Having recently been called on to give a family member a hand with his catering business, I found myself serving up steak and cheese subs, grilled cheese sandwiches, sausage with bell peppers and several other offerings of “festival style foods”. I had worked at similar events in the past and figured I could offer some help ‘putting it out’.
As I was organizing my makeshift kitchen I thought about the many chefs and cooks I have heard discussing plans to open their own catering business. Financial independence, the freedom to make all of the decisions and the ability to “do it my way” are a great lure for the talented culinarian. The conventional thought is that you can set out on your own with a few chafing dishes and a collection of pans.
While the promise of an easy start up business seems appealing, the reality of operating even a small catering venue can be headaches, hang-ups and hardships. An experienced caterer knows that there are ‘dry spells’ around every corner as well as dates that are double and even triple booked. Balancing this ‘roller coaster’ type business is challenging but is the key to success in the catering industry. The number one reason that food service establishments fail is a lack of capital. Simply put, not saving enough money to survive the down times.
Starting a home based catering business
With the proper financial plan in place, your next considerations should be menu offerings and equipment. The tools you’ll need will be determined by the type of fare that’s offered. Whether it’s buffet foods, fine appetizers or a combination of both, it’s essential to have the proper equipment to be successful. An elegant reception requires refined utensils and serving trays, while a booth at a country fair needs far fewer amenities. Purchasing new equipment when ‘times are good’ will allow you to expand your offerings. Remember that a new grill or a portable fryer are investments that should return dividends.
The most challenging aspect in catering is finding clients. Keeping a steady cash flow to your business is the most vital element for prosperity. Establishing the style of catering you are equipped for will aid you in marketing your business. Their are many advertising mediums available for every occasion and event, many of which are free. Finding what is most beneficial to you and your business will produce business leads and connections.
George Washington Carver said “Learn to do common things uncommonly well.” – Add that to a friendly attitude, the ability to work effectively in a stressful environment and a business oriented focus, you’ll have all that you need to make your vision transpire