Starting a new restaurant venture is always exciting, especially if you have always wanted to start a catering business.
There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs to get started, and catering provides a relatively easy entry point into the foodservice industry. However, there are still many details that you need to consider such as catering license requirements, locations for your business and the equipment needed for catering business startups.
Here are a few of the steps to keep in mind as you're starting your own catering business after culinary school.
1. Determine the Type of Catering Business That You Want
Catering and food trucks are a vital and growing part of the American foodservice business, and there are ample opportunities for new business owners. There are several key business markets for your catering business:
- On-premise Catering: Many caterers partner with a local organization such as a hotel or corporation to provide specialized foodservice directly for their staff members or clients. This can be an incredibly lucrative option, but it can be difficult to find this type of opportunity unless you have contacts within a business.
- Social Events: Want to enjoy the energy and excitement of weddings, baby showers, bachelorette parties or other social functions? While this type of work may not be quite as steady as having a deep partnership with a single organization, good marketing skills and partnerships with event planners can keep you busy.
- Corporate Clients: Instead of finding a single corporation to support, consider pitching your catering services to a variety of larger organizations. Consider working with these businesses to become the primary provider of food for meetings or events.
While less frequent, there is always a range of community events that you could be on call for as well. Networking and working closely with community event planners will help you stay in the know -- and on the shortlist -- when they need a caterer.
2. What Licenses Are Needed to Start a Catering Business?
Whether you are starting a catering business at home, renting a building, or own your own space, there are licenses that you will need to gain before you get started.
Business licenses and permits can take up to 6 months to complete, so plan accordingly. You may need a food handler's license as well as business permits, and your local Chamber of Commerce is a great starting point for any questions.
3. Establish Strong Vendor Relationships
Starting up a new business is expensive, and the cost of food and other hard goods can put a big hit on your budget.
When you identify vendors and work closely with them to define your needs and budget guidelines, you can be forming a lasting relationship that will help your business be successful.
Taking the time to find vendors that believe in your vision for your business as well as those who are able to deliver on-time, all the time, can be an ongoing boon. Skipping between different vendors not only creates an operational nightmare but could result in varying qualities of goods and food for your business.
When your primary offering is your food, you need to know that you'll always receive the highest quality options— and have a vendor who will make it right if something does go wrong.
4. Find Your Ideal Market Niche
When you're considering how to start a catering business, you might automatically have a certain type of food in mind that you want to offer. However, is there enough of a market for that particular food in your area?
Finding your ideal market niche means dedicating the time and effort to do the research on competitors in your area to find an underserved style of food or delivery that will drive demand for your business.
Try to find the intersection of your personal passion for food and the needs of the local community, and you're one step closer to a hit catering business. That includes pricing research -- a crucial conversation for every new business owner. Consider working with some of your target market before launching to be sure your ideas and decisions are on point for their needs.
5. Create a Robust Marketing Plan -- and Review it Often
Marketing your catering business isn't a one-and-done conversation; you need to continually review how your customers are finding you and how to keep growing your business.
Some caterers find that advertising in local newspapers or on social media are the best options, while others have a prominent physical location for their business that they can leverage. Even if you can't afford or don't want an ongoing relationship with a marketing firm, consider investing in a start-up package that includes marketing materials, an amazing logo, and designs that you can utilize to increase your brand presence in the marketplace.
Gain The Skills You Need at Culinary School
Starting a catering business is a thrilling opportunity and one that many individuals dream about -- but never take the required steps to get started.
At Oregon Culinary Institute, we specialize in working with entrepreneurs at all stages of their business to expand horizons and provide new ways of thinking about the culinary arts, baking and pastry. Request information about our offerings or apply now to get started expanding your horizons in culinary school.