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How to Start a Catering Business in 9 Steps
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The catering industry attracts a broad range of entrepreneurs. Maybe you’re an excellent cook, maybe you love throwing parties, or maybe you’re interested in event planning and want to get the ball rolling by catering.
Or maybe you’re like Dannella Burnett, of Gainesville, Georgia, who formed her catering business back in 2009, and your reason is simple and sweet:
“I figured if I could cook for other people and put food on their plates, I could put food on my family’s plate,” Burnett says of her decision to start Oakwood Occasions.
But as Burnett knew even in the nascent stages of starting a catering business and expanding to event planning, the business is about much more than putting food on plates. It’s about thinking your way through stressful situations, planning for the unexpected, and most importantly, running a business just like you would any other.
In this guide, we are going to take you step-by-step through everything you need to know about how to start a catering business. With a little help, you'll be delighting guests at parties, events, and festivals in no time.
How to start a catering business in 9 steps
Before you get to the following steps to starting a catering business, note that you should decide on the type of catering business you want to start before learning how to start a catering business.
Some caterers only do cocktail reception drinks and small finger foods, others do buffet-style catering, and some do the sit-down catering that you might see at a banquet or wedding. Once you know what kind of catering you want to do, you can get on to the next steps.
Step 1: Choose your business name and business entity type
Once you have the type of catering business you want to start in mind, you can move on to choosing a name for your business and defining the entity for it as well. You'll want to choose a name and make sure it's available in the state where you're opening your catering business. In most states, you can check business name availability online with the Secretary of State.
You'll also need to choose the business entity you want your business to operate as. Here you've got a lot of options depending on a few things, including whether you want to go it alone or not.
If you decide to operate as a sole proprietor, your business will be unincorporated and be owned by you alone (or you and your spouse). If you want to have a partner for your business, or want to avoid taking on all personal liability for your company, you can choose to register your business as a general partnership, a limited partnership, a limited liability partnership, a limited liability company, or another business entity. Each offers different protections for the partners and the business.
Step 2: Write a business plan
Once you have your business name and entity chosen, the next step on the "how to start a catering business" checklist involves writing a business plan. This will take some work, but it will pay off in the long run because you'll have the plan to fall back on and it can help you know what to expect while running your business.
You can use a business plan template or you can make a plan on your own. When you do make the plan, it should include quite a bit of research. You'll want to include an overview of your company, a market analysis, your business's organization, the specific products and services you'll be providing, and your marketing and financial plan. If that sounds like a lot, don't worry—you can always add to your plan as you learn more about the catering business world.
Importantly, though, you should also research your competition and identify potential customers. Is there a particular type of catering that is needed in your area that is currently underserved? For example, if you live in an area with a lot of golf courses, you may find that they are always in need of caterers for weekend events. Your market research into the needs in your area can go a long way to helping you sustain your business.
Part of your business plan for how to start a catering business should also include the vendors and suppliers you plan to use. Look into sourcing all the supplies you need, including linens, utensils, china, even tables and chairs for some events, and of course the food. When it comes to non-food items, Burnett suggests renting first, before buying things outright.
“At the beginning, you can rent anything you might ever want or need,” she says. “And renting is great: You know what the cost will be and you don’t have the upfront cost of purchasing something.
“But at some point, though you want to buy those things yourself because you still can charge for them and basically you’re paying for the ownership of them. And they ultimately pay for themselves.”
When it does come time to buy, equipment financing can provide you with the funding you need to cover the cost of supplies.
Step 3: Register your catering business and get an EIN
Depending on the business entity you chose, your business's name might by default be your name. If you want to change that, you might need a DBA or "doing business as" name. You'll want to register your business and its name with the state you plan to operate in.
For a catering business, because you're handling food, this might also require some other registrations depending on the rules in your state. The health department might need to check out the place where you're cooking and preparing the food you'll be serving, for example.
You'll also want to apply for an employer identification number also called an EIN. You can apply for one online from the IRS in just minutes and enjoy the benefits of having one for years to come. It can serve as a business tax ID number and help you do other business tasks like applying for a credit card and paying your employees.
Step 4: Get all licenses and clearances needed to start a catering business
As with most industries involving food prep, you can’t just, well, do it. You need to obtain a business license from the state, as well as a food handling license. You also need to pass a county or state health inspection—a residential kitchen likely won’t cut it, so consider looking for a commercial kitchen that has already been approved.
Some other requirements you might need to consider include workers' compensation insurance and permits or licenses to work out of certain venues—the monthly or annual costs of which can cut into profit margins.
If you’re unsure of what will be required, get in touch with your local Chamber of Commerce , Small Business Development Center , or the Small Business Administration to find out more.
It's not a bad idea to consult a lawyer in your area who specializes in the food or service industry for help filing everything and getting all of the registrations squared away before you start cooking.
Step 5: Determine your pricing
Pricing your work depends greatly on where your business is located and what kind of catering you do. Many businesses create price tiers that provide a certain level of service and amenities for various amounts. Burnett never went down that route.
“I started off doing custom proposals for people, and I’ve stayed with them throughout these nine years,” she says. “It takes a lot more time, but a lot of my proposals get accepted, rather than a package deal where it may or may not fit what someone is looking for. If they don’t need something, if it doesn’t pertain to their event, it’s not going into their pricing. If they need more, they pay for more; if they need less, they pay for less."
To get an idea of what costs what, Burnett says that her price per person has varied from $7-$8, for light appetizers for cocktail hour, up to $80 for filet and lobster.
“It varies because we do buffets, plated dinners, simple appetizers, or [events] where we’ve just dropped off food and they’ve served it themselves—to very high-end menus with unique ingredients,” she explains.
Step 6: Hire, train, and outfit your staff
It’s unlikely you can cater an event all by yourself, so staff is a requirement. Hiring and training staff is something that came organically for Burnett, but that might not be the case for you, so do whatever is best for your business is recommended here.
“At the first location, we brought on staff members one by one as we needed people. There was no real formal training from the beginning," she says.
You may be able to find staff just as easily, either by word-of-mouth or by combing your own network. But you might also need to reach out on foodservice-oriented job-seeking sites, or look into how competitors found their staff. Just keep in mind that what works for you when you're starting a catering business might not be what works once your business starts growing.
"But when we moved into our new location, at the Hall County Government Center, we opened up a café, coffee shop, and expanded the catering business at the same time. Since we were going to have in-house staff as well as catering staff, we had to go through a much more extensive training period.”
Here’s another place where having capital at the start comes in handy: If you’re hiring and training staff before they actually work an event, you need to set aside training dollars.
Additionally, uniforms, including vectorized logos, can be “really cheap or really expensive,” in the words of Burnett.
“Hey, I want aprons with logos on them—getting that logo vectorized for $75-$80, then $5-$7 a piece depending on how big you want the logo. Then you have to buy the apron. If you need 20, 30, 40 of those—that adds up,” she says.
Step 7: Market during your own events
When it comes to marketing and advertising your business, Burnett has one suggestion that trumps all the rest.
“When you’re putting food in somebody’s mouth, that’s the best time to find your next client,” she says. “It’s through the guests that are attending the events you’re catering for.”
Otherwise, it depends on what kind of catering you specialize in. If you focus on weddings, you’ll want to attend bridal shows—which involve bringing food samples and sometimes buying a booth. Corporate catering might involve more focus on LinkedIn advertising, where you can buy leads; you might also pay people to knock on doors and pass out fliers to bigger businesses.
“Really, it’s about networking. A lot of word of mouth, a lot of referrals,” she says. When you're just starting a catering business, that’s where the putting food in someone’s mouth tactic comes in.
Step 8: Get funding
Burnett made the decision to start her business out of necessity after her husband lost his job in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. She had previously worked in food and retail management, and she fell back on that experience when it came time to find a new source of income.
“A woman at my church said, ‘Why don’t you reopen your catering business here at the church?’ I didn’t think you could do that, but we called the health department and had them do a site visit at the church kitchen. It was deemed sufficient for commercial use, so I had my church kitchen licensed as a catering commissary, and I launched the business with zero capital, zero plan. Nothing but me, myself, and I,” Burnett explains.
Burnett found herself in business well before she expected to be. Despite making things work, she says luck took the place of capital and wouldn’t recommend that path to other future caterers.
“There are some things that I could look back on that I would say either by sheer doggedness or dumb luck, the next right thing did happen,” she says. “Was it more stressful because there wasn’t a plan at the beginning or there wasn’t capital? I think definitely.”
Burnett notes that, for the catering industry, access to capital is especially important: “Most small businesses fail because they don’t have the capital to get them through the ebbs and flows. And in something like the catering business, there should naturally be some ebb and flow, whether it’s the seasonality of the type of catering that you do, or the calendar—seasons and holidays.”
If you aren't as lucky as Burnett, you will probably need some funding to get your catering business off the ground and through slower months. Knowing how to acquire capital is one of the keys to figuring out how to start a catering business. There are plenty of routes you can go to acquire small business funding to get your business going.
If you want to go the traditional route, you can go for a traditional term loan, a business line of credit , or maybe a business credit card . Once you're established you can look into getting an SBA loan .
Step 9: Plan for emergencies — both financial and others
You should have extra capital when you start out, and continue to budget wisely as you go, because you never know when something will go wrong in the catering industry.
"Things break, so you have to replace them. Maybe you started off with china for 200 and now you only have china for 150 because they break,” says Burnett, listing the things that caught her off-guard when starting out.
“Repairs to vehicles: Catering can be hard on your vehicles, so you’ll need replacements to tires. The price of gas, when it went sky-high, it had an impact. Food was costing more. And people understood that food cost more to a certain extent, but people still had in their head that they need to do a lunch for $10 or $15 a person, and when the price of gas and food has gone up, it’s easy for that not to be profitable.”
But preparing for the unexpected is about more than budgeting. Most events are catered at a venue that can be 30 minutes, an hour, or even a few hours away from the kitchen. That can put you in a tight spot.
“The ability to be a MacGyver is a requirement. Every venue is different, and if you forget something, you’ve gotta figure out how to make it work,” Burnett says.
How to start a catering business: The bottom line
Catering isn’t an easy business. Burnett says you need to “know what you’re getting into,” due to the physical and demanding nature of the work.
“You can be a great cook, and that doesn’t necessarily make you a great caterer,” she says.
But Burnett was able to build a massively successful business—so much so that she actually began tapering off of catering in 2019 to focus more on event planning—off little more than an idea that was born in a church kitchen.
How Much Do You Need?
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.
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Catering Business Plan Template
If you are planning to start a catering company, you need to have a professional catering business plan. OGS Capital can help you with that; we have a team of professional business personnel and writers who work with us on a daily basis to ensure that clients get customized plans for their business. We strive to make sure that we deliver the final copy of the business plans for catering companies to the customer on time, and this has so far helped us to get referrals and returning customers.
Tips for Succeeding in Writing a Mobile Catering Business Plan
The quality of your catering company business plan will determine whether you will get capital from investors and financial institutions. Hence, it is important to make sure that every detail in the plan is factual and verifiable before presenting it to the investors or banks.
Here are four tips for writing a good business plan for your catering company.
- Carry out an intensive study to understand the hospitality industry
- Convey information about the firm in a professional, cohesive, conscious language
- Layout the various sections clearly using headings and sub-headings
- Proofread the catering business plan to ensure that it is free of any grammatical errors and typos
Adhering to these four tips will help you to come up with business plans for catering companies that you will not be afraid to present and defend when pitching the business idea to the financial institution. Let us proceed and discuss the primary benefits of having an expertly written small catering business plan.
Assist in Decision Making
Every decision that you make will have a positive or negative impact on your catering business. It is, therefore, important to make sure that you consider all the plausible direct and indirect effects that a resolution may have on the enterprise before implementing it to avert regrets.
A good catering company business plan will act as a blueprint that will guide you through the decision-making process. Our team will work hard to make sure that each recommendation made is right for your business. Without a catering company business plan , rest assured that you would be prone to making hasty decisions that could plunge your business in deep financial crisis.
Proper Management of Funds
Unknown to most people is that a catering company business plan does not aim to discuss the business idea only. It goes an extra mile to provide precise details of how the funds will be spent at every stage of the business growth. For instance, it describes the total amount of money that will be used to acquisition equipment. Hence, it will be instrumental in helping you manage your funds correctly. Note that it only takes one financial mistake to compromise the financial stability of the business.
Fosters Transparency and Management
Transparency and proper management are the two primary virtues that set professional catering companies from their counterparts. Poor or lack of transparency results in losses and unnecessary disagreements. All this information will be included in the plan to not only increase your chances of getting funding but also to help you make informed managerial decisions.
Facilitate Setting of Sales Targets
The marketing teams need to have sales goals that they want to achieve after a given duration. Without these goals, they will be operating in a void, and you will also not be able to monitor their performance.
Our marketing professionals will not only help you to come up with a marketing strategy but also provide ideas on how you should set sales targets and objectives.
If you are looking for professional business plans for catering companies that will enable you to enjoy these four benefits, get in touch with us by filling this form. One of our customer care business consultants will get in touch with you to discuss our services in details.
Catering business plan for starting your own building firm
Catering is a business in which you provide food to remote locations to serve people at parties, ceremonies, events, filming sites, and hospitals, etc. The service can sometimes also include the provision of furniture, tables, chairs, utensils, and crockery.
If you are a person who wants to start a business that holds minimum risks, takes a small team and a little investment, then catering is the right choice for you. Besides, another good thing about this business is that it starts yielding profits as soon as it is launched.
What you need to do is just ensure that you manage and market your business plans for catering companies properly. For that purpose, the first step to take is making a business plan for catering. If you need any help regarding how to start a catering business plan, you can have it from here. Here we are providing a business plan for a catering startup, Marlon Caterers.
2.1 the business.
Marlon Caterers will be a registered and licensed catering business in Atlanta. The business aims to help people celebrate their memorable events with an unforgettable dinner. Moreover, the business will also take care of the needs of patients in hospitals by offering them healthy and nutritious food according to their doctors’ advice.
The business will provide several types of catering such as buffet catering, sit-down catering, hospital catering, corporate catering, and more.
Management is a very important factor in the catering business. It’s only through efficient management that you can ensure
- The quality of your servings is intact
- The food prepared fulfills the dietary and hygiene requirements of your clients
- The order is delivered and served timely and perfectly
To maintain a good reputation among your customers, you must know all the difficulties and risks you can encounter. The risks may include budget disruptions due to sudden cancellation of orders, or any small/ large mistake during the business operations.
Before starting a catering business, you should study many catering business startup plans and then prepare a set up catering business plan for your business.
Our target customers belong to various niches. They will include the residential community, business organizations, film studios, government institutions, and hospitals.
2.4 Target of the Company
In this how to start a catering company sample business plans for catering companies we are enlisting the business targets set by Marlon Caterers.
- To reduce our customer acquisition cost by 20% by the end of five years
- To keep our customer churn rate below 5% throughout our service years
- To achieve a net profit margin of $22k per month by the end of the third year
3.1 company owner.
Marlon Redford will be the owner of Marlon Caterers. Marlon has acquired a degree in Business Administration from McDonough School of Business. Marlon has been serving on a managerial post in New York’s top luxury wedding planner company, Colin Cowie for four years. But a few months back, he decided to quit the job and start his own business.
3.2 Why the Business is being started
Marlon always wanted to have a career in which he could utilize his creative ideas to serve his community. He loved food and had an interest in cooking as well. So he decided to make a small team and start a business plans for catering companies .
3.3 How the Business will be started
The first step before starting a catering business is creating a description of catering business plan. Your catering company business plan should cover all aspects such as startup expenses, market analysis, sales strategy, personnel plan, and an extensive financial plan for your business.
In this catering company business plan example, we have listed the business strategy created by Marlon Caterers. Marlon devised his start a catering company business plan himself as he had adequate knowledge to do so. If you don’t know how to write a business plans for catering companies , you should either take help from this sample business plan for catering service. Or you should hire a professional person.
Marlon will rent a facility in Atlanta to set up his office there and keep the inventory. He will purchase luxurious crockery, flatware, tableware, chairs, tables, and sofas to host high-end events. To serve the other categories of target customers, inventory that comes in reasonable rates will also be acquired.
Besides, Marlon will hire the general staff, chefs, waiters, and some supervisors to help him run the business.
The start-up requirements, start-up expenses, total assets, funding, liabilities, planned investment, and other parameters for the successful launch of the business are given below.
Before you start a business plans for catering companies , you must identify the services you can provide under the catering domain. Including your services in your business plan about catering, can help you in acquiring the right licenses, required inventory, and relevant staff.
In this template of a catering business plan we are enlisting the services provided by Marlon Caterers.
We’ll offer on-premise and off-premise catering in the following categories.
- Plated Sit-down catering
In this catering, our waiters will lay out the food on individual tables. So, the guests will have to eat whatever is laid out on the plates for them.
- Buffet Catering
In this type of serving we will serve the dishes and food in one place. The guests will have to prepare their plates themselves according to their needs and wants.
- Cocktail Reception
Our wedding or party dinner will be preceded by a cocktail hour. Our cocktail servings will include Manhattan cocktail, Daiquiri, Margarita, Bloody Mary, Mojito, and Hurricane.
- Snacks & Drinks For Production Sets
We will supply food, snacks, and drinks to film studios, production sets, and shooting sites located near us. As the film crew works on a particular site on a weekly or monthly basis, so we’ll offer them various weekly and monthly packages.
- Hospital Catering
We’ll offer fresh, healthy, and nutritious foods to hospitals for patients. Our nutrient-rich meals will help them recover fast.
Marketing Analysis of Catering Business
If you are starting a business plan for catering companies , you should focus on doing accurate marketing analysis. Through market research, you can identify local trends and expectations. Besides, you can also select the most suitable location to launch your startup.
Marketing analysis should be completed before you create a business plans for catering companies . Because it will help you in recognizing your customers and setting your prices accordingly while also making sure that you are not running at a loss.
excellent work, competent advice. Alex is very friendly, great communication. 100% I recommend CGS capital. Thank you so much for your hard work!
5.1 Market Trends
The demand for the catering business has been high in the last few years. Due to a boost in average household income, more people had started utilizing private catering services to hold events. However, there is a slight problem these days. Due to the coronavirus pandemic mass gatherings aren’t allowed. So, your business might suffer a loss in the initial phases if you only provide catering for wedding ceremonies and parties. Marlon found the solution to this problem as he decided to offer hospital and film catering too.
Overall, business is surely profitable. According to First Research, catering industries in the U.S. make up above $11 billion in revenue on annual basis. More than 12000 catering industries are running in the U.S. Moreover, Statista also reports that the market size of this business has reached $12 billion in 2020.
5.2 Marketing Segmentation
Before you think how to write a business plan for a catering business, you should consider who will be your customers. Knowing your customers will enable you to devise customer-oriented pricing and sales strategy.
In this sample of business plans for catering companies , we have listed the market segmentation done by Marlon Caterers.
The detailed marketing segmentation of our target audience is as follows:
5.1.1 Residential Community
The biggest consumer of our services will be the residents of Atlanta. They are expected to avail of our catering services whenever they host birthday or anniversary parties, gatherings, wedding ceremonies, etc.
5.1.2 Corporates & Film Producers
The second category includes business organizations that will need our catering for their business meetups, events, and parties. They are also expected to contact us for arranging just a cocktail party as that contains light refreshments and drinks to boost the energy level of workers.
Moreover, film studios that happen to shoot in Atlanta will also be needing our services. This group usually spent weeks and months on a particular site and thus need catering service continuously for days. So to compel them to hire us, we’ll offer them various weekly and monthly packages.
The last category of our target customers include hospitals based in Atlanta. They are expected to contact us for making nutritious and healthy plated foods for patients.
5.3 Business Target
Our business plans for catering companies targets to be achieved within a specified time are listed below
- To maintain an average rating above 4.75 on our website
5.4 Product Pricing
Our prices are almost within the same range as that of our competitors. However, we’ll be offering several discounts on our initial stage to attract as many customers as possible.
Sales strategy is also an important component of a catering business plan proposal. Through this, you can reach your qualified customers and make them comprehend that you are better than all your competitors. To give you an idea of what to include in sales strategy, we are providing the sales strategy of Marlon Caterers in this example of marketing plan for a catering business.
6.1 Competitive Analysis
Our biggest competitive advantage lies in our customer service. We are highly customer-oriented and are always willing to go the extra mile to satisfy our customers. Secondly, we have developed a user-friendly mobile app that will allow our customers to
- Make online bookings
- Choose venue
- Select dishes from our menu
Third, we provide on-premise catering in which we prepare the food on site. This will be a competitive edge for us as just two to three competitors are offering it.
