Starting A Catering Company
Launching your own catering company is a good way to go into business for yourself without the exorbitant costs of opening a restaurant. You can monitor how much business you take in and schedule vacation time for yourself by simply not taking on business during those times. You may find that you get extremely busy during the summer months catering outdoor parties and events and then again in the fall and winter months around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so you can plan vacations for early spring. A great deal of satisfaction can come from this flexibility in your schedule and being your own boss.
Some caterers prepare food in their own kitchens and then transport it, while other caterers prefer to cook everything at the events. Be sure to find out the health restrictions and certifications that are needed in your state for each of these catering methods.
Before you decide to jump into the unknown waters of owning a catering company, it’s a good idea to get specific experience in the field. Sharon Odmann, chef owner of a catering company, gives this advice:
If you want to start your own catering business, work for a caterer first. That way you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Caterers have experience you can learn from; they know what their clients want. Even if you only work for a caterer for six months to a year, you’ll gain a lot. This is sometimes called retained earnings—you are learning a lot but you aren’t getting paid very much. However, later in your career, you’ll profit from having gained that experience.
While caterers need to be extremely organized and have strong culinary skills, they also should understand the psychology of serving people. Learning the nuances of how to provide excellent service to guests while containing costs can help you immeasurably. Chef Odmann describes two examples of this:
One thing you can learn from a caterer is how to set up a buffet table. You need to understand the psychology of what the guests see when they step up to a buffet table. If the table is flat and just has platters of food on it, the guests may be disappointed even before they taste any of the food. However, if the table is artfully arranged, multi- leveled, and pleasing to the eye, guests feel they will be getting something special. There are other valuable tips you can learn from caterers too, such as cost control. For example, if you place the inexpensive items at the beginning of the line, such as bread, salad, and potatoes, then the guest already has a full plate and is happy about how much food there is before she even gets to the prime rib or roast beef at the end of the line and may not take as much of the more expensive items.
After you gain experience working for a caterer and decide to open your own catering business, remember that several niche markets exist. Research each market before you decide which one to focus on. Perhaps you want to cater banquets in reception halls, or small parties for individual clients, or big corporate meals served on a daily basis. There are several opportunities available in the catering field, so don’t limit yourself. After you build up your business and are realizing significant profits, you may want to open a catering hall and offer your services on your own premises. Once you break into this field, you have many options available to advance your career and succeed as a chef caterer.
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