How to Start a Catering Business

If you like to cook as much as you like being your own boss, it might be time to start your very own catering company. It’s a great and flexible alternative to running a restaurant.

Catering businesses typically come with less financial risk and require less startup capital than full-service restaurants. But, before you give others a chance to try your mean chicken Kiev, there are a couple of things you should do.

Research the Marketplace

Is someone else offering catering in your neighbourhood? Who? Take a look at their site and find out what’s unique about them. Analyze what the competition has to offer.

Check out their prices, menus, clients, list of services, etc. Many think that this business is just about selling food. You’d be wrong to think that it’s all there is to it.

People can buy meals practically anywhere. Why should a person go to you instead of somewhere else? Because you’ll be giving them something more than just food!

Caterers don’t just sell succulent dishes. They offer affordability, convenience, one-of-a-kind menus, and white-glove or corporate style services.

Put together a short survey and send it to your friends. Ask them whether they use catering services, what they like about the services they used, why they hired particular businesses, etc. Most importantly, ask then about what they will be looking for in their next caterer.

Chose Your Niche

The previous step will help you figure out what kind of service you should offer. Once you learn who your clients are, what their price range is, and what they want, you can start thinking about ways to attract them.

The best course of action would be to find a niche that your competitors have overlooked. Also, think about what you can excel at. Base your menu on the needs of your market niche, as well as on your specialities.

A great theme or concept will enhance the marketability of your company. Think about the demographic you’re targeting. Keep them in mind when choosing your theme.

Determining the price can be challenging. It is often dictated by your living area. Check whether local restaurants offer similar services and what they charge. Of course, you’ll also have to take into account the cost of ingredients, the time it takes to prepare dishes, and the profit margin.

You can offer a wide variety of services, or you can go very narrow (executive luncheons). Don’t be a jack of all trades but a master of none. If you insist on a wide variety of services, then master all of them.

If you’re planning on offering a wide array of services, create different sell sheets, design separate brochures, and set up different pages on your company’s site. You may consider the following niche options:

  • Concerts, festivals and sports events
  • Concession stands
  • Boxed lunches
  • Adult parties (birthdays, anniversaries, dinner parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties)
  • Children’s parties
  • Weddings
  • Corporate events (golf outings, banquets, cocktail parties, executive luncheons)

You can narrow down services within your niche. For example, you can focus on affordable or upscale menus. You can also offer specific types of food such as vegan, barbecue, healthy foods, etc.

Ductwork, Appliances, Equipment, and other Kitchen Concerns

If you’re planning on running your business from your home kitchen, local authorities might raise their eyebrows at you. There may be some local laws and regulations that could stop you from doing so.

Chances are, you’ll need to make a lot of modifications to your house. And that’s not just to appease the safety inspection, but also to make sure you have an efficient work environment.

Whether you’re renting commercial kitchen space, building a kitchen from scratch, or repurposing your home kitchen, you’d want to make sure that your working space is an excellent asset to your company.

So, forget about luxury and aesthetics. That’s reserved for the food. Your kitchen should be all about usability, functionality, and efficiency. That means taking care of things you’ve never given a single thought about before.

Start with the ductwork, electricity, and plumbing. Proper ductwork will help you avoid mould, ventilation issues, temperature problems, and high utility bills. If your ducts are configured properly, they can be up to 50% more energy efficient.

When you’re running a business, cutting costs where possible often means protecting your bottom line. You want the sinks, fridges, and ranges to be close to each other. Think about how you will move within the area. Design the layout accordingly.

Hire the right experts that will check everything. That may save you a lot of money in the future. For instance, to avoid overloading the outlets, you may need to reconfigure your underlying electrical plan entirely. Make sure your appliances and equipment are Energy Star-certified.


Doing research does not mean you have to commit to starting a catering operation. A business plan doesn’t have to cost you a dime! Do not stress yourself.

When you’re excited and interested, work on your plan. You may be surprised at how quickly you’ll figure out whether this is the right step for you.


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