6.2 Sales Strategy
- We will offer a 35% discount on our services for the first month of the launch
- We will develop an SEO website to show our business in the top results on searches
- We will establish a strong social media presence
- We will advertise ourselves through Google Local ads service, local magazines, and newspapers
6.3 Sales Monthly
6.4 Sales Yearly
6.5 Sales Forecast
While writing business plans for catering companies you should also create a list of your required employees along with their job responsibilities.
7.1 Company Staff
Marlon will manage the business himself. However, he will hire the following people
- 1 Quality Manager to ensure the quality of service by active supervision
- 1 Inventory Manager to manage and maintain the merchandise
- 1 Accountant to maintain financial records
- 2 Sales Executives to market and to discover new ventures
- 5 Catering Assistants/ Catering Chefs to prepare the food
- 4 Waiters to serve the guests
- 2 General Assistants to bring ingredients daily
- 1 Web Developer
- 2 Drivers to provide transport
- 1 Front Desk Officer to act as a receptionist
7.2 Average Salary of Employees
As you make a catering business plan, you should also start analyzing your finances. Crafting a financial plan is an absolute need for a business as it maps the ways to minimize or even avoid loss. A good financial plan comprises a strategy to cover startup expenses with earned profits. Moreover, it also proposes a systematic approach to managing employees’ salaries, cost of business operations, and costs to cater for unexpected events.
To give you an idea of how a financial plan should look like, we are giving here the financial plan of Marlon Caterers.
8.1 Important Assumptions
8.2 brake-even analysis.
8.3 Projected Profit and Loss
8.3.1 profit monthly.
8.3.2 Profit Yearly
8.3.3 Gross Margin Monthly
8.3.4 Gross Margin Yearly
8.4 Projected Cash Flow
8.5 Projected Balance Sheet
8.6 business ratios.
Download Catering Company Business Plan Sample in pdf
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Catering Business Plan Template
Catering business plan.
If you want to start a catering business or expand your current one, you need a business plan.
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 5,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their catering businesses.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Catering Company
Below are links to each section of your catering business plan template:
Next Section: Executive Summary >
Catering Company Business Plan FAQs
What is the easiest way to complete my catering business plan.
Growthink's Ultimate Catering Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Catering Business Plan.
Where Can I Download a Catering Business Plan PDF?
You can download our catering business plan PDF template here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.
What Is a Catering Business Plan?
A catering business plan provides a snapshot of your own business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business’ goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.
Why Do You Need a Business Plan?
If you’re looking to start a catering business or grow your existing small business you need a business plan, especially if you are seeking financing for your business. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your company in order to improve your chances of success. Your catering business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your catering company grows and changes.
How Do I Write a Successful Catering Business Plan?
The best way to write a catering business plan is to follow a proven catering business plan template. This template should include the following information: Executive Summary, Company Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Marketing Strategy & Plan, Operations Plan, Management Team, Financial Projections & Plan, and Appendix.
What Are the Sources of Funding for a Catering Business?
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a catering business are savings and/or credit cards of the business owner, bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.
The second most common form of funding for a catering business or cafe is angel investors. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding, or, like a bank, they will give you a loan. Venture capitalists will not fund a catering business. They might consider funding a catering company with multiple locations or a massive footprint, but never an individual location. This is because most venture capitalists are looking for millions of dollars in return when they make an investment, and an individual or small location could never achieve such results.
What Are the 3 Types of Catering Service Businesses?
There are three types of catering service businesses: on-premise catering, off-premise catering, and event catering.
- On-premise catering is when the caterer sets up a temporary commercial kitchen space at the client's location.
- Off-premise catering is when the caterer provides delicious food for events such as picnics, weddings, cocktail parties, and other meetings off-site.
- Event catering is where the caterer prepares food that is served at special events, corporate events, or family events.
What Are The 5 Steps to Starting a Catering Business?
Starting a catering business is not as difficult as one might think. Here are the five steps needed to get your catering business up and running:
- Come Up With a Business Idea : This is probably the most important step, as it will lay the foundation for everything else you do. When brainstorming business ideas, make sure to think about what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing.
- Do Your Research : This step is important to ensure your business is viable and has the potential for success.
- Create a Catering Business Plan : A business plan is a document that outlines your goals, strategies, and financials. It’s a must-have for any business, but especially for a catering business.
- Obtain Your Business License : In order to legally operate your catering business, you will need to obtain the necessary business licenses.
- Secure Funding : If needed, you will need to secure funding in order to get your catering business off the ground.
Once your business is up and running, it’s time to start promoting it! Create a marketing plan and start spreading the word about your new catering business to potential clients.
What are the Benefits of Starting a Catering Business?
There are numerous benefits of starting a catering business, including:
- Low Overhead Costs : One of the benefits of catering is that the overhead costs are relatively low, especially when compared to other food preparation businesses such as restaurants. This means you can make a profit with fewer customers and staff members.
- Flexible Schedule : Typically have a flexible schedule, which is ideal for those who want to be their own boss and have more control over their time.
- Variety of Services : Can offer a variety of catering services and menus, which gives you the ability to target a range of customers.
- Repeat Customers : Typically have a high percentage of repeat customers, as people often use catering for specific events like weddings, business meetings, conventions, etc.
- High Demand : Another benefit of catering is that there are typically high demands for this type of service during certain times of the year, including holidays and warm weather months when people are hosting events outside.
What are the Pitfalls of Starting a Catering Business?
While there are many benefits to starting a catering business, there are also some potential pitfalls that should be considered. These include:
- Not Enough Demand : Before starting a catering business, it’s important to do your research and make sure there is enough demand for your services.
- Lack of Experience : If you don’t have experience in the catering industry, it will be difficult to start and succeed in this business.
- High Startup Costs : This type of business can have high startup costs because of the equipment needed, as well as all of the miscellaneous costs that come with starting any business.
- Competition : Catering is highly competitive and there are many established catering companies already servicing your market. This means you need to do everything possible to set yourself apart from your competitors in order to be successful.
- Time-Consuming : Catering is a time-consuming business and it can be difficult to balance it with other obligations.
- Limited Scalability : Catering companies are limited in their scalability, meaning you can only expand so much before you hit a limit. This could be problematic if your goal is to grow your business significantly.
- Unpredictable Income : Catering services can be very unpredictable when it comes to income, as they can vary greatly from one event to the next.
- High Risk : As with any business, there is a certain amount of risk involved in starting and running a catering business. You need to be prepared for the possibility of not making a profit or even losing money.
CATERING BUSINESS PLAN OUTLINE
- Catering Business Plan Home
- 1. Executive Summary
- 2. Company Overview
- 3. Industry Analysis
- 4. Customer Analysis
- 5. Competitive Analysis
- 6. Marketing Plan
- 7. Operations Plan
- 8. Management Team
- 9. Financial Plan
- 10. Appendix
- Catering Business Plan Summary
Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates
How to Start a Catering Business (12 Steps)
April 8, 2021
This article is Tax Professional approved
If you’ve got a flair for fine cooking and entertaining, and you’re ready to start working for yourself, then maybe it’s time to start your own catering business.
Catering companies in the US raked in a total of $11 billion revenue in 2019. And if you run a catering business, you can expect to make $30,000 – $80,000 annually .
