Thanks to having relatively low start-up costs, a career in catering is now more viable than ever. Since the recession, many people have been made redundant from existing jobs, and others have finished school or university and been unable to secure employment due to a shortage of jobs. This led to people looking into starting their own businesses. Catering, made popular and attractive by the many television cookery shows, is an option accessible to most, providing they are well prepared and can turn their hand to rustling up delicious food. So how do you break into the food industry? Read on to find out.
Sort out the legalities
It is a legal obligation that every caterer registers his food premises at least 28 days before opening for business. To do this, you’ll need to either: download and complete an online form from your local authority’s website, or take a trip down there in person. This applies to every catering operation, whether you’re running it from fixed premises, mobile van, or from the comfort of your own home kitchen.
You’ll also be required to undergo a health and safety inspection. This is to ensure that your premises meets the correct health and safety stipulations and is very important when it comes to serving food and drinks to members of the public.
Choose your specialism
There are many different types of catering options available to you. You may wish to cater for children’s birthday parties, for weddings and other private functions or for high class corporate events. There is also the option of buying a mobile catering van and setting up for business at outdoor events such as festivals, markets and car boot sales.
Before you can start to offer your services, it is essential that you decide exactly what set up you will offer. You can test out your recipes on friends and family members and ask them for feedback. This may help you to decide on the type of catering business you should start. Research into the demands of people in your locality is also useful – it will help you to see what type of service is most required and to identify potential gaps in the market.
Create a menu
Having decided on your catering set-up, it is now time to devise a menu. Remember to create a varied choice of dishes that people can choose from for their event. This will ensure that you can cater for many different tastes. You should also provide a good choice of options for vegetarians, vegans and other special dietary requirements.
Market your business
Getting the word out about your catering business may be a lot easier than you first thought. A lot of your marketing will be done by word of mouth. It is for that reason that it is essential for you to always serve food to a high standard. Before each event, be sure to liaise with the organiser so that you are absolutely clear of what is expected of you. Stick around for the event and use this as a networking opportunity.
When people taste your food, it is useful to follow up with a business card or a friendly word – they’re more likely to remember you and how delicious the food tasted. After the event, clear away dirty dishes and throw away rubbish – leaving a place clean and tidy will help to strengthen your good reputation and your clients are more likely to pass on how good your services are to other contacts.
As well as word of mouth, you may decide to design leaflets and flyers for distribution to the homes and businesses in your locality. You could also look into buying advertising space in bridal magazines or event brochures so that people can contact you that way. Finally, use the side of your catering van to clearly advertise your services – make sure you include a phone number or website address so that people can store your contact details when on the move.
Try these tips today and see how much of a success your catering enterprise is.
License: Creative Commons
Johan Kemp is a freelance food critic and former restaurant owner. He is currently writing in conjunction with Makro.