The decision to open your own catering business is an expensive one. The initial financial investment is so great that potential caterers will often put up any property they currently own as collateral, risking their present in the hope of a successful future. Before you commit to your dream, you must thoroughly assess this risk. Never gamble more than you can afford to lose. Dependent upon the market and your location, you can start a catering business for as little as $2,000. This should cover not only the compulsory licensing but also the start-up gear you’ll need.
You can contact your local courthouse or search online to find out which state agency maintains and regulates catering licenses. This agency will vary from state to state, so it’s important to identify which one you’ll need to approach. You’ll also need a tax ID number, issued by the IRS, which will essentially serve as a social security number for your business. Lastly, you’ll need a food handler permit for yourself and all employees and a liquor license if you intend to serve alcohol.
Your budget for equipment and supplies will directly correspond to your initial goals for business size. Remember that your business will grow as your financials do, so don’t be too worried if you’re only able to focus on the essentials for now. With the paperwork and accouterments out of the way, you’ll need to focus on just one more expenditure: advertising. Minimal exposure should cost you around $500 to $1000 in the very beginning stages. Ensure that you have enough money to support yourself in these stages as it can take some time to see a profit. In owning your own catering company, you will not only be responsible for the food side of your operation but for the business side as well.
You will have to be a CPA, secretary, manager, customer service agent, marketing/sales/ad representative, and CFO all wrapped into one. Some responsibilities include bookkeeping, scheduling, marketing, responding to client correspondence, and maintaining and updating your website. If you’re not up to one or more of these tasks, you can hire someone to handle them for you. The most important aspect of your business will be the ability to line up new jobs. This will require you to be an excellent “people person.” A people person is someone who can communicate effectively with a broad spectrum of people-from a busy housewife to a high-powered CEO-with ease and confidence. To be a successful caterer, you will need to understand a client’s vision, anticipate his or her needs, and translate them into a smooth and spectacular event. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the wide range of skills required by your new venture.
Talk to business owners to get a feel for what you’re getting into. Many of the functions and challenges of owning your own company are universal, so they don’t need to be fellow caterers. And while you don’t need an MBA to start your own business, it may help to take a few courses in business and service management. By taking these steps to prepare and educate yourself, you can help to ease your anxieties and better ensure your success