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But what are the ingredients to a successful catering business? And how can you make sure yours succeeds? Here’s how to start your own catering company in 12 not-too-complicated steps.
1. Find your speciality
When your catering business fits in a specific niche, for face less competition from the big, one-size-fits-all caterers on the block. And it becomes easier to build up a solid base of repeat clients through word of mouth marketing.
- What type of food will you serve? Will you serve everyone? Or go deep on a niche market, like vegan or gluten-free cuisine.
- What types of functions will you serve? When you’re just starting out, smaller functions like cocktail parties, staff lunches, and wedding showers may be easiest. As your business grows, you can expand your catering services to include larger events.
- What’s your capacity? If you’re jumping into this full time, maybe you’re ready to serve multiple functions per week. But if catering is a side hustle, you may need to limit your business activities to the weekends.
- Who’s going to do the work? Sketch out a hiring plan, factoring in who’s going to do food preparation, sales, accounting work, etc.
Next, it’s time to see who you’ll be competing with, and who you’ll be working for.
Researching customers and the competition
It’s best to research the lay of the land before you put together your menu and start buying equipment. For instance, if you live in a small city and there are six other caterers specializing in Sikh weddings, you’ll face a lot of competition in that niche. You may want to focus on something no one else is trying, like vegan pub fare.
A search for local caterers should be your first step. See what menus are being offered, and what size functions your competitors serve. If they don’t have approximate prices on their websites, consider calling to get quotes.
After that, the best way to learn about local caterers is to talk to their customers. Not only do you get the scoop on what your competitors are doing, right or wrong, but you’ll be conducting customer research. That will help you plan how to market your business later.
A few ideas to get you started:
- Talk to friends and family. Baptisms, weddings, wakes—chances are, you know someone who has had to plan one. Ask who they chose as a caterer, why, and what the experience was like. It may give you an idea of what types of services your business should offer.
- Call up the people who use caterers the most. These are your potential customers, and they’re a gold mine. Wedding planners, office managers, event coordinators—they all have their own favorite caterers. Who’s the most popular caterer in town? Who has a bad reputation? What do they look for in a caterer?
- Read the reviews. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the rush to get your business off the ground, you may forget to investigate what customers think. Google, Yelp, and Facebook reviews for local catering companies will give you some insight into what customers like and what they don’t.
- Look at the big picture. Reports and statistics on catering businesses nationwide can give you a bigger picture of how the industry operates, as well as recent trends. Get started by checking out Catersource’s state of the catering industry report .
2. Investigate local licensing and permits
Licensing and permits for catering companies vary state by state. Depending on your state, you may or may not be allowed to prepare meals in your own kitchen with equipment you also use for personal meal prep. And liquor licenses will have different requirements according to state.
Despite state-to-state variations, there are a few licenses and permits common across all states, some of which you’ll likely need to start your business:
- A general business license , issued by your state, municipality, city, or county.
- A zoning permit , depending on where you’ll locate your cooking facilities.
- Health permits, depending on where you’ll be preparing food and whether you’ll be transporting it.
Get in touch with your local health department, as well as your Secretary of State, to learn about licenses and permits that pertain to you.
3. Create your menu
If you love food and you’re already thinking about starting your own catering business, no doubt you’ve stayed up late at night dreaming of the magnificent meals you’ll serve.
Now that you’ve done some research, answered some important questions about your business, and investigated local licensing, it’s time to write a rough draft of your menu.
While you may customize later, it’s best to start of with a set list of options. That way, you can perfect well in advance the supply orders and preparation processes for each dish you serve. Once customers choose their items, it’s just a matter of mixing and matching factors you’ve already planned out.
Your menu will be shaped by your capacity and your cooking facilities. Less tangibly, it will also be affected by what types of food you’re comfortable serving, and the niche you’re marketing to. For instance, if you only serve food with local, seasonal ingredients, your winter menu won’t offer freshly squeezed orange juice.
4. Plan your location
The location of your business will depend on local laws pertaining to catering businesses, as well as zoning regulations.
Some states may not allow you to prepare meals in your home. In that case, you have one of two choices: Rent a commercial kitchen, or prepare food on-site.
Renting a commercial kitchen increases your operating costs, but it also gives you flexibility; you’re always able to prepare meals for your customers, regardless of their location. And you’ll be able to do it in a larger capacity than you would be able at home. However, you’ll also be responsible for delivering food, so you’ll need vehicles and equipment that are up to the job.
Preparing food on-site means you’ll be relying on customers’ facilities for meal prep. That limits you to serving customers who rent or own places with kitchens—churches, community centers, and homes. You’ll save on operating costs, but pay in other ways: It’s up to you to adapt to whatever kitchen you’re using. Also, you won’t be able to serve some events—like gallery openings, work lunches, or some outdoor events.
The best plan is to decide what you’re going to serve, and to whom, and then choose the location and plan the budget that fits.
5. Get ready to buy equipment
Your equipment needs could range from a new egg whisk to an industrial mixer, from a couple of Yeti coolers to half a dozen chest freezers. It depends on the scale of your business, and your customers.
Prepare a list of all items you’ll need to get up and running. Then get in touch with a restaurant supply company, and get a quote for your shopping list. You’ll use that to help you put together the budget in your business plan.
If you’re considering financing equipment, take a look at all your options first. A small business loan or line of credit may be cheaper, in terms of interest payments, than a finance plan. And paying cash upfront may give you the option to buy used equipment, which could cost you less in the long run.
7. Prepare a business plan
“Cook it and they’ll come” is a recipe for a failed catering company. You’ll need clear plans for every part of your business in order to succeed.
On top of including research you do into customers and competitors, a startup budget, and financial projections, your business plan should cover:
- The problems you solve for clients and customers
- What sets you apart from the competition
- The resources your business depends on
- Your mission statement and vision for the future
- What inspired you to go into business
This is just a brief overview. See our guide on how to write a business plan to put everything together one step at a time. And don’t forget to include a cover page that catches people’s attention.
A word on catering company startup costs
According to the pros , you should be prepared to budget $10,000 to $50,000 in startup costs for your catering company. Naturally, startup costs vary business to business. You’ll need to take into account your equipment, transportation, and marketing needs. Whatever your startup costs, your initial budget should be able to cover the operating costs of your business for 12 months, without taking into account revenue.
8. Create an affordable marketing strategy for your catering company
Luckily, you don’t need to buy a Super Bowl ad to get the word out about your catering business. A few inexpensive techniques can do the trick.
Keep menus and prices fresh
If customers are looking up your business, chances are they’re already thinking about having an event catered. That means they want to know what kind of menu you offer, what kind of events you cater, and how much it will cost.
Keeping menus and price lists up to date on your website helps your customers start planning before they even contact you. A couple planning their wedding would rather know if your services are in their budget before they contact you; offering price ranges up front could mean they choose you over the competitor whose website still says “under construction.”
Curate your reviews on social media
A social media profile with recent reviews proves the lights are on—you’re an active, popular business. Encourage customers to leave reviews, and be sure to address any negative ones; it’s often better to offer a refund to a customer with unrealistic expectations than to suffer the damage to your reputation caused by a one-star review.
