Starting a catering business requires more than simply being a good cook. In fact, enjoying cooking and preparing food is usually only where the idea comes from. A catering business requires a great planner, communicator, and a leader of an A-team crew in command. Alternatively, one could lack all that but should be prepared to invest a lot of money into hiring someone who could live up to the role. Plan and make this idea a reality.
Do online research
Thorough research is how one starts building a firm foundation. Dig into the market and get to know who your competitors are. First of all, what you will find is how many people are out there doing what you want to do. Second, it will help you find out what makes them special. By knowing that you will either know what to focus on to top their specialty or find something completely new that could make you stand out. “Finding your thing” will help you set up your brand. Finally, you will get an insight into the offer of your competitors and the pricing.
Talk to prospective customers
Your research doesn’t only have to be digging through data, get creative and practical. Create a questionnaire with the things you would like to know about your target customer. Run the questions by several individuals and corporate entities to find out what each of the groups wants. You can do this in person if you have the time and know a substantial number of the right people. You can send out emails, or leave posts with the questionnaire in social media groups.
You have probably hosted and catered quite a few parties in your home and you know how it’s done. To get a real feel, ask several friends or family members to do catering for their family gatherings. This will give you an idea of whether you have what it takes to be in the hospitality business. You will get to respect the needs of your pretend clients and work with different, most importantly, unfamiliar venues. Use the opportunity to test certain dishes and menus so you can form your offer.
Define your niche
Not that it cannot change over time, but before you start you should always define your niche. It will help you focus your efforts as doing everything for everyone requires a lot of initial capital, people, and organizational skills to stay on top of it all. You could do catering for private parties ( for adults and/or children), public events, sell meals to go, corporate clients ( provide food for the canteen/ refreshments for business meetings/ food for large corporate events), weddings, etc. Also, it does not hurt to be aware of the scale of the events you can take on. It is not the same to do catering for 50, 100, or 200 people.
Create a business plan and crunch some numbers
Starting a business without a business plan is silliness. The plan will give you an outline of the steps you should take. It will also make you think about certain aspects of the business beforehand. This article by smartycents.com may be helpful. While you are on the subject of planning, create a menu.
Once you have the plan and an idea of what you want to do, as well as the results of the research you have done on your competitors about pricing, you can start crunching the numbers. This will be the first real reality check which will help you think about the things you can compromise on and ways you can save to break even as quickly as possible and start earning from the business. Do not forget to set aside an emergency fund. It is not a luxury it is a necessity if you want to function seamlessly.
Start the business
With the research and the plan in place, the following comes as a simple to-do list:
Set up the business. Think of a good name, easy to remember, yet meaningful. Register with your local government’s office. Inquire about and get all the permits you require to work.
Get the space, the equipment, and a delivery vehicle. The latter two are probably something you should not save on as you need them to be truly reliable since your business depends on them.
Hire people. Start hiring early as it may take you some time to find the people who will suit you with their skill set and their character. You need to be able to recognize in you can get along with since you will be working on the same team and you need to function as one. Don’t compromise on the staff.
If you are starting a small business, nowadays the cheapest way to promote is social media. Pictures of food are what you should be big on. Take photos of the food and the events you worked on to give your prospective customers an idea of what you can do. Also, create a website and provide as much information as you possibly can. Encourage your clients to leave reviews. A prospective customer will do their research first before they decide to get in touch and by being informative, you will help them make up their mind.
By all means, you should look into the traditional ways of advertising. However, mind the cost-effectiveness.
The best way to promote your business is to create a good reputation. People who have visited the events you worked on, if satisfied, will likely look you up if they happen to host an event.
Starting a business is a complex process, and catering business is not different. You’ll be fine as long as you do not skip any steps. When you provide catering for an event, you build your reputation but primarily leave an impression about your clients on their guests. People will trust you with their reputations so do not let them down, be good, be innovative, and be resourceful.