How to Start a Catering Business

How to Start a Catering Business

Do you find shopping, chopping, sautéing, and flambéing for large groups rewarding? Do you insist on serving your homemade vinaigrette dressing on every salad? Are you constantly asked to cook for gatherings?

If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve probably considered starting a catering business. It’s a thriving industry that can be tailored to your skills and situation. This article is a step-by-step guide to getting started.

To supplement this guide, I interviewed two seasoned catering veterans:

– Jean-Marc Fontaine: a French-trained chef, event planner, and sommelier who is now the Catering Sales and Events Consultant for Urban Source Creative Catering in downtown Toronto, Canada.

– Warren Dietel: the Owner and President of Puff ‘N Stuff, a full-service wedding, corporate, and holiday event caterer and planner in the Orlando area.

1. Understand the catering industry in the U.S.

In the United States alone, the catering industry is an $11 billion juggernaut, growing at a rate of more than 4.5 percent between 2014 and 2019.

According to industry reports, the average cost of foodservice at a wedding reception in the U.S. was $3,579 in 2012. In 2017, the average cost rose to $6,528, or $70 per guest. Wedding Wire suggests that most couples spend between $1,800 and $7,000. Not surprisingly, households earning at least six figures make up the largest market segment for the catering business. In 2015, 5.4 percent of households with a combined income of $100,000 or more spent $500 to $999 on catered events outside the home.

While major players exist in the catering industry, there are reasons why it’s appealing to entrepreneurs. Unlike other sectors, the industry is highly fragmented, with no dominant corporate entity.

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2. Determine if you’re ready to start a catering company

There’s no shortcut to determining if you’re just a "weekend warrior" or a great candidate to start your own catering business. Jean-Marc Fontaine believes that success requires a burning desire.

Jean-Marc says, "I have a passion for food and entertaining, and that’s why I’m still in this job today. It’s a special area—you have to love it, it’s like art."

He emphasizes that many underestimate the time, effort, and expense required to be successful in the foodservice industry. Warren Dietel also cautions against the glamorous portrayal of the industry on television. He highlights that catering requires hard work, grit, and determination.

If you’re driven by that burning desire and prepared for the work and expenses, starting a catering business offers distinct advantages over a sit-down restaurant. Take this quiz to assess your readiness.

In conclusion, starting a catering business requires passion, hard work, and careful consideration of the industry. But with the right mindset and preparation, it can be a rewarding endeavor.

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