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Business Ideas - Catering Service Home Business

What It Takes to Start a Home Catering Service

By Ron Dicker

(LifeWire) - Overview of a Catering Service Business

While there is no surefire recipe for a successful home catering service business, a dash of culinary skills, determination and grace under fire can go a long way. Many catering start-ups succeed by conquering a niche. Focusing on a particular food and certain kinds of events can keep overhead low and advertising focused. For instance, if you're focusing on kosher catering, make sure you have contacts at local synagogues, Jewish publications, butchers and schools. This gives you time to find your footing in the competitive catering business.

It's best to chose more intimate events to cater at first to avoid having to hire servers. The money is there for those who are committed to catering: The average income for a catering service is $41,000, according to Simplyhired.com. The capital required can be as low as $1,000.

You must get certified by your local health board in food preparation -- even if you're working in your own kitchen. Small caterers often do the basic food prep at home and use their clients' on-site appliances to do the actual cooking. You must be licensed, insured and comfortable with a general ledger. A chat with a local accountant or small business bureau might be in order. Culinary classes are available; be sure to select an advanced class so that you are enhancing your talents rather than focusing on the basics.

Pros of a Catering Service Home Business

  • It's the perfect job for amateur chefs.
  • A chance to advertise on the job -- potential customers are eating your food.
  • The top 50 US caterers generate less than 15% percent of the industry revenue, according to a Business Wire article, meaning there's room for small operations.
Cons of a Catering Service Home Business
  • A bad meal can generate bad word of mouth.
  • Clients who switch theme or menu requests with little or no warning can make planning difficult.
  • Mishandled food can sicken guests, creating potential liability issues.
What You Need to Get Started in a Catering Service Home Business
  • A certificate for food handling. Contact your local health department.
  • Business license and liability insurance
  • Professional cookware, dishware, utensils and other food-preparation and serving tools
  • A detailed business plan to keep the operation lean
  • Vendors to obtain your food and supplies wholesale. Give them flyers and get them to advertise for you.
  • Local print and online advertising. An ad in a publication that serves your target market would also be helpful.
  • Discounts for referrals

Catering Service: Real-Life Example

Jim Schaal opened Jim Schaal's Catering Inc. in Roanoke, Va., from home in 1994. The business takes in between $80,000 and $120,000 in food sales a month, Schaal tells Roanoke.com.

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LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Ron Dicker is a New York-based freelance writer who covered sports for the New York Times from 1996 to 2005.
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