Post sexy food pics
Pictures of the dishes you’re most proud of can get social media followers’ mouths watering, and show them you know what you’re doing when it comes to presentation. Occasional food photos are a great, low-investment way to keep your social media up to date.
Be warned, though: An unattractive photo of your cooking is worse than no photo at all. If every photo you take looks like a public warning poster about food poisoning, you may want to enlist the help of a professional.
Word of mouth marketing is your best friend
Good, bad, forgettable—whatever kind of experience a customer has with catering, they’re only too happy to share it by word of mouth. The best thing you can do is make sure your customers have good things to say about you.
One way to do that is by providing exceptional service, every time. The other way is to offer referral deals. Maybe if a customer refers someone, they get 15% off their next order—or fresh-baked breakfast muffins and coffee for their office, as a way of saying thank you. Building and maintaining good relationships, as well as incentivizing referrals, will grow your clientele faster than any print ad or flyer.
9. Choose a business structure
Your business structure determines how your catering company will be taxed, and also your level of personal liability when it comes to debts and legal proceedings.
As soon as you go into business for yourself, the IRS automatically considers you a sole proprietorship . That’s great in terms of ease—no forms to fill out, no business structure to elect. But it’s not so great if you can’t pay your debts, or someone decides to sue you.
The next step up from a sole proprietorship is a single member limited liability company (LLC) . An LLC functions a lot like a sole prop, except it sets up your business as a separate legal entity from your individual person. Meaning, you get more liability protection than you would with a sole prop.
To see all the business entity types you have to choose from, and how to elect each one, check out our guide to business structures .
10. Name your business
If you’re a sole proprietorship and you’re operating under your own name—say, Monica Geller—there’s no need to register a business name. But the minute you choose to operate under a different name—Monica’s Catering with a Smile—you’ll need to register it.
And if your business elects and structure other than a sole proprietorship, you’ll need to register your business name, regardless of whether it’s the same as your personal given name.
In either of these instances, you register your business name by filing a doing business as (DBA) form with your state and county. Our guide to DBAs gives you the full step-by-step.
11. Get insured
Business insurance protects your catering company in case the untoward happens. Even if your particular state doesn’t require you to get insurance, you should buy as many types of insurance as you need to protect your assets and shield you from being sued.
The most essential type of insurance for a catering business is general liability insurance. Chocolate fountain overflowed and permanently damage your client’s rare Persian rug? Bad batch of oysters from your supplier got some wedding guests sick? Over enthusiastic flambé took out someone’s eyebrows? General insurance has you covered.
After that, you might want to consider the following:
- Commercial automotive insurance , for your catering van.
- Commercial property insurance , protecting you in case your equipment or kitchen are damaged.
- Unemployment insurance , often legally required if you have employees. It also protects you from being sued for damages if an employee loses their job.
- Wrongful termination insurance , protecting you from being sued if an employee believes you mistreated them.
- Key person insurance , in case your star chef is put out of commission and it costs you business.
Take a deeper dive with our complete guide to small business insurance .
12. Start bookkeeping ASAP
Doing your books may seem a far cry from sights, smells, and tastes of the kitchen. But it’s a key ingredient when you start your own business. When your bookkeeping is disorganized, so is everything else.
Good bookkeeping helps you make sure you’re getting paid by customers, make certain you’ve paid suppliers, and keep track of how much cash you have to work with. It can help you plan how to expand your business, or make it more profitable if you’re having trouble paying the bills. And when you have a complete record of expenses on the books, you can take advantage of every possible tax deduction at the end of the year.
Before you cater your first event, make sure you’ve got bookkeeping set up. There are a few ways to do that, but naturally, we recommend Bench (that’s us). You’ll get a complete team of bookkeepers who do your bookkeeping for you, plus an intuitive app to track finances—all for a flat monthly fee.
Not sure Bench is right for you? Try an appetizer first. When you sign up for a trial , we do one month of your bookkeeping free.
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How To Write a Catering Business Plan w/ Templates (PDF, Word Doc)
Whether you’re starting a catering business full-time or planning to operate out of your house initially , writing a business plan is essential to getting clear on the type of catering business you want to open. After all there’s some pretty important stuff covered inside of what can seem like a stuffy document.
For the purposes of starting a catering company, think about the business plan as the one place you put your operation details. Things like the cooking equipment you need to purchase and the total cost, tentative catering menu, food costs, and who your target customer is. These are all super important details you need to understand before opening! This document provides a place for you to organize everything.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to draft your plan and start on that first catering gig you’ve been planning to open. We also provide templates you can use in PDF and Word Doc you can download and edit. Let’s get started.
- Executive summary
- Mission statement
- Company concept
- Market analysis
- Management structure
- Product line and services
- Sales and marketing
- Financial projections
- Operational plan
- Download templates
Catering spread for a Mexican food concept.
Start your business plan with an executive summary. This is a way to introduce your catering business so whoever is reading your business plan will know what to expect. This will include a brief introduction of your catering business, a description of your company, the services your catering business will be providing, and the customer focus.
A quick introduction helps the reader get a bird’s eye view of your catering business. Here you’ll be talking about what to expect and what you can offer as part of your catering service.
This section isn’t considered lengthy. This usually has two to three sentences. What you need to focus on when writing this down is by the end of it, your reader will more or less understand what your catering business is all about.
Here’s an example introduction you can use as a guide:
The Big Spoon is a small catering business headed by Lydia Smith. She specializes in Italian cuisine but can cater to American, Mexican, and Asian dishes as well. The Big Spoon can accommodate an intimate dinner for 2 up to a large party of 50 accompanied with table settings and chafing dishes to complete that delicious home-cooked meal experience.
Just by the introduction, the reader will know how big your catering business is, what cuisine they can expect to order, and how many people the business can cater for. It also gives them an introductory glance about your catering style wherein you already provide more than just food but also a table setting so they don’t have to look for a supplier for this separately.
Keep your introduction informative but also short enough. You will be able to add in more to the details later on.
Some food trailers make more than 50% of their annual revenue from catering gigs.
A little background on your catering business is needed in the company description part of the business plan. Here, you can describe the meaning behind the name for your catering business, who the owners are, and what their roles are going to be. Who will be in charge of cooking? Who will be in charge of accounts and marketing?
This may just be brief but this is a way for you to introduce what’s going to happen behind the scenes of your catering business.
Catering works great for food trucks and restaurants.
Although your catering business may sound self-explanatory, it would still be of great help to you if you mentioned the services you’ll be offering.
For example, The Big Spoon already mentioned in their introduction that they’ll be catering food and offering table settings. They could also add that they will be offering an ice cream station and even a cocktail bar.
You will describe more of this in detail later on but you can summarize it and mention it here already.
For a catering business to flourish, you must know your target market early on. And though a thorough explanation of that can be found in the Market Analysis section, you can briefly state them in this portion as well.
Also, remember that your customer focus would also have to coincide with your skills. You can’t be targeting customers who are vegans if your culinary skills and knowledge do not include cooking vegan food. This is why it’s important to write this early on so you can narrow down the customers you are planning to cater to.
What’s your mission statement?
Businesses with clear goals stated from the start lead to a successful operation. Why? Because every decision you make revolves around these goals which will lead you closer to success.
Here’s a sample mission statement to picture it out clearly:
The Big Spoon aims to cater delicious home-cooked meals to its customers. Every dish that is served will contain natural and fresh ingredients. We see to it that the service we provide is top-notch so that our customers will feel as if they are being served in a fine restaurant in the comforts of their own home or wherever they choose to have us cater them.
By writing this down in your business plan, you and your staff will have to stand by the standards you’ve set for yourselves. For instance, as stated in The Big Spoon’s mission statement, no fast food will be served and no artificial ingredients will be used so you and your staff will always remember this by heart.
By following this and revolving your decisions around your mission statement, you will be able to keep such standards which will lead to pleased and returning customers.
This is the section of the business plan where you can finally put in detail the concept you’ve been planning for your catering business. Remember the things you’ve been holding back in saying in the introduction? This is the time to write them all down now.
Related Reading: 7 Powerful Ways I Promote and Market My Catering Business
You can start by answering the following questions:
- What cuisine will you be offering?
- How many people can you cater to?
- Will you be offering healthy options such as vegan, keto, or paleo meals?
You may also add in other concept ideas that are not mentioned above. Just make sure to cover everything so you can have a basis for your product line and services to be tackled later on.
A compelling catering business logo.
Planning to put your business out there means you also have to know the industry you’ll be diving into. This is to help you analyze your potential customers, the growth of the catering business in your area, and the competition.
As mentioned above in the customer focus, your skills will have to match your target market. You’ve already written a brief introduction about it so in this section, all you have to do is to explain it in detail.
The catering business has been going on for a long while now so it’s important to gather in as much information as you can regarding this industry. This is to help you figure out if there is a potential market for your business and how to put your plans into action.
Another helpful guide is to look into the type of cuisine most people in your area look for. You can then incorporate it into your business and offer it as part of your menu.
The bottom line is that analyzing the industry around you helps you plan better for the future of your catering business.
You will not be the only catering business in your area. You’ll have to consider restaurants as your competition too. Check their prices and set menus. Do a competition check by tasting their food once in a while. Knowing who the players are in this competitive business game gives you the upper hand because you’ll be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and how to deal with them on the field.
Determine the key players in your business.
A catering service is run by a few people. In this section of the business plan, you’ll list down everyone who is working on this business alongside you as well as the roles they possess in your business. This includes:
- Business Partners
- Co-chefs (If you’re not the only one doing the cooking)
Why is this so important, you might ask? Stating clear business roles and laying out the management structure keeps everyone in check and helps avoid any misunderstandings. Most businesses that don’t define this early on end up having a messy workflow. So make sure to state each duty clearly for everyone to follow.
Product Line and Services
Burgers are a proven catering option.
This section of the business plan goes hand in hand with your company concept. Here you can present your different sample menus for all the cuisine you wish to cater to. Be sure to include the prices for the set menus per head.
You can also write down the services you plan to offer. Here are some you can consider for your catering business:
- Out of town catering
- Cocktail station
- Set up style (buffet or plated)
- Table setting (formal or casual, rustic or summer feel)
- Wait staff or food display only
Writing them all down in this section will keep your business more organized which is very important when you start on your catering business.
Sales and Marketing
Grilled chicken is another popular option for caterers.
How are you going to market your catering business? Do you plan to have an ad out in your local newspaper and on social media? Both strategies are fine but you need to find more ways to get your catering business out there.
One way to market yourself is to partner up with rental spaces such as function halls that do not provide food. Give them a proposal that when there are inquiries regarding the rental of their halls, they would present your set menus to the guests as well so they don’t need to trouble over finding a caterer.
Related Reading: How I Started a Legit Catering Business Out of My House
Partnering with several event coordinators is also a way to get your business known. People these days hire event coordinators to do all the planning for them. They expect these coordinators to answer all their questions from food, music, and decorations. By partnering up with an event coordinator, they’ll be the ones to pitch in your catering business to their customers.
Remember to uphold your mission statement as well. By providing good food and high-class standards during your catering event, you’re already marketing your products and services to the number of people you’re catering to. So always make an exceptional first impression because that will stay with the guests long enough for them to remember hiring you on their next and succeeding events.
Plan your financial future.
Knowing where you’re going to get the funds to start your catering business is a must. This is how you’ll know if your plans are going to be achievable or not. Besides, having a solid financial plan will also allow you to go through with your ideas without any interruptions.
In this section, break down your financial plan into two categories which are your plans to request for funding and your financial forecast.
Some business owners are ready to put up their catering business due to having saved enough money through the years. But what if you lack the funds to do it? Don’t fret. You can still loan from the bank and invite investors.
Whatever your plan is that deals with requesting for funding, include it here so you can document it.
Make conservative and best case scenario financial forecasts.
Reaching break-even is the ultimate goal when you’re putting up a business. You can compute how long it will take you to reach it early on in the planning stage.
You can also list down all your proposed expenses here which include the following:
- Pots, pans, and other large kitchen appliances and tools for cooking
- Chafing dishes
- Dessert displays and trays
- Table cloths, plates, glasses, and utensils
- Uniforms for you and the staff
- Storage boxes and food warmers
You may also add in tables and chairs if you do not want to keep on renting these. But sometimes, the venue where you’ll be catering can provide these as well.
Download Now: Bakery Business Plan Templates for 2021
Be sure to include your staff’s payroll expenses. Since catering events are not done daily (unless you’ve already made a name for yourself and you’re booked every day), you can just have your wait staff be on call and pay them per catering event rather than a daily wage.
By computing these, you’ll know just how much you should allot for your startup capital and how much should your goals be to reach during every catering gig in order to profit off of it.
What’s your operation plan?
Put your plan into action by making a timeline of your operations. Here is an example:
Date Plan [Insert Date Here] – Finalize the business documents you need such as permits and registrations for your catering business. [Insert Date Here] – Start marketing your business on social media and the local news. Send out proposals for partnerships with event coordinators and function halls. [Insert Date Here] – Hire and train staff. [Insert Date Here] – Start catering when booked. [Insert Date Here] – Achieve goals and reach break-even.
The appendix section of the business plan is where you can put all your documentation. This includes photos of your food and table setting and your copies of the permits and registration for your catering business.
Here are the catering business plan samples in PowerPoint, Word Doc, Google Doc, and PDF. These are ideal for commercial or home-based catering businesses.
- Catering business plan template Google Doc
- PDF catering business plan sample
- Catering PowerPoint template
- Catering businesses are ideal because there is no space for you to rent which is considered one of the main expenses that can be quite heavy on the pockets. You will be cooking in the comfort of your own home. Just make sure your place can handle heavy cooking and there is enough space for you and your staff to move about.
- It would be nice to learn more about the different cuisines as you go along so you can cater to a wide variety of audiences.
