If you’re looking to start your own catering business, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know in order to get started. We’ll cover topics such as how to become a caterer, what licenses and permits you need, what equipment you’ll need, and more! So whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking for some additional tips, keep reading for all the information you need to get your catering business up and running.
Caterer Job Description
A professional caterer is responsible for providing food and beverage services at events. This can include everything from weddings to corporate functions, birthday parties, and more. Caterers typically work with a team of cooks and servers to ensure that all guests are fed and happy.
As a caterer, you will need to be able to think on your feet and adapt to different situations. You’ll also need excellent customer service skills as you’ll be working closely with clients to plan menus and ensure that their event is a success. If you’re organized, creative, and love working with food, and understand food safety, then a career in catering could be the perfect fit for you!
How Do I Become a Caterer?
To become a caterer, you will need to have some experience working in the food industry. This could be in a restaurant, hotel, or catering company. You should also be comfortable working with different types of equipment and serving large groups of people. The better your cooking skills and catering service is, the more successful your business will be.
Once you have some experience under your belt, the next step is to get licensed. In most states, you will need to obtain a business license and a food handler’s permit and food safety certification before you can serve food. If you plan to serve alcohol, you may also need a special license or permit to serve liquor and a successful caterer knows how to get all the necessary permits.
Education Requirements to Become a Caterer
You could go to a culinary school to learn the culinary arts and from there start your own catering company, or there are also culinary training programs at many community colleges and technical schools that can give you the skills you need to start your own catering business. It’s important to have an understanding of different cuisines and cooking methods to prepare delicious food.
It’s also not required to get your catering license or start your business, but the National Association for Catering and Events has a certification which can help you stand out amongst your competition.
There are also many online resources and books available that can teach you how to start and run a catering business successfully. Some of these include “The Business of Becoming a Caterer” by Christine E. Nelson and “How to Start a Home-Based Catering Business” by Denise Viva.
You don’t need to attend private culinary schools or take commercial food preparation courses though to start a catering business. Just like starting your own business in any industry, the success or failure of catering companies will heavily depend on the quality of your marketing, customer service, and with a business in preparing food of course, the food you serve.
To become a caterer, you will need to:
- Choose your target market – knowing how to prepare food is one thing, but you also need to understand your target market. Are you catering to corporate clients? Family reunions? Weddings?
- Create a business plan – a well-thought-out business plan will help you organize your thoughts and customers needs.
- Develop a menu – menu planning is a key aspect of catering and you’ll need to consider the tastes of your target market, as well as any dietary restrictions.
- Create a brand – your catering business should have an easy-to-remember name and logo.
- Get the proper licenses and permits – to be successful in the food service industry, you must comply with all state and local regulations
- Find a commissary kitchen or rent commercial kitchen equipment and space – food production takes a lot of work and equipment. You will need a place to store your supplies and prepare your food before you transport to your events.
- Promote your business – once you’ve got everything in place, it’s time to start marketing your catering business. Be sure to create build a website and advertise your small business. Add yourself on Google Maps by creating a business profile. If all this is overwhelming, you can hire an online digital marketing agency to build the online side of your business.
For those who have a passion for cooking and enjoy being around people, catering can be an ideal business venture. But like with starting any business, it’s important to do your research before getting started so that you understand the ins and outs of running a catering company.
A Background in Preparing Food
If you’ve never had to serve food or transport food before, you’re going to want to get some experience in the foodservice industry. You can do this by working in a restaurant, deli, or catering company. This will give you an understanding of how to prepare food for large groups and how to handle different types of dietary restrictions.
Many caterers will try to start out without any formal education, experience, or certification in the foodservice industry, but this is not recommended. The more experience you have in the restaurant or food service industry, and with cooking and clean up practices, the better.
Food Safety is Important
You usually need to take at least one food safety course, but many states require multiple food safety courses and for you to become a certified food handler. If you don’t have the proper licenses and permits, the local health department can shut your business down.
Starting Your Catering Business
You should also consider taking some business courses, even if they’re just online, to learn about bookkeeping, marketing, and other important aspects of running a catering business.
Deciding on a Business Structure
There are many different types of companies from DBAs to S corporations and LLCs. You’ll need to decide which business structure is right for your catering business. The easiest and cheapest thing for most people would be to set up a sole proprietorship or DBA, but we recommend that you talk to a certified accountant or other tax professional before making your final decision.
