Starting a Catering Business
For those who love cooking and eating, catering is an excellent business opportunity that would perfectly match their passion.
It is a very promising venture, with a good chance of being extremely lucrative. However, you must know that more than culinary talent is required. In fact, there are many business aspects you must learn in order to be successful.
Here are ten key ideas to guide you in starting a catering business:
1. Decide on what market you will pursue. There are two basic considerations in deciding on this matter. First, is your ability to sell to your target market and second, is your current capacity to deliver excellent service. Both are critically important as you cannot be good in one and overlook the other. If your desired market has a very high standard which you cannot meet, then there will be neither repeat sales nor referrals.
2. Start with packed meals first. Although most of us imagine a full service or buffet type catering event, there are in fact several levels of catering service. For a beginner, it is best to start with the easiest setup and with the least chances of problems.
3. Plan your menu and presentation. The prime consideration here is not only what would delight your target market, but also what would be within the capacity of your kitchen. The food must not only taste good, but also be pleasing to the eyes. This is why the color combination and presentation of the food must be attractive.
4. Rent or acquire second hand equipment at first. Conserve your cash and try to make do with the least expensive but still reliable equipment. Most of your customers would not care nor know how much you spent. Postpone buying a delivery van until profits are flowing in steadily for at least a year.
5. Get needed manpower. Never allow a poorly trained staff to ruin the dining experience. Better to pay higher for expert manpower, as customer service is just as important as the quality of the food.
6. Learn the basics. Although you may not do it yourself, you must be knowledgeable enough to spot deficiencies in such things as food preparation, table skirting, and layout of plates, glasses, and utensils. This will enable you to supervise effectively.
7. Establish rules for operations and personnel for excellent service. Have an employee manual written up to instil discipline.
8. Know how to cost and price profitably. One of the worst blunders in costing is to overlook the overhead expenses. Beginners often just factor in the cost of ingredients. Another factor to control are the percentage of cost of the key items, these are food, labor, and rent. Going beyond a certain percentage will make your cost too much to make a profit. For example, your food costs should not go beyond forty percent of the total price you are going to charge.
9. Market your catering service. You must have promotional tools to help you establish credibility in the eyes of your client. One of the most potent is to have full color brochures with pictures of your offerings. With modern digital printing you can print only a few pieces at an affordable rate. Do not forget to have a website too as they are now inexpensive and many people now search for caterers in the internet.
10. Have post event assessments. With every catering event there are dozens of lessons to be learned. Study how things could be better. Having a feedback form for your customers will also help you know where improvements can be made.
There is much more to learn about catering than being able to serve food. Want to know more about this promising business? BusinessCoach, Inc., a leading business seminar provider, conducts seminars on how to start and manage a catering business.
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*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.