It is a sad fact that many businesses in the food industry do not last beyond their first year, with restaurants and bars being amongst the most likely to fold. But if you want to work in this sector because you are confident in your cooking abilities and hygiene practices, do your research and plan your business carefully and you could start up a very successful small catering business.

What Type of Catering Business?

A catering business could involve supplying food and drinks for special occasions such as weddings and Christenings, or it could involve taking regular orders and delivering lunches to local businesses on a daily basis. Decide on who your customers will be and carry out some market research to work out what sort of food and presentation you should serve and what sort of prices you should charge.

It is vital that whatever type of catering you decide to undertake, whether it is hot food, buffets or sandwiches, that your food is:

• well-prepared,
• well-presented,
• reasonably priced,
• delivered on time, and
• exactly as ordered.

If you get the details right, your customers will be happy and will recommend your services to others. If you are catering for an event, the guests at that event might later ask you to cater for their event, or recommend you to friends. Word-of-mouth business spreads well if the business performs well, so treat every occasion as an opportunity to advertise your services.

Start-Up Costs

Once you have decided on your business plan in terms of your market and budget, you will probably need a loan to get started. A bank or building society will usually expect to see a formal business plan (or they can help you to formulate one) to make sure that their money will be wisely invested and likely to be repaid.

Think about how much of a loan you will need and exactly what that loan will be spent on. Chances are you will need a fully stocked catering kitchen. But what else, staff? A refrigerated van to deliver your food? You may need a large dishwasher, pots and pans and serving plates. All of these costs can add up, so think carefully about how much your start-up costs will be and how long it will probably take you to pay off those costs.

Marketing and Advertising

Once you are up and running you will probably get much of your early business from friends and associates who know about your service and want to support your new venture. Your advertising should be carefully targeted at your key market. For example, if you are running a local sandwich or lunchtime service for local businesses, you could take round menus or even free samples to tempt them to use your catering service. If you are planning to cater for functions such as weddings, think about advertising in shops that specialise in weddings such as bridal shops – perhaps you could recommend them if they recommend you?

Setting up a small catering business can be tiring work and you will put in a lot of hours, especially during your first year as you become established. Don’t worry though as there are plenty of resources out there to help you on your way to creating your perfect catering business and in the long run it can be a very worthwhile career that you will enjoy.