If you have a talent and passion for cooking, there’s no reason why you can’t start up your own catering cash cow and make money doing something you love.
Lots of people are doing it – catering for parties, weddings and office events. There’s work out there!
Here’s how you can create your own catering job.
- Is catering for me?
- The first steps in catering for a iiving
- Keeping catering costs down
- How much can I make with catering?
- Find a catering job
There are lots of events that require catering of some kind – everything from business meetings and dinner parties through to wedding receptions and birthdays.
You really do need some kind of background in food so that you have a feel for ingredients and costing. Culinary courses will also help you to develop your catering business.
A successful caterer needs to be organised and flexible enough to cope with any last minute changes. Good people skills will go a long way too.
Work equally hard on smaller events as you do on big events – word of mouth can be both beneficial and damaging to your company so give every job 100% effort.
- You can work independently with food without having to take orders from a scary and swear-y Gordon Ramsay-style boss.
- You can pick and choose how many events you take on, so you’re in control when deciding how far you want to take the business.
- Once you’ve established yourself, the earning potential is massive.
- Catering events will take place on weekends, holidays and evenings so be prepared to work anti-social hours.
- There is a lot of competition from big catering companies that specialise in corporate events so it may take some time to make a name for yourself.
Practice regularly with family and friends. Get them to pay for the ingredients, then offer to cook them all a dinner party for free.
it’s the perfect way to try out new menus and get some experience of costings and portions.
If you’re at all unsure about any aspect of the work, some time shadowing an experienced caterer would definitely be a good idea.
Alternatively, before you start developing your business, spend some time working for a catering company to see behind the scenes and hopefully get some good contacts along the way.
Get some guidance from books like these:
- How to Become a Caterer: Everything You Need to Know from Finding Clients to the Final Bill by Susan Wright.
- The Complete Caterer by Elizabeth Lawrence.
- Career Diary of a Caterer by Jennifer Heigl.
step 2: the legal stuff
The Government has rather helpfully made a ‘Starting Up’ booklet covering the first steps to building a catering company – it can be found here. It includes information about legal requirements and also tips on good practice for caterers.
- Approach your local council. To start your catering business you must register your premises with them as a food business. This is free to do but you must register at least 28 days before you start. This is a legal requirement and if you don’t you could be fined, imprisoned for up to two years or both!
- Tell the local authority about any premises you use to sell, store or prepare food and let them know whether you use a car or van for the business.
- If you’re working from home, you may also need planning permission so speak to the planning department, too. It’s probably a good idea to tell your mortgage lenders that you plan to work from home.
- Some 20,000 small catering businesses start up every year in England and Wales so if you want to do well you need to get the basics right, and good food hygiene is one of the most important things to sort out.
- Poor hygiene could ruin the reputation of your catering company or even cause your business to be closed down. Once you’re up and running, you will get visits from your local Environmental Health Officer so get some free expert advice from the Food Standards Agency.
- The Food Standards Agency have this pack designed to help anyone setting up a small catering business from scratch to meet all the complicated food hygiene regulations.
- Download the food safety management pack from the Food Standards Agency website which will tell you all about:
- How to meet food hygiene regulations
- Making food safely
- Training staff
- Protecting your business’ reputation
- Improving your business, for example by wasting less food
- The four Cs: Cross-contamination, Cleaning, Chilling, Cooking
- It also comes with a handy diary that you can use as a checklist for cleaning schedules, opening and closing checks, staff training records etc. which you can sign each day. It will make your life so much easier – not to mention keep things in order and prove you’re doing things properly when the Environmental Health Officer pops round!
It’s a good idea to take out the following insurance policies to protect yourself against any mishaps.
- Public liability insurance
- Tradesman insurance
- Home business insurance
If you’re going to be making a regular income as a self-employed caterer you need to register with HM Revenue & Customs within three months of becoming self-employed.
You will be responsible for paying your own tax and National Insurance contributions and you’ll need to fill in a tax return each year (yawn).
Keep all records of your business income and expenses, including invoices and receipts for foods that you buy.
Contact your local tax office to find out more or call the HMRC helpline on 0300 200 3300.
step 3: sell yourself
Then it’s about marketing and advertising your business:
- If there’s a particular cuisine or dish that you cook especially well, make the most of it and use it as an angle to your catering business. You could specialise in food from a particular region for example, or make incredible desserts.
- Create your own website to sell yourself and your talents. Give your new catering business an image. Highlight your contact details, qualifications or cooking expertise and also add some sample menus and pictures to show off your presentation skills.
- Get some business cards made up and pass them around to other businesses, friends and family and anyone else you can think of! Go to VistaPrint for 250 free business cards.
- Old-fashioned flyer-ing can down a treat, if you stock up on tasty samples and hand out discounts to shoppers in your city center.
- Try cold-calling new businesses to fight off the competition.
step 4: get working!
Check Gumtree regularly for anyone looking for a caterer and post your own advert on there for people in your area looking for a caterer.
To get bigger jobs, such as corporate events and weddings, the best contacts you can have are the event organisers in your area. Get to know them and consider offering them discounts if they recommend you to their clients.
Build up contacts in your area – ask friends and family if they know any party planners, florists etc. who may be useful to you in the future.
Post any questions you have in the comments section below – you may be able to get some help from our readers.
How much you earn obviously depends on the size of the events you cater for. Clients are usually charged per head and according to the type of food they require.
- For example, a cold buffet might be anything from £10 to £15 a head rising to up to £20 for a more substantial fork buffet.
- Full meals might be £30 a head and upwards.
- Try offering extra services like flowers and decorations to make more money.
- Do some research of other caterers in your area and see how much they charge to get an idea of how to price your own services.
If you’re cooking on a big scale, remember to include the cost of gas and electricity in your budget as well as the price of all the ingredients you’ll be using. There will also be advertising, travel, utensils and possibly staffing costs.
Here are a few ways to keep costs down.
- RENTING: To keep your initial costs down, you can start by renting kitchen equipment – you could even rent a professional kitchen if your one at home isn’t suitable.
- SHOP AROUND: If you do need to buy new equipment for your kitchen, believe it or not Boots sell some great kitchen appliances. Keep an eye out for special promotions and get yourself an advantage card for 4 points for every pound you spend!
- BARGAINS: Get cheap cleaning supplies from Betterware and Wilkinsons. Try Smarter Products and check for any innovative new kitchen gadgets. Go to Heals and John Lewis for loads of fantastic kitchen items.
Not only can you do your own thing, but you can find a catering job in your area using our handy tool here: