Taking the First Steps
Starting your own catering business involves more than simply firing up the stove and putting out the welcome mat. But with a little help, it's not rocket science either. If you're ready to begin your career as a caterer, and you're thinking of owning your own business, there are plenty of resources for caterers starting small businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration website may be a great place to start.
Things an Independent Caterer Should Think About
Starting your catering business may be your dream, but focusing on the practicalities will set you up for success.
- Should you specialize in a certain kind of cuisine or event?
- Are your skills suited to both the administrative and creative aspects of the business, or do you need a partner or other outside help?
- Who is your competition, and how will you distinguish yourself as a caterer?
- What kind of equipment and facilities will you need?
- How will you finance your catering business?
Getting the Right Catering Business Licenses
State licensing requirements for your catering business will vary, so research the local requirements for your business. In addition to getting a business license, you may need specific permits and licenses to work as a professional caterer.
You will likely need to get a food service permit and a food handler's permit for you and any employees you may hire. Some cities and states may stipulate that your private kitchen can't be used for commercial food preparation, so you may also need to find or build other facilities.
Protecting Your Catering Business Investment
In light of the fact that there are health and safety regulations for caterers to follow, as well as possible product liability, consulting an attorney is a good idea. While the added expense may not be welcome, especially during the process of starting up a business, getting the help of someone with legal expertise can give you peace of mind and help protect your business investment.
Are You Ready to Make it on Your Own?
Owning a business isn't for everyone. For some, the responsibilities of running a catering business on a day-to-day basis may outweigh the flexibility and freedom of self-employment. Before you make the investment in your starting your own catering business, honestly evaluate your working style and skill set. If the challenges of self-employment inspire you rather than intimidate you, you're probably ready to set out on your own as a caterer. Make your business plan and go for it!