Before Starting a Home Catering Business
If you love to cook and you love people too, you may have thought of trying to put it
to work and actually making money doing what you love. Before starting a home catering
business, determine whether you want to specialize in off-premise catering or on-premise.
Off-premise catering may involve bringing a rental stove, cooking on the available stove,
or cooking at your own facility and transporting it properly.
Starting any home based business comes with its own set of challenges and benefits, and
many of these are the same, regardless of the type of business you start. That said, there
are a few things you need to consider which are unique to the catering world.
First of all, no matter how much you love to cook, the catering business is as much
about people as it is about cooking. You need to have the patience and personality to deal
with all kinds of people, many of them stressed out because the event you are catering is
of utmost importance to them. You need to be the calm in the midst of a storm.
Think like a girl scout (or boy scout) and always be prepared. Chaos can and does
happen. Always check out the premises where the event will happen in advance so that you
come prepared for no trash cans, no driveway access, no close parking, no place to dump
ice, no outside lighting, no power source where you need it, no shade, or no shelter from
the wind. All these things can easily be dealt with, IF you come prepared and it isn't
sprung on you.
Catering special events and parties is fun, exciting, hard work and wildly diverse.
(especially in the big city) No two parties are ever alike, and that's how it should be.
Expect seasonal spurts and slumps. Take advantage of the slow periods to grow your
business, develop new menus, styles, and just plain kick back. Store up your energy for
the busy periods where you will be working round the clock. You hope.
You must be a creative problem solver; someone who can think on the fly and under
pressure. You must be able to thrive on challenge and embrace it, or you will be doomed.
You must enjoy physical activity. You'll be on your feet most of the time. As soon as
you can afford it, delegate the heavy lifting to strong young people who enjoy it. (But
don't let them overdo it!)
Find a good local catering staffing agency, because they will be your best friends in a
pinch. If there's none in your area, you must rely on your own stand-by staff, who may not
always be available when you need them. A core staff of bartenders, servers and cooks that
you use regularly will be more loyal if you pay and treat them well.
Before starting a home catering business, I highly recommend doing some work as a
freelance catering staffperson for a variety of catering companies.
This will help you learn the business through other's mistakes, giving you a head start
when you do venture out on your own. Plus, you'll learn about the wide diversity of events
and parties imaginable, and the way different catering companies work. You'll see up close
what works and what doesn't, helping you figure out what you will bring to the local market.