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Guide to Starting Your Own Catering Company

If you enjoy and are skilled in cooking, hosting and business, starting your own catering company might be a great part-time or full-time job to undertake. As a stepping stone, do some research and consider working/volunteering with a catering company to gain real experience. Once mastered, catering can be quite profitable. Let the following be your guide to successfully plan and operate your future catering company.

Start Asking yourself the 5 W’s + H; Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?

  • Who will be my target demographic/clients/potential customers?

  • Who will I hire for the variety

    of positions needed for my services?

  • Who is my competition?

  • Who should I take into consideration when providing dietary accommodations?

  • What will my catering service be called/what is my trademark?

  • What kind of foods and beverages am I looking to offer?

  • What is going to separate myself

    from my competition?

  • What supplies/equipment/products/general inventory will I need?

  • When can I expect/plan to open my business to the public?

  • When might I come across challenges/disadvantages?

  • When would my hours of operation be?

  • When will I have to appropriately delegate myself as my own boss?

  • Where will my main office be located/where can I be contacted?

  • Where will my catering services be offered?

  • Where can I obtain the proper licences and permits for my catering service?

  • Where can I find vendors/suppliers for glassware, utensils, linens, etc.?

  • Why will my services be a benefit to my customers?

  • Why will my prices be priced the way they are?

  • Why will I surpass my competition?

  • Why is the business plan for my catering business effective?

  • How do I plan to market and advertise my catering service?

  • How much will I be spending in start-up costs?

  • How will I transport the food?

  • How do I apply for an account with food suppliers?

Outlining and answering these questions will help you get the ball rolling. Go through and answer every question with as much detail as possible. Have a few backup plans for each plan of action.

Create & Plan

After you go through asking who, what when, where, why and how, now you should start to create and plan. This next step is about constructing core of your company and defining it to the public, business partners and you, the owner. Here are some key moves to create, plan and define your company:

  • Your foods! Experiment and sample the options you want to provide.

  • A business plan. Make sure you write about your services, marketing strategies, competition, milestones, sales strategies, and financial plans. Infographics and charts would be ideal to include.

  • A detailed menu that highlights ingredients used and dietary accommodations.

  • A website, logo and other social platforms to stay connected with your clients and advertise your brand Business cards would also be ideal. Nevertheless, the catering business is best marketed through word of mouth.

  • A rough schedule with approximate time frames for when you secure an event (ex. Food preparation, travelling, setting up at the event, etc.)

Space and Supplies

This is around the time where you will need to create a budget and determine what exactly you will need. Your first budget should include where the location for your catering company. It can be located in a residential home or in a rented/bought out a commercial kitchen. Make sure your food preparation area is spacious enough for your staff, cooking equipment and refrigeration units. Space is important so that the prep is done efficiently.

Choose your cooking equipment based on what’s on your menu. If it consists of a lot of fried foods, then plan to buy more than one fryer. If it consists of a lot of baked foods, then plan to buy more than one oven.

Study your pricing options; here are somethings to keep in mind when pricing:

  • Types of pricing: fixed, tier, custom/quotes

  • Calculate the complexity of your menu (courses, types of food)

  • Calculate labor costs (food preparation, set up)

  • Calculate other services, if there are any (decorating, rentals)

  • Number of guests

  • Find your break-even point

Here are some items you may want to include on your inventory checklist:

  • Refrigeration units

  • Oven(s)

  • Fryer(s)

  • Dishwashers

  • Mixers

  • Silverware, glassware, utensils

  • Spatulas, whisks, measuring cups/spoons, thermometers, tongs

  • Plates

  • Serving trays/platters

  • Beverage dispensers

  • Chafing dishes

  • Food holding/warming equipment

  • Insulated food and beverage transport

  • Coffee percolators

  • Aprons, oven mitts, gloves

  • Worktables

Putting Things in Motion

Figure out what licences and permits you will need to start your business.

Here a few you will need; some will differ depending on where you reside and what your service offers:

  • Business licence

  • Local county/city-based licence

  • Health/food safety permit

  • Food-handling permit/food manager certificate

  • Smart serve/alcohol permit

  • Liability insurance policy

  • Training licence

You will also want to start adding prices to your services. It’s important that you keep track of you income, expenses and invoices. This can be done by the owner, or an accountant can be hired.

Having a team of loyal and hard-working employees makes any business successful. When hiring, make sure you check that the applicants fit the criteria of the positions. It would also be beneficial to conduct background checks. 

Here a few you will need; some will differ depending on where you reside and what your service offers:

  • Manager/assistant manager

  • Cooks (baker, broiler, fry/sauté, pastry, etc.)

  • Hosts/hostesses

  • Servers (food orders, counter/alcohol, barista)

  • Bussers/dishwashers

  • Sales/marketing representative

  • Events consultant

Introducing your company to the public means marketing and advertising your brand name; verbally, physically and digitally. This is how you will gain new customers and keep your current customers.

Let people know by word of mouth about your business. Telling your friends and family is easy enough, but as you start to get more clients, and are successful with them, they’ll tell others of their catering experience with your company.

While we might be living in a digital age, creating flyers and business cards never hurt. Post flyers on bulletin boards and give your business cards to just about anyone. If you wanted to go the extra mile, you could set up an information booth and have people sample your foods.

Everyone has at least one mainstream social media account; the world is taking to digital communication. That means creating accounts/pages for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and other social media platforms. Creating a Facebook page is a great way to briefly describe your business and services, link people to your website and other social media pages and post updates on the status of your company. A company website/homepage would be ideal as well.

Plans to Keep Your Business Successful

  • Schedule regular food and safety inspections

  • Market and advertise regularly; keep the public updated and on top of everything

  • Be confident; the confidence you exude will reflect on your employees and clients

Zanduco’s Products for Catering Companies

Zanduco has a wide variety of products that are very suitable for catering services. From food holding equipment to trays and platters, Zanduco has everything you’re looking for in a successful catering business.

To view our products visit www.zanduco.com.