With more available resources, combining your love for cooking and your goal to have an additional source of income is now easier to accomplish. You can do this by starting a small catering business and running it right from your home.
Perfecting your special dishes can get you far when you start your small business. However, if you want to take your venture a step higher by offering a broader menu, consider getting an ICCA Certificate in Cookery.
Taking up a culinary course allows you to discover more recipes and learn how to cook them. Later on, you can add your personal touches or twists when you include them in your menu to stand out from the competition.
If you choose the right short culinary course, you will also learn the basics of food safety, nutrition, storage, and other concepts and techniques you need to know to start a catering business.
Finding Success as a Home-Based Caterer
Whether you want to be a home-based full-time caterer or run your business on the side, there are several steps and tips you will do well to follow to ensure your success. Here are the top six:
1. Check what licenses and permits you need to operate
Although you will work in the confines of your home and you won’t have diners coming to your place, you may still need some licenses and permits to operate your business and avoid legal problems.
Go online to find out what specific documents you need to open a home-based catering venture. These may include a health and safety permit, a food handler’s permit, and a business permit.
Once you know what these documents are, research what you need to do to get them. This may mean coming up with a formal company name, creating a business plan, and preparing your kitchen for inspection, if necessary.
2. Know your potential customers
Understanding your target market is a good piece of advice you will do well to heed when starting as a caterer. When you know your potential customers’ needs, preferences, and budget, you can use them to offer a menu, price list, services, and benefits that will draw them in.
This simple step allows you to know exactly what you need to offer to your customers, eliminating plenty of guesswork that can lead to unnecessary expenses and food waste.
To get the information you need, get in touch with people you know in the business community. Find out what their companies look for in new caterers and what makes them hire the same one repeatedly.
You can also talk to event planners and people you know who often order from caterers for their small parties or gatherings.
3. Select your niche
The work you put into knowing your target market will help you decide which type of catering you should best offer.
Since you are starting your business, you ought to narrow down your service to one or two niches first. You can cater corporate events or small gatherings such as birthday parties and anniversaries for now.
Once you have selected your niche, you can establish your specialties and menu. You can opt for healthy or upscale foods or a particular cuisine such as Asian, French, Italian, or fusion.
Once your business is steady, more customers are asking you to expand your menu and services, and you are confident with creating new dishes, broaden your niche. These can include weddings, festivals, sports events, holiday parties, and concession stands.
But no matter how excited you are to take on new and more catering jobs, do not rush into it if you feel that you are not ready and confident with your additional menu items. Take your time in ensuring that you are satisfying your customers, earning their trust, and cementing their loyalty.
4. Complete your catering equipment inventory
Before you open for business officially, make sure you have everything you need to create your dishes, store them, and deliver them to your customers.
Use your menu and niche as a guide in writing down everything you need to start your catering service. Check your current inventory and take note of the equipment, tools, and utensils you have to buy or rent.
Determine if your current equipment and other supplies meet your requirements as well. For instance, you may need a bigger freezer for storing meat.
You might also have to invest in more serving dishes and trays, tray stands, and chafers to make your spread presentable and impress your customers. Investing in insulated food pan carriers and storage boxes is also essential if you want to maintain the temperature and quality of the food you are delivering.
5. Establish partnerships with your vendors
Working with the right vendors can mean success for your business. When you have suppliers you can rely on for budget-friendly, good quality ingredients, you will encounter fewer challenges in the kitchen and satisfying your customers.
Due to this reason, you have to choose your vendors carefully. Make sure you can depend on them to get all your food supplies at reasonable prices and that they will always deliver them on the agreed schedule.
Once you are sure you will be working with a reliable food supplier, strengthen your relationship with them. Aside from supplying your ingredients, they can recommend your company to others that may need a catering service. And this will mean more business for you.
6. Work on marketing your catering business
Whether you are running your catering business full-time or on the side, dedicate a specific time of the day to market your business. Be sure to look for help and check out fiverr vs upwork for options.
Start by updating your website constantly. Edit your menu if you have new dishes or promos and post photos of events you recently catered or the food you delivered.
If you don’t have a website yet, you can learn to create one on a free website builder by watching video tutorials. You can also ask an IT-savvy friend to build it for you.
Make sure you have accounts or pages on popular social media sites as well to reach out to more potential customers and make it easy for them to connect with you.
Lastly, if you have the budget to invest in paper-based promotional materials, do so. Professionally designed and made business cards, flyers, and brochures are still effective marketing tools.
But no matter how much hard work and investment you make in establishing your business correctly, expanding your menu, and marketing, everything will go to waste if you do not serve great food consistently.
As such, as a bonus tip, focus on maintaining the consistency of your food and satisfying your customers. By doing so, you will have greater chances of finding success as a caterer.
Shanaaz Raja is the Course Director at International Centre for Culinary Arts – ICCA Dubai.