So you think you’ve got talent? Thinking about starting a home catering business? I’ve got some great news for you: Go for it!
Your business may be a one person cottage business, or a full fledged catering concern. Either way, it can be a real winner. There are just so many things that are to your advantage in setting up this kind of business, like
- You will work with a kind of creativity that you truly enjoy;
- Your low overhead means lower costs for your clients, a huge selling point;
- Repeat customers are a natural;
- There are so many niches to choose from that you can really create a unique business concept!
I make a pretty good spaghetti sauce, and I have a dessert or two that is really cool, but I’m no chef. You are. You have the extraordinary talent to create a memorable presentation for even the most mundane sandwiches.
So … what kind of niches are there for a home catering business?
- Cater parties for children
- Cater lunches for the businesses in the area
- Cater barbeques (with your special sauce of course)
- Cater picnics
- Cater romantic dinners
- Cater tea parties for social groups
- Cater meals for people who are housebound
- Cater open houses for the real estate industry
- Cater “morning munchies” for neighborhood garage sales
- Cater weddings, or just bake the cake
There is just so much more that you might do with your home based catering business. Huge corporate events are probably not your forte, but then these are usually held in hotels and convention centers that have their own catering facilities anyway.
Other than that, the sky is the limit.
First Steps In Starting Your Home Based Catering Business
First, of course, establish that a market exists. This isn’t always easy, but it is essential.
If you are working with an established business, like the real estate industry or local businesses, approach them directly with your ideas and see what they say.
Private parties are harder to gauge. Talking with people doesn’t always work. Friends will say what you want them to say, and strangers won’t know you. Try starting out small and just see what happens. If there is no response to your adverting, well that is telling you something. And it is not unusual to have the first idea bomb. Just pick yourself up and try a different angle.
Try talking with others who serve the same client base as you. For example, clowns serve the children’s party market. Talk with a few clowns and jugglers and magicians and see what they tell you. These people can be a great source of referrals too, so be sure to offer them a cookie or cake for their time and consideration.
Marketing Your Home Based Catering Business
Form marketing partnerships wherever you can. I have a friend who plays the flute professionally. (Jackie is VERY good.) Few parties, however, hire just a flutist. So she has partnered with a guitarist and a cellist. They market together, and separately. They don’t compete with each other for the same gig, rather helping each other out.
That same theory is easily applicable to caterers. Find a harpist or guitarist or banjo player, someone who fits your style, and do some joint marketing. Or try it with party planners, or whoever else works the same segment as you.
As with most businesses, it is all about connections and referrals. It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing, that referral, that connection. So go make those connections now, before you do anything else.
Running Your Catering Business
This is where you’ve got me all beat to heck. I’ve never even worked in a catering business, let alone run one. The closest I got was as a waitress in college.
If you’ve never worked in a catering business either, I do have a piece of advice: Go and work for a catering company. Find a company that wouldn’t be a competitor to yours, and apprentice yourself. Do it for free, or for very minimum wage. Do it to learn. This is honestly the step that could make or break your business.
How About Online Stuff For Your Catering Company?
Well, yes, there is strong potential here.
First, as a local company, you will want a basic website and you will want to register in your local business directory. That is a given.
What is not so common is expanding what you know and taking it online. Do you create salads to die for? Create an ebook and sell it. Put it up on Amazon as a soft bound book. Put it into your local bookstore. Or sell it as an ebook via ClickBank.
How about a video series showing how to make a complicated lavender souffle? maybe with other “lavender” dishes. Pick a theme and sell the video online. Also turn these recipes into their own book and sell it online.
Online sales can be as prominent as you want them to be. You can dabble, or you can attack it as a full fledged business in its own right. There are a huge number of truly outstanding cooking websites, and many do quite well. It was, in fact, a site about cookies that convinced me to start my first website about 15 years ago.
We’ve barely touched the surface of everything you need to know in starting a home based catering business. Do leave your questions and comments below, and feel comfortable responding to others as well.