining a catering license and insurance will ensure that you operate legally and protect you from potential liabilities. To begin your business, you may need the following licenses:

  • Catering business license
  • Zoning permit
  • Health certificate

How To Start a Catering Business Step #4: Prepare Your Menu

Your menu is your portfolio, so it is vital to prepare an attractive menu. Remember, your clients do not know the work behind the scenes. They don’t know your experience, cooking skills, or the quality ingredients you own. So, you need to wow them by preparing an appealing menu that they believe is worth the money charged.

Ask yourself the following questions before preparing the menu:

  1. What type of food will I serve?
  2. Will the ingredients be readily available?
  3. How much will a dish cost?
  4. How much effort must I put into preparing the dish?
  5. Should I serve seasonal meals?
  6. How many catering orders can I handle at a time?
  7. Should I prepare the food on-site or off-site?
  8. How many people are working with me?
  9. Do I have the necessary catering supplies?

Once you have answered the questions, it is time to start crafting your menu. The menu should reflect your style and expertise in cooking. It’s important to balance offering dishes you can comfortably serve and showcasing your culinary talents.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #5: Determine Your Startup Cost

Once you have determined your business type and crafted your menu, the next step is to determine your startup cost. What is the startup cost? Many individuals confuse the answer to this question. They consider the initial capital to open their business as the startup cost.

Here is a simple definition: The startup cost includes the expenses incurred during the initial stages of a business’s setup. It includes calculating cost factors such as catering supplies, equipment, wages, marketing, and catering licenses.

You can’t determine the exact operating cost at this step, but you can create a list of potential expenses. For example, at this stage, you can include the following expenses in your list:

  • Catering licenses and permits
  • Inventory purchases
  • Kitchen space rent
  • Catering supplies
  • Staff wages
  • Marketing costs
  • Utility bills

With this list, you can estimate how much it will cost to establish your catering business. You have researched licenses and permits, so you know how much money you need for that. You have prepared your menu, so you can easily calculate the inventory purchases necessary per event. With a quick Google search, you can speculate how much kitchen space, catering supplies, marketing, and hiring employees would cost.

Once you have a breakdown of the operating costs, you can compare the sum with the initial capital. You are good to go if you have enough money; otherwise, you should consider various financing options.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #6: Find Financing

If you don’t have enough money to start your catering business, you must consider various financing options or find investors. Here are a few options you can explore:

  1. Start a GoFundMe page for your business.
  2. Borrow money from family, relatives, or friends.
  3. Apply for a business loan from a bank.
  4. Bring in partners and investors.
  5. Apply for equipment financing.

If you can’t raise the money for the starting capital, it is better to cut down on your operating costs.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #7: Purchase The Catering Supplies and Equipment

After calculating your startup cost, the next step is to gather the necessary catering supplies. It is best to finalize your menu based on the equipment you have available on-site.

Investing in high-quality equipment is crucial because it has a direct impact on the flavor of the dish. Due to the low startup cost, many prefer purchasing cheap catering equipment. Unfortunately, this can lead to poor quality dishes and even equipment breakdowns during events. It is important to balance cost and quality when selecting catering equipment to ensure the success of your business.

If you’re on a budget, consider purchasing used, high-quality equipment. It will cost you less than buying a brand new, cheap appliance. There are several benefits to buying used kitchen equipment.

The following is a list of must-have items for any catering establishment:

  1. Ovens
  2. Microwaves
  3. Deep fryers
  4. Food warmers
  5. Hot plates
  6. Grill
  7. Refrigerators and freezers
  8. Cool storage containers
  9. Food processor
  10. Blender
  11. Beverage equipment
  12. Cleaning items
  13. Tables

Many people forget to add hot plates and food warmers to their catering supplies list. But you need to keep food warm from the minute you finish cooking it to the second your guests take a bite. Remember, no one likes to eat cold food that’s been sitting around.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #8: Find Suppliers

Finding reliable suppliers is crucial for a successful catering business. Look for suppliers who can provide high-quality ingredients, fresh produce, and specialty items that align with your menu offerings. Don’t go with one vendor. Purchase ingredients from various suppliers.

This will help establish relationships with each of them, giving you an idea of how each supplier operates. This way, you can find suppliers offering competitive pricing, fresh and quality ingredients, and flexible delivery options.

How To Start a Catering Business Step #9: Set Your Prices

Setting your prices in a catering business is a crucial step that requires careful consideration. You need to calculate your costs, check competitor pricing, and determine if your services are worth the money.

Research the market to understand your area’s average pricing for similar services. Take into account factors such as ingredient costs, labor expenses, etc., when determining your pricing structure.

You can offer catering packages that contain different menu options and services. This will help your customers choose what plan they want to purchase. Another alternative is offering customizable options within each catering package to cater to individual preferences and dietary restrictions. This will enhance the overall customer experience and make your services more appealing to a wider range of clients.

Furthermore, regularly evaluate and adjust your pricing structure based on market trends and customer feedback.

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How To Start a Catering Business Step #10: Hire Help

Catering is a tough business, and you can’t do it alone. Hiring reliable and skilled staff will ensure you can cater to multiple events and provide excellent service. In the beginning, you may need the following staff members on your team:

  1. Servers to help arrange the venue and serve the food
  2. Chefs or cooks to prepare the food
  3. Accountant to keep track of your financial records

If you are up to the challenge, these ten steps are more than enough to get you started. These guidelines will help you enter the market, but you must be innovative to stand out.

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How To Start a Catering Business From Home?

If you want to know how to start a catering business from home, the above guidelines will help you. However, you may need to alter your business plan for home-based catering.

  1. Your kitchen may not meet catering standards. So, you would need to renovate and expand it to operate as a commercial kitchen.
  2. You should limit the type of food you serve.
  3. It will be difficult to handle large and multiple events, so you must scale down your operations.
  4. Know your home-based catering laws when understanding how to start a catering business.

Starting a catering business from home has its advantages. You can save money by renting or buying a separate commercial space. An excellent money-saving option if you want to keep startup costs low.

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How To Start a Small Catering Business?

If you want to know how to start a small catering business, remember one thing. It is different from a home-based business. Many call their home-based business a small catering business and treat it as such. One needs to rectify this mistake, as it can affect your business plan.

To start a small catering business, determine the food you will serve and limit your menu options to ensure efficiency. Familiarize yourself with the necessary catering supplies for a small commercial kitchen. In the beginning, don’t handle large or multiple events, as it may prove difficult to manage. You need to develop customer loyalty for your small business.

You can successfully start a small catering business and grow from there by taking these steps.

Marketing Your Catering Business

Social media lets you easily market your catering business from the comfort of your home. Advertising on social media channels like Facebook will cost much less than hiring a marketing company.

Social media allows free promotion as well. You can post pictures of successful events, mouth-watering food, and happy clients on your social media pages and stories.

You must create a professional website for your catering business as well. This will allow potential clients to find information about your services and contact you directly.

You should also check out Beambox’s WiFi marketing platform if you want to know how to start a catering business. With Beambox, you can grow your business by learning about your customers, knowing your rating, and analyzing various marketing options. Learn more and start growing your business.

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