Starting a Catering Business

by Willie Biggart

The role of cooking in the modern world has shifted; originally seen as a necessity to provide fuel for the family, it has become an activity where amateur chefs can display their creativity. Whipping up creative dishes in the kitchen has become a passion for more and more people. The next step could be starting up a catering business on your own, where you mix with a range of people who will appreciate your cooking and give you instant feedback- what's not to like?

However, as with creating any menu, the preparation is just as important as the realisation and to turn a famous phrase on its head; life is not too short to stuff a mushroom.

Probably the most important piece of advice for catering start-ups would be to first of all ain some experience working in a commercial kitchen or in a front of house capacity; you may be a regular Jamie Oliver working at home and in your own time, but you need to find out how you would cope under the pressure of a group of hungry guests demanding to be fed 10 minutes ago. Even working in an unfamiliar space can throw the most confident of chefs as they frantically search for an icing nozzle.

If you are happy that this is pressure you will thrive on, next comes the boring bit, the paperwork. Unlike other small businesses, which have to be on top of the accounts, tax and insurance, caterers also have to comply with the rigorous demands of the Health and Safety at Work Act. However there are specialist companies around to help you, such as Spoonfed, who offer bespoke technical support, from invoicing and ordering through to creating menus which will take away the complications, leaving time for you in the kitchen.

Perhaps the best tip from those in the business is to start small, aim for the engagement party at home rather than the wedding in a castle and keep the menu on similarly compact lines; offer a few dishes you know will please rather than an extensive choice which will increase your workload and therefore cut into profit.

Finally don't just rely on the good notices of those you have fed to sell the business, go out and market your business. A business card to every guest you have fed or complimentary printed paper napkins with every order is a start but investing in your own website with great photographs of your signature dishes is well worth the time and effort. And again Spoonfed can make sure this crucial marketing device looks clean, clear and appetising.

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