Getting a Catering License
You’ll need a business license to operate a catering business, which you can get from your local city or county clerk’s office. You may also need to get a food handler’s license and other permits, depending on your state and local laws. Also note that in the USA and many other countries, you can only work in a licensed kitchen. If your kitchen is not licensed, you’ll need to make sure you register with your county or local council.
Catering Business Insurance
Catering insurance is important if you want to protect your business from liability claims. You can get catering insurance through a business insurance agent or broker. Many caterers will try to run their business without insurance, but all it takes is one person claiming your food made them sick to ruin your business or destroy the profits of multiple special events.
Creating a Catering Business Plan
It’s important to have a business plan when starting any new business, and especially a catering business. A business plan is a document that outlines your business goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them.
Keeping Accurate Records
We recommend taking a short class on accounting and bookkeeping to learn how to keep accurate records for your catering business. Knowing how to track your income and expenses is critical to the success of any business, but especially a small business like catering. Keeping proper records allows you to write off the expenses that are relative to your business, which can save you a lot of money come tax time.
Marketing Your Catering Business
Catering is a people business – you will be working with clients, suppliers, and often times serving the food yourself. Excellent customer service skills are a must. Marketing yourself as a caterer can be difficult, but there are many ways to get started.
- Create a Google Business Profile – whether you’re a small business or are running multiple businesses, it is essential that you add your company to Google. They allow businesses to reply to reviews from customers, add a logo and information about the business, and keep track of how people are finding them online.
- Add Your Business to TripAdvisor – many factors go into a successful business, but customer reviews are one of the most important. When customers leave reviews on TripAdvisor, it helps your business appear higher in their search results and can give you valuable feedback about what you’re doing well and what needs improvement.
- Create a Business Profile on Yelp – Yelp allows caterers to add photos, business information, and respond to reviews. Potential customers can find your business through their search engine and read reviews from other customers before choosing to use your services.
- Get Listed in Local Directories – there are many local directories that cater to businesses in specific cities or regions. Getting listed in these directories helps people find you when they’re looking for a certified caterer.
Now that you know how to become a caterer and be your own boss, it’s time to get started on your catering business! Creating a catering company can be a lot of work, but it can also be very rewarding. With the right planning and execution, you can build a successful business that will serve your community for years to come.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Still curious what else you should know about becoming a caterer? Check out some of the most frequently asked questions below.
Can you make money as a caterer?
The average salary of a caterer in the United States is $52,000 per year, but how much money you make as a caterer will depend on a number of factors, including your experience, the size of your business, how many employees you need, and the location of your business. That said, catering is a lucrative industry, and if you’re good at what you do, you can make a lot of money.
What licenses do you need to be a caterer?
The answer to this question will vary depending on your location and the type of catering business you want to start. However, in most cases, you’ll need a food handler’s license and a business license. You may also need a special catering license or permit, depending on the laws in your state or county. Most county governments have websites dedicated to business licenses and permits, so that’s a good place to start your research.
How much does it cost to start a catering business?
In most cases, you can expect to spend at least a few thousand dollars on startup costs. However, the cost of starting a catering company will vary depending on if you own your event space or rent it, the size of your business, and the number of employees you need.
What skills do you need to be a caterer?
We recommend restaurant or food service experience, but it’s not required. If you have a passion for food and customer service, that’s all you really need! Of course, if you’re starting your catering business from scratch, there will be a bit of a learning curve. But don’t worry – with hard work and dedication, you’ll be whipping up gourmet meals in no time.
How profitable is the average catering business?
The average salary of a catering company owner is $52,000 per year, but depending on which types of events you cater and how many you cater per year, your income could range from $30,000 to $100,000+.
Do I have to serve food? Or can I start a drink catering business?
There are plenty of catering companies that only provide drinks! If you live in an area with a lot of weddings, for example, you could start a business that specializes in alcoholic beverages and running an open bar at receptions.
What are some tips for starting a catering business?
Here are a few more tips to get you started on the right foot:
– Choose your niche and stick to it. Whether you want to specialize in corporate events or weddings, family gatherings, or parties, it’s important to focus your energies on one area so you can become an expert in it. For example, if you are starting a BBQ catering company you might be better off targeting corporate parties than weddings.
– Build a strong team of experienced professionals. From cooks and servers to event planners and marketing experts, make sure you surround yourself with people who know the catering business inside and out.
– Invest in top-notch equipment. In the catering business, first impressions are everything. Make sure your serving ware and cooking equipment are up to par so your food looks as good as it tastes.
– Create a detailed business plan. Just like any other business, a catering company needs a well-thought-out business plan that outlines your goals, marketing strategy, financial projections, and more.