How to Run a Small Catering Business and Turn a Profit
Owning your own business comes with plenty of perks and benefits. If you’re passionate about cooking, then perhaps a catering business would allow you to scratch your entrepreneurial itch. It takes a lot of work, but it can be tremendously rewarding.
Building a Successful Catering Business
The catering industry is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting industries. It attracts a variety of people – including chefs, event planners, and serial entrepreneurs – and promises tremendous flexibility and opportunity for those who are willing to put in the work.
If this is your first go at starting a professional venture, you’re in luck. The catering business provides an excellent opportunity for you to get your feet wet in a variety of areas – including sales, customer service, accounting, and more.
Let’s dig into some tips and best practices to help you get started:
Develop a Business Plan
Whether you’re planning on catering a few small events every year, or you’re interested in building a booming business that caters big weddings and conferences every weekend, it’s smart to develop a business plan. If nothing else, it’ll give your business some building blocks to fall back on when issues and opportunities arise.
The key to a successful business plan is to be as specific as possible. Within the catering industry, there are dozens of niches. Each niche requires a unique approach. For example, catering weddings is a lot different than catering private events at people’s homes. Details matter in a business plan.
Identify a Unique Value Proposition
“Also known as a unique selling proposition (USP), your UVP is a clear statement that describes the benefit of your offer, how you solve your customer’s needs and what distinguishes you from the competition,” entrepreneur Peep Laja explains.
It doesn’t have to be complex, but you do need to develop a UVP alongside your business plan. Again, this will help clarify your approach (both in the big picture strategy and the finer details).
Zero in on a Target Client
Ideally, your catering business will eventually reach a point where past clients refer new clients, and you’re able to benefit from organic lead generation. But in the early days, you’ll have to pursue clients. The more clarity you have on the type of clients you want to reach, the better your results will be.
If weddings are your focus, then you can narrow your search to engaged couples (and perhaps their parents). If you’re interested in catering business events, you’ll want to develop relationships with local companies in the area. These are two totally different audiences. Focusing on a target client will make you more efficient.
Have the Right Supplies
A good catering business is prepared for anything. If you want to delight your customers and deliver unforgettable service, you’ll need to have the right supplies on hand at all times.
Aside from the basic catering supplies, purchase some canopies and keep them in your truck/trailer. Canopies that can be easily set up or taken down allow you to quickly create shelter and protection from the elements at outdoor events. It’s also wise to have a generator on hand for situations where there’s a power outage or other event that prevents you from using critical equipment.
It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. When in doubt, you should keep an item on hand.
Your job doesn’t end when catering events come to a close. After a successful catering event, it’s important that you follow up with your client and gather feedback on how the experience went.
If they were satisfied with the experience, consider asking them for a review or testimonial. Client referrals are one of the best ways to generate new business. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.
Learn as You Go
As a small business owner – particularly a new one with minimal experience – you can’t be afraid to mess up. Embrace the reality that you’re going to make mistakes.
Stop seeing mistakes as terrible things that invalidate your standing as a business owner. Instead, view them as learning opportunities that allow you to grow. In adopting this mentality, you’ll find it far easier to build your business on a firm foundation that allows for future growth and success.