6 Tips for Starting a Catering Business

This is another post for my readers who are thinking about becoming a entrepreneur….

Do you constantly get compliments about your cooking in gatherings? Do people say you’re always coming up with new innovative recipes? If you love hosting parties whenever you get a chance to and you’re up to date on the latest food trends, you might just have the great entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to a catering business. If your food is popular among friends and family, you’ll have the advantage of  marketing and building your business to obtain more clients. A lot of people can cook well but not everyone has what it takes to accomplish a successful catering business.

The catering industry is not just for people who want to cook but interests many types of entrepreneurs depending on their skills and opportunities. So there are numerous options to get into the market such as starting with event planning or decorating and then including catering later on as the business grows.

If you’re interested in opening a restaurant then starting with a catering business can help you gain valuable experience. And if you already have a restaurant then catering can double your sales and market your food. Having a plan and preparing yourself for what is ahead can help you build a successful business. Here are 6 tips to help you start a catering business.

Start Small

Every business requires some level of experience to run successfully. Start small by planning for events for people you know. Try hosting holiday parties for friends and family so that you can learn to manage crowds.

Collect your friends and family together or organize fundraisers in your community and offer to cook. During this time, try testing your menu in small, no-pressure scenarios. You can also try and test your recipes, innovative ideas, and organizational skills. Starting with a smaller scale allows you to make mistakes in forgiving crowds and teaches you how to fix them. Ask your guests to be honest with their feedback and allow them to be anonymous. Constructive criticism from loved ones can help you improve remarkably. Learn from mistakes and keep practicing your recipes over and over again while focusing on consistency and presentation.

Once you’re comfortable with smaller crowds, you can move on to larger crowds and more costs. If gathering friends and family yourself is not a possibility, consider working or doing an internship with a well-established catering company. This will help you learn about the tactics of a catering business and research on things you need to start with. Working with a professional is bound to make you learn valuable information.

Know Your Competitors

Knowing your competition has to be the first step in launching any successful business. Find out what is out there available to people and at what cost. Check out the kinds of food they serve, study their menus and visit their websites to find out what makes them successful.

Good catering businesses do not just offer food because they know that people are looking for more than that. You have to be able to offer other things like convenience and affordability along with amazing food. Knowing what other catering businesses have to offer can help you stand out among them. Including extra services like trendy table arrangements, cake designing, event planning and venue decorating can make your business appealing in a way that is exclusive to your business. Get creative!

Identify Your Customer Base

Identifying your customer base is important when deciding your specialty because everything depends on what demographic you’ll be serving. Do some surveys among your peers in the community and find out what kind of catering services do their employers or companies prefer. Call some companies and simply ask questions about what they would want caterers to offer but make sure you find the right person in the office to contact.

You can ask about things like what is their budget for such events, how often do they use catering services and what additional services would they ideally want. Services apart from food could include fancy set-ups, take-downs, a bar or others. This way you’ll know what the corporate market is looking for in a caterer and help you implement it in your business. Apply the same strategy for other types of events and social gatherings you aim to specialize in.

Find Your Specialty

Where there is so much competition, it is extremely important to have something that stands out from others and have a niche. This could be anything from something of your interest, something you’re passionate about, to a gap you’ve found in the market. Anything that sets you apart from others. The kind of food you choose will decide what type of business you are and how you can market it.

Finding your specialty will help you determine your target customers. Many caterers like to offer a huge variety of catering services and they might be successful depending on the market, but sometimes trying to become everything to everyone leads to becoming nothing to no one. For example, you can focus on a genre of food like barbecue items, vegan or  healthy foods or you could specialize in affordable menus.

You can even try becoming a breakfast or brunch specialty in addition to serving other items. Brunch foods could include casual sandwiches or comfort foods etc. Here are some types of specialties you can work on:

  • Private gatherings: these could include weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, or funerals.
  • Corporate events: includes office parties, annual dinners, award ceremonies, and big meetings, etc.
  • Casual/Brunch Style
  • Desserts only

Have a Business Plan

Once you’ve done your research on competitors, size of the market, customer base and thought of your specialty and marketing strategy, you can now write up a business plan and form a solid plan of action. Writing a business plan will also give you a realistic idea of the costs you need and serve as proof of viability for investors.

Your business plan should include the mission of your company, a market analysis, services you’ll provide, a financial plan and a swot analysis of your business’s organization. Here is an outline of what it should look like:

  • Owner of the business– this can include your qualifications and level of experience in catering.
  • Mission – write a precise mission of your catering business and how you plan to finance it.
  • Services provided – include all services you aim to provide and how do you plan to source equipment from.
  • Target Customers – what customers you aim to target and what will be your marketing strategy. Doing thorough market research goes a long way.
  • SWOT Analysis – determine your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • The Competition – write about who your potential competitors are and how do you aim to stand out among them.
  • Start-up costs – include the costs of food, equipment, location, transport, insurance, staff salaries, and other costs to start up your catering business. Get high-quality commercial catering equipment in Dubai through UAE Ekuep.

Market Your Business

Even if you make amazing food but don’t market it well, you’ll always be a few steps behind your competitors. Marketing can be done in several ways in the modern world. Once you’ve identified your target customers you can come up with a marketing strategy that best suits your business’s specialty and customer base. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Private gatherings: Register your business on wedding sites and promote your business by asking banquet hall, wedding venues, and event planners to refer to clients. You can also display your menu at social gatherings and bridal exhibitions.
  • Corporate events: Advertising for corporate catering would require you to form good relationships with corporate event coordinators. You can also get involved in LinkedIn advertising.
  • Word of mouth: This is usually the strongest tool to market food. Make sure your first few projects are perfect and go above and beyond to please your client because very soon you’ll have a lot of people wanting your food. Most of the time, it is the guests at some event you catered for that remember you and want your food.
  • Powerful branding: Come up with a catchy logo that goes well with your specialty and is easy to remember.
  • Fliers: Pass out printed menus and fliers with prices to potential customers.
  • Utilize social media: Create a good website for your business that allows clients to go into detail about every dish you serve and also lets them order online. Create social media accounts on as many platforms as possible and connect with customers by posting food snaps every day to stay connected.
  • Get good food snaps: Good photographs of your food looking fresh and appetizing can increase your business more than you can imagine. In today’s world of smartphones, food photography has become a big thing. Take good pictures of the food catered at your events or better yet, get a professional food photographer to ensure tantalizing food snaps and post on your website and social media profiles.
  • Offer sampling sessions: Keep a lookout for events and opportunities that allow you to offer tastings. You can do this at fundraisers, charity events and local fairs.
  • Mobile marketing: Another clever way to get the word out is by carrying out mobile catering through a van or a trailer. Get your logo on the van, mix it up with vibrant colors, put your contact details on it and voila! You have a moving billboard.




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