How To Start A Catering Company
Many passionate cooks dream of working in high-end restaurants, sharing countertops with the world’s most renowned chefs. But there is an angle that professional cooks from every level should consider. Catering is a relatively lean business idea, and it can be a highly rewarding and interesting career path. Read along as we uncover the ins and outs of starting a catering business.
Can I start a catering business?
You need to have extensive catering knowledge in order to prepare tasty and healthy meals quickly for a group of 200 people, even if your business is large enough to have a chef in charge of food preparation. For those who lack the expertise and experience, a range of Catering Hospitality NVQs/SVQs is usually available. Obtaining some managerial experience in the catering industry is important so you can gain an understanding of how it works.
Choose your catering niche
You. Have. To. Find. Your. Niche. It is extremely important because it helps you understand your target customer and optimize your strategy to set your service apart. Even the food that you decide to provide will impact the events you will work at, with it impacting your branding and marketing.
How to research my market
Try to pinpoint these 5 factors:
- Competitor’s name(s)
- Type of food
- Size of company
After that answer, these two questions:
- Is there enough demand for another catering business in your area?
- Are you sufficiently different enough to make an impression in your area?
Who is going to hire my company?
Usually, there are two types of events:
- Private – birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, funerals
- Corporate – catering for business events including office parties, awards ceremonies and other evening events, networking events and large meetings
You could choose to cater to the private sector as most of the events you cater to will be large family gatherings such as weddings, funerals, and birthday parties. Good culinary skills are required to run this type of business since the quality and variety of your menu will be an important selling point. Additionally, you will have to be flexible enough to accommodate special requests for weddings.
Typically, in the business sector, you will find that you’ll have to cater to events such as business meetings and training courses. Food like cold sandwiches or premade meals will be required, but you can also expect to serve breakfast and maybe dinner, where drinks may be involved.
Menu and Planning
The crowd you are going to be catering to is important when drafting your menu. Once that is decided you can then craft your culinary catalogue around it. You should, if possible, give your customers a wide array of choices to choose from, both from a financial and culinary standpoint. A lot of caterers offer different price plans, offer discounts for big orders, etc.
There are different styles you can offer which can become your unique selling point (USP) depending on your target consumer. These include:
The guests queue up to serve themselves whatever they can eat hot or cold
Usually, servers start dropping plates of food at the head table in waves, then clear the tables after the guests have finished eating
There is no additional food service provided by the provider since food is pre-cooked and dropped off. The guests can help themselves, or the customer can arrange their own service.
Included in this are the preparation, cooking and service, in addition to the cleaning of the event.
Licenses and Insurances
There will be a wide range of licenses and insurances that your company will need to ensure that it is fully covered in the event of an accident.
Whether you’re selling, cooking, storing or handling food, you are going to be registered as a business and your operation must be clearly outlined. You need to register every premises where you engage in the above activities, whether it is your home or a temporary/mobile location such as stalls or a van. Unless you are selling directly to consumers, you must get approval from the council before you make or prepare meat or dairy products. Furthermore, you will need a license from your local authority to sell alcoholic beverages.
Regardless of how skilled you’re in cooking, you need to have certain qualifications to sell food publicly in the UK. Food safety certifications help you to adhere to legislation. They help you realize the value of food safety and implement a plan to prepare and serve safe foods to your customers. This is very important for your brand value and becoming successful in the food industry.
Legislation requires you to have a clear understanding of food hygiene and safety procedures, and HACCP principles. Likewise, your staff need to have Stage 2 food protection qualifications to meet legal obligations for the catering business.
Allergic reactions, slips, and many more accidents can happen to the most experienced caterers. A food liability claim can cost hundreds of pounds, so an element insurance policy provides coverage for public and product liability, as well as employers' liability, properties, contents, and stock, for states that may place a damper on your operations.
Now that you have a company you need customers. This is where you reach out to different customers through word of mouth or social media. Keep an eye on companies which you think would be interested in your services on social media, especially if it has potential for repeat business. You can also take literature (leaflets) and business cards with you to events that you cater to in case you get an inquiry on the spot.
Having and running a successful business is immensely satisfying. Although catering businesses are competitive, they are a good choice for a first business because they have low overheads and a high potential for growth.