Catering Business Ideas

Mary Gormandy White
caterers at work

There are many catering business ideas for people interested in turning a passion for cooking into a career.

Preparations to Start a Catering Business

It's important to understand the many facets involved in starting and running a successful catering company because it is more than cooking. When thinking about launching a catering business, it's important to develop a comprehensive business plan before making a final decision about whether to pursue your catering business ideas.

The act of writing a business plan forces you to think through every aspect of the venture so you'll be positioned to make informed decisions as you move forward. Your business plan should discuss the type of services you want to provide, details about how you'll market and operate your business, and information about who your competitors are. It should also include a thorough budget and information about how you'll fund your new company.

If you find the idea of creating a business plan to be daunting, you may want to invest in an inexpensive software application that will provide you with a pre-formatted layouts of each section included in a business plan document. You may also want to seek assistance from your local SCORE chapter or Small Business Administration office.

Types of Catering Business Ideas

When starting a catering business, it's important to consider what type of services you plan to provide, and whether or not you intend to specialize in a particular aspect of the industry. Some caterers provide a wide range of options, while others concentrate on an area of specialty.

Special Event Catering

Many of the most successful catering companies specialize in providing catering for specific types of events such as weddings, reunions, anniversary parties, birthday parties, and other large scale celebrations. If you plan to provide this type of catering, you'll need to be prepared to work most weekends, and to hire servers and bartenders on an as-needed basis.

In the catering business, it's important to network with others who offer services to the special event market in order to attract customers. Make a point of getting to know:

  • Wedding planners
  • Event planners
  • Photographers
  • Bakery owners
  • Other local professionals who provide event services

Business Catering

Another idea to consider when determining what market you want to reach with your catering business is the business and corporate market. Companies often utilize catering services to provide meals for business meetings, employee training sessions, and other types of work-related events. These types of special events are typically smaller in scale than other types of occasions, and usually take place during the work week. Catering businesses that offer this type of service often utilize direct mail and telemarketing to make contact with local businesses to determine who is in charge of ordering business meals. Membership in your local Chamber of Commerce can be very beneficial if you plan to pursue this catering business idea.

School Catering

Some schools do not have on-site cafeterias, and instead rely on local businesses or catering services to provide lunches to students on a daily basis. If you're interested in this type of work, you'll need to contact schools in your area to learn which ones have lunch brought in, and inquire about the process of being considered as a vendor. Along with this, check what nutritional guidelines must be followed when providing student meals in your state.

Meals to Go Catering

Not everyone who enjoys home cooked meals likes to do the actual preparation. There may be a market in your area for "meals to go" catering. This involves assembling dishes that customers can purchase frozen or refrigerated, so that they just have to pop them in the oven when they're ready to enjoy a home cooked meal.

Where to Start Your Catering Business

One of the first decisions you'll need to make about your catering business is whether you'll operate from your home or if you'll open a retail storefront. The type of catering services you plan to provide can have an impact on whether or not working from home is feasible, or if your plans dictate a retail location.

If you decide on a home-based catering business, check to see whether or not there are any zoning or health department requirements that prohibit you from operating a commercial catering business from your house. You'll also need to consider whether or not you have the space in your home kitchen to prepare and store the volume of food necessary.

While you go through these preliminary steps, think about how you plan to market your business when deciding where on a location. Marketing a home based business means that you won't have the benefit of signage or traffic from other local businesses to attract customers. Additionally, operating from home might be feasible if you primarily intend to cater events that will involve delivery and setup, but won't be conducive to drop-in or meals to go business.

Is a Catering Business Right for You?

You are the only one who can decide if launching a catering business is in your best interest. By spending time exploring the different types of catering services and drafting a complete business plan, you'll be able to make an informed decision based on relevant facts.

Catering Business Ideas