Business At A Glance
Startup Costs: $10,000 – $50,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Online Operation? No
If you’re one of those fearless people who enjoys giving elegant dinnerparties, you get rave reviews from guests and your relatives beg tohave holidays at your house because of your cooking, then cateringmight be your cup of tea.
As a caterer, you’ll plan menus and elegantor playful presentations for everything from company picnics todebutante balls, then cook it all up, deliver it to the event, serve itand clean up afterward. You can specialize in affairs like weddings;specific goodies like cakes or cookies; or clients like corporations,charities or individual parties. While your family may clamor for yourmeatloaf and mashed potatoes, you’ll need more than just the ability towhip up some spuds.
You’ll also need a flair for presentation–theability to make the fruits (and other foods) of your labors lookfancy–as well as a talent for the latest trends in foods and partyideas. You’ll also need an abundance of organizational, time-managementand record-keeping skills.
Catering requires lots of hard-core planningand pacing. Last but not least, you need a good grounding in safefood-handling practices, product liability laws and health regulations,and good people skills. The advantages to this business are that it’screative and fun–you can throw a party any time you like and serve upall sorts of new dishes and new ideas–and somebody else foots thebill. It’s gratifying–people always appreciate being fed, and whenyour presentation is elegant or intriguing, they’re impressed as well.You can start part time and you can base your office at home.
Your clients can be people with something to celebrate–a wedding,anniversary, graduation or other milestone–or any other kind of bash.You can go after the corporate market, helping to make a splash atconferences, meetings, employee-morale boosters and grand openings, oryou can set a course for businesses like yacht charters, sunset cruisesand dinner theaters.
To snag the celebratory types, develop a referralnetwork–introduce yourself to wedding planners, bridal boutiques, cakedecorators and bakers, florists, and card and party supply shopkeepers.Hand out brochures and business cards and check in often. Bring a fewchoice tidbits, snazzy hors d’ouevres or sinful desserts to give asgoodwill gestures. Everybody loves an unexpected treat and the personwho delivers it–this is a good way to ensure that they remember youfondly and refer you to their own clients. For corporate and otherbusiness types, send a sales letter and brochure, then follow up with aphone call requesting an appointment to discuss your services. Cater acharity event in exchange for publicity, then get your company writtenup in local publications. Volunteer yourself for a local radio chatshow and answer questions about throwing successful parties.
Other than a commercial kitchen, the only things you need to getstarted are a phone and a delivery vehicle. A computer and printer arealways nice but not a necessity for starters. You can get around thekitchen problem by arranging to use a restaurant’s facility for a smallfee in its off-hours or by sharing the rental costs of a commercialkitchen and its use with other caterers.