Facts Every Chef Needs to Know When Starting a Catering Business

Tips and advice for those who want to go into catering.

With the Filipino fondness for social events, there is always a good demand for catering services. For some start up entrepreneurs, it is a good way to establish a business even without a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and for some restaurant owners, it is a good way to expand their portfolio.

Starting a catering business is not as easy as cooking larger portions of your house made specialties, though, as there are several aspects to be considered, both on the culinary the operations side, not to mention marketing in order to ensure success. Here are some things to consider before deciding to enter the catering business.

1. Specialty Menu

There are many caterers offering their services, ranging from the home cooks to professional kitchens, each having something to bring to the table. Your menu should have a list of specialties that not only taste good but also fit the budget of your market. Clients will always look at value for money, and at events where they will be feeding large number of guests, budget will always count. This is where a good knowledge of food costing will come in. Innovation and an understanding of clients’ needs are also important. Some corporate events have shifted to packed lunches for their participants, but at the same time still expecting something more presentable than the non-eco-friendly Styrofoam packs. This can be something worth specializing in.

2. Proper Equipment

Using home kitchen equipment is never enough when it comes to feeding a steady stream of guests (only to limited number to cater). When cooking large amounts of food for a catering event, industrial-sized and industrial strength equipment are needed. Those are only some of the things to invest in, as caterers are also expected to have quality utensils, glassware, and of course classy chafing dishes.

To ensure that everything is ready on the day of the event, a point person should count out all the cutlery and other materials before they are loaded on the catering van. Having this checklist will also alert staff if something was left behind.

3. Reliable Transport

One of the things a caterer needs is a way to transport all the food, utensils, and of course, staff to the venue. There are van and truck rentals that a start-up caterer can partner with and book ahead of time, but larger operations may need to have their own vehicles, especially when there are multiple catering jobs at different locations. With having a large vehicle for the business, however, also brings other considerations such as parking and maintenance. Find an arrangement that will suit the catering needs and budget.

Staff size is an important aspect when starting a catering business (Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Smart Staffing

One of the hallmarks of a good caterer is prompt service. Buffet trays should be refilled immediately, for example, so that people waiting for a preferred dish will not hold up the line. Attentive staff also need to be able to serve drinks promptly and collect dirty dishes immediately so the venue does not look untidy.

While a catering business start-up cannot afford to keep large staff on payroll, finding the right people to fill in temporarily positions and equipping them with training on the level of service that you expect them to give will benefit your business to the long run. There should also be a good sized pool of manpower, to ensure that there will always be staff on hand even for large events.

It will also help to invest in uniforms and other form of branding, as part of a marketing strategy, so guests will remember the quality service they got from the waitstaff of the catering company and perhaps consider them for their own events.

5. Food Safety

A caterer should always be committed to the quality of the food that will be served and ensure that it is served at the proper temperature, to prevent untoward incidents regarding food safety. Along with this, staff should always practice proper hygiene, and there should be no cross contamination during transport. Usually, each country has their own standardization approved by their health department. So finding out what is your regional rules on hygiene and food safety regulation is really important.

Starting a catering business can be a profitable aspect of the food industry, but one must be ready for a ton of preparation, hard work, and, of course, the clean-up that comes after every event as the scale and environment of working are unlike in a restaurant.


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