It seems that you almost have everything to put up a successful food business - exceptional culinary skills, an eye for detail, innovative recipes, people who support your passion. All that’s left to do is to make it happen. But you’re clueless on how to get started. So you start your research with this vital question - Can I Start a Catering Business From Home?
To give you the short answer - YES. However, you need to prepare yourself for a roller-coaster ride because it’s a bit complex than you think. Starting a catering business at home is a rewarding yet challenging venture. But don’t worry, I’m here to break down everything for you.
Despite our current industry situation, catering is among the many food businesses that continue to thrive. The reason is simple — people cannot live without food. We, as humans, crave interactions and great food. And that’s what catering is all about!
Indeed, catering is a great business you must look into because it offers a lot of perks like:
Working at your own pace and time is one of the most apparent advantages of being a caterer. Unlike a typical workday where you work 9-to-5, catering lets you manage your schedule freely. You don’t have to follow particular working hours because guess what, you are your own boss! You can take a rest day if you need to and then hustle all week after.
Managing a catering business provides you a lifetime of learning. Over time, you’ll be surprised at how skillful you are in cooking and everything about creativity. Since you’re always on your feet - preparing and serving food, organizing fabulous events, supervising large groups, traveling from one venue to another - you continuously learn. As a result, you accumulate creative ideas, cooking techniques, and catering hacks that significantly help you grow as an entrepreneur.
Since you’re not confined in a specific space and constantly move around, you make a LOT of connections. You’re likely to meet acquaintances and make new friends in every booking you take. Either a client, vendor, staff, competitor, fellow food entrepreneur - there’s always another person you have to add to your network.
According to IBISWorld, the market size of the caterers’ industry is likely to increase by 2% this year. This data proves that there’s growth and profit behind a catering business—no wonder why we have so many aspiring caterers all over the country.
But you must remember, it’s still your responsibility to maintain your catering business’s profitability. With that said, you have to constantly check your numbers to ensure that your profits don’t just go down the drain. Familiarize yourself with the different ways on how you can improve your profitability, like reducing your costs, redesigning your menu, empowering your sales team, and so on so forth.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s indeed possible to run a catering business in the comfort of your home. It might be a slight struggle, but it’s entirely feasible. You just have to take note of the following legal considerations:
First of all, you have to decide on a particular business structure to register your business with the state. The following permits and licenses you have to obtain in the future will be heavily affected by your business structure. So choose wisely. In the U.S., there are four primary business structures you may choose from. These include:
A Sole Proprietorship is the business structure automatically assigned to you if you do business transactions but don’t register as any kind of business. It’s easy to form and lets you have complete control over your business. This type of business is perfect for those caterers who still want to test the waters before heading into a larger and more formal business.
This business structure is ideal for businesses with numerous owners. So if you’re establishing your catering company with another person, perhaps a friend or a family member, then a partnership is the way to go.
LLC is the most common and recommended business structure for small to medium-sized catering businesses. Why? Because LLC lets you take the benefits of both partnership and corporation structures! An LLC gives you the legal protections you need since it mainly protects your personal assets.
The cost to form a Corporation is way higher than other business structures. So if you’re still easing into the catering industry and have a tight budget, I advise you to pass on this type of business for now.
The regulations for food handling and preparations vary from state to state. Thus, the best thing to do is contact your local health department and Secretary of State to learn further the paperwork you have to accomplish before kickstarting your catering business at home. But in most cases, food businesses are required to have a general business license, zoning permit, and health permits.
Many states restrict the use of residential kitchens as catering facilities. And unfortunately, even if your state allows you to use your home kitchen to operate your catering business, there’s still a lot of work to do. Because now, you’ll have to spend a massive chunk of your financial resources on kitchen renovations and new catering equipment to meet the regulatory standards set by your local health department.
But on a positive note, upgrading your space, tools, and equipment is a big boost for your business’s overall quality. Right? After all, a well-organized kitchen will lead you to have a better cooking experience and premium-grade food.
Now that you have mainly acquired the answers to your initial question: “Can I start a catering business at home?” There’s another thing that you must ponder - the marketing of your catering business. Because the reality is you can have the most advanced kitchen equipment and impressive dish line-up, but your business will never grow unless you get some bookings from customers. That’s why your marketing strategy is just as crucial as your niche market & final menu. Effective marketing generates leads, customers, AND sales.
Here are a few marketing ideas that can help you get ahead of the competition and capture more bookings:
Word-of-Mouth or WOM is a timeless form of advertisement that newbies and seasoned caterers swear by. It’s easy and mostly free since people are promoting your products/services at their own will! But of course, you have to do some things that will spark people’s interest first. Meaning, you have to trigger a buzz. For instance, you can post a creative, eye-catching photo of your catering setup from your last booking, or you can also share an impressive review that a customer left on your website. The goal is to create a striking impression among your audience.
Lastly, you can reward the people who refer others to your business. By doing so, you will be able to get more qualified leads and develop meaningful customer relationships.
I truly believe that every food business should set up a website. Because in this age where most transactions are done online, not having a website is a HUGE missed opportunity.
Owning a website with impeccable Search Engine Optimization (SEO) lets you have a broader audience reach, better online visibility, and ultimately - increased Return of Investment (ROI). So don’t shy away from investing in SEO. It will undoubtedly help your business grow in the long run.
This is something that I personally did when I was still managing my own restaurant and catering business. I let people taste some of our bestselling menu items for FREE and get back to them after a few days. And believe me when I tell you that it works! Every. Single. Time. I was able to capture a lot of our bookings back then using this marketing strategy.
So if you’re confident with the quality of the food you’re putting on the table, don’t ever hesitate to host a free tasting! Let your exceptional food speak for your brand.
Food businesses of all sizes use today’s leading SM platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest to promote their services. And you should too! These social media sites can give you fast-paced progress when utilized.
To build a robust social media presence, you must learn the advantages of each SM site. Facebook is where you’ll find the largest portion of your potential customers. And not to mention that it offers some of the most accurate targeting in terms of paid advertising! No doubt why it’s called The King of Social Media by Oberlo. On the other hand, IG is the ideal platform for showing off your tasty dishes and winning more customers. Exploring the SM world is the key to expand your brand into a more diverse market.
Networking is one of the best ways to establish valuable relationships with vendors and fellow local business owners while acquiring new leads. Indeed, it’s like hitting two birds with one stone. Reaching out to the right connections can open up countless doors of opportunities for your newly formed catering business.
However, keep in mind that you must be sensitive when doing so. Be professional and use the proper courtesy when following up with contacts.
For professional help with marketing your catering business, contact Al Shan Marketing. We provide a client-focused, customized catering marketing plan to attract more clients and bookings. Give us a call at (949) 424-7824 or mail us at [email protected]
Open your new catering business to endless growth opportunities. Contact Al Shan Marketing today!
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