If you are a lover of the kitchen and are thinking about making a little extra money on the side, starting a catering business may be a great venture for you. You don’t always have to start with a huge company catering to hundreds of people at a time, although that would be a great way to get going! I started cooking for 20-50 person parties on the side, mostly a weekend gig, but that blossomed into a full time, fully staffed successful business. It was a great experience and I definitely recommend giving it a shot if you have a love for the art of food. Owning your own business is the best, even if it’s a pool cleaning company!
Even if cooking for 20-50 people sounds intimidating you could always start out offering a coffee and dessert bar. Many people take advantage of this for evening dinner parties. This can be especially successful in larger cities, or with any corporate event. Click here to see some great catering menu ideas.
The biggest hurdle you will find in the beginning is simply attracting clients. Word of mouth is always the cheapest and easiest way to start off so I highly recommend getting some great business cards made as soon as possible. Try to find a niche that the larger competition has overlooked, like the coffee and desert parties, or engagement/bachelore(ette) parties. Be sure to tell your extensive network of friends and family, and ask them to actively promote your services. You can even offer a commision to give them a little incentive, just make sure that you have the commsion price included in your profit margins. Then, reach out to local business owners and see if they will let you leave a stack of your cards at their checkout counters or somewhere their clients may be able to see your business. You can even partner with restaurants that don’t offer the service. First see if they will promote your services for free, and if not, give them a commission of the profit. It’s hard to say no to passive income like that. Once you have exhausted all of these options and you’re ready to start growing you can have a website made and even just pay for leads. There are a couple of incredible companies that can help with this, www.pbseopros.com is my favorite.
The first step you will need to take towards your new venture is to figure out what you will be offerening, and what equipment you will need to offer these things. I’m a very big proponent of a lean startup, so I would wait to purchase any big items, or anything in bulk until you have your first customer and you know what they want/need. As long as you know where to purchase or rent the items and a timeframe for the delivery you will be fine. It can’t hurt to have a backup either, even if it’s a little more expensive. Think of it as paying a little more for a product to have little less risk involved. Also, even if you break even, or lose money on the first one or two events because you are purchasing equipment as you go it’s still a good thing because you are investing in your business. Be sure to have this mentality because you will have to invest significant amounts of time and money into the business in order for it to be successful, and some of it will be unpaid!
Take into account the fact that a large majority of the time caterers are also the ones that supply tables, linens, silverware, plates, cups, and many other little things for a party. You can always figure out everything your clients need in your initial meeting, and if you do not want to purchase these items in the beginning be sure that you know where to rent them, and how much the cost will be BEFORE you give the client a quote. The last thing you want to do is give the client a quote and find out later that you are barely breaking even for all of the work you are putting in.