- Include a checklist of all the equipment you need to operate at the start. These equipment requirements make up the bulk of your startup costs. You can download a checklist of frequently used catering equipment here .
Throughout this entire guide, we have been referring to your readers as one of the main reasons why you should make your catering business plan easy to understand. But in truth, making this business plan is for you as well. You will need this plan when you’re requesting for financial assistance in banks and this would also serve as your work guide. So remember to keep it detailed and easy to comprehend because you will be using this on the road to putting up your business.
While opening a catering business can be extraordinarily rewarding there are a few factors you should consider before deciding to push ahead. Creating a business plan lets you understand what the factors are, what’s going to make this business become a success, and how you can profit from the venture.
If you’re serious about starting a catering business, don’t forget to sign up for our Food Business Startup Kit . This free community will give you access to exclusive interviews with catering professionals you can use to help grow your own business.
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Catering Business Plan Template
Catering Business Plan Outline
- Catering Business Plan Home
- 1. Executive Summary
- 2. Company Overview
- 3. Industry Analysis
- 4. Customer Analysis
- 5. Competitive Analysis
- 6. Marketing Plan
- 7. Operations Plan
- 8. Management Team
- 9. Financial Plan
Start Your Catering Plan Here
Catering Business Plan
You’ve come to the right place to create your catering business plan.
We have helped over 1,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans and many have used them to start a new catering business or grow their catering company.
Below are links to each section of a catering business plan template example:
Next Section: Executive Summary >
Catering Business Plan FAQs
What is a catering business plan.
A catering business plan is a plan to start and/or grow your catering business. Among other things, it outlines your business concept, identifies your target customers, presents your marketing plan and details your financial projections.
You can easily complete your catering business plan using our Catering Business Plan Template here .
What Are the Main Types of Catering Businesses?
Catering services are available for a variety of different occasions including parties, weddings and corporate events.
What Are the Main Sources of Revenues and Expenses for a Catering Business?
The primary source of revenue for catering companies is individual, private events and corporate events.
The key expenses for catering companies are rent, wages and salaries, equipment and food costs.
How Do You Get Funding for Your Catering Company Business Plan?
Catering companies are often funded through small business loans. Personal savings, credit card financing and angel investors are also popular forms of funding.
What are the Steps To Start a Catering Business?
Starting a catering business can be an exciting endeavor. Having a clear roadmap of the steps to start a business will help you stay focused on your goals and get started faster.
1. Develop A Catering Business Plan - The first step in starting a business is to create a detailed business plan for a catering business that outlines all aspects of the venture. This should include potential market size and target customers, market resarch on the catering industry, the services or products you will offer, business operations details, pricing strategies and a detailed financial forecast. You can quickly complete your catering business plan using our Catering Business Plan Template here .
2. Choose Your Legal Structure - It's important to select an appropriate legal entity for your catering business. This could be a limited liability company (LLC), corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks so it’s important to do research and choose wisely so that your catering business is in compliance with local laws.
3. Register Your Catering Business - Once you have chosen a legal structure, the next step is to register your catering business with the government or state where you’re operating from. This includes obtaining licenses and permits as required by federal, state, and local laws.
4. Identify Financing Options - It’s likely that you’ll need some capital to start your catering business, so take some time to identify what financing options are available such as bank loans, investor funding, grants, or crowdfunding platforms.
5. Choose a Location - Whether you plan on operating out of a physical location or not, you should always have an idea of where you’ll be based should it become necessary in the future as well as what kind of space would be suitable for your operations.
6. Hire Employees - There are several ways to find qualified employees including job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed as well as hiring agencies if needed – depending on what type of employees you need it might also be more effective to reach out directly through networking events.
7. Acquire Necessary Catering Equipment & Supplies - In order to start your catering business, you'll need to purchase all of the necessary equipment and supplies to run a successful operation.
8. Market & Promote Your Business - Once you have all the necessary pieces in place, it’s time to start promoting and marketing your catering business. This includes creating a website, utilizing social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, and having an effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. You should also consider traditional marketing techniques such as radio or print advertising.
Learn more about how to start a successful catering business and catering business planning:
- How to Start a Catering Business
- How to Start a Catering Company
Where Can I Get a Catering Business Plan PDF?
You can download our free catering business plan template PDF here . This is a sample catering business plan template you can use in PDF format.
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Catering Business Plan
Every event or occasion calls for good food. And although the majority of people like good food, not everyone has the talent to cook the same.
And if you are someone who receives constant compliments for your cooking then you must have thought of having your catering business.
But having a catering business is much more than that. It all boils down to the quality of your service in the end, but before that, you need to have a strategy to attract your customers’ attention, build trust, manage your finances, and many more.
All of the above might sound a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. All you need is a catering business plan.
Catering Industry Highlights 2023
Here is an overview of the current state of the catering industry in 2023:
Market size and growth potential:
Employment scenario:, number of operational businesses:, major market drivers:, key market trends:, financial plan:.
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How Can a Catering Business Plan Help You?
The catering business is one of the most rewarding careers as it not only lets you pursue your passion, it has the potential to grow into a huge business by size and volume if planned properly.
A business plan is helpful for a catering business because along with great cooking skills, great management skills are an integral part of a successful catering business.
A business plan can help you conduct your daily business activities without chaos, have good finances, help you find your desired customers, and make your unique business idea a marketable one.
Things to Consider Before Writing Your Catering Business Plan
Make a list of items you can serve.
Having a list of items you will serve, helps you organize your services better. It also helps your customers understand what you can offer and decide if your service is the right one for them or not.
Figure out your location and staffing coasts
Figure out from where you’ll provide services, what would be the amount of rent you’ll have to pay, which location would be good for your business , etc.
Figure out where you’ll get your supplies from
Make a list of important equipment.
Although many catering services work on the go and prefer to rent equipment, it is a good practice to have the basic equipment in case of contingency. It would also decrease your reliance on other people, and pose fewer challenges while gathering supplies for new orders.
Now that you have done the research, let’s learn how you can write a business plan for yourself.
How to Write a Catering Business Plan?
A good catering business plan consists of a clear description of your business’s functioning, your target market, the services you offer, the size of your company, a pricing strategy, and a well-designed employee management system.
Now you might wonder, where to start from, how to go about writing a plan from scratch, and most importantly how to know if you have written a good one.
Well, you need not worry.
You can easily write a well-rounded business plan either through a pre-designed template or through online business plan software.
Moreover, online business plan software can help you write a flexible business plan that grows alongside your business.
Catering Business Plan Outline
This is the standard catering business plan outline which will cover all important sections that you should include in your business plan.
- Keys to Success
- Financial Summary
- Legal Entity
- Locations and Facilities
- Facility Design
- Boxed lunches
- Buffet style lunches
- Alternative Providers
- Future Products
- Internal Bright Future Customers
- Nonprofit External Customers
- For-profit External Customers
- Market Analysis
- Market Trends
- Market Growth
- Value Proposition
- Competitive Edge
- Distribution Strategy
- Marketing Programs
- Pricing Strategy
- Promotion Strategy
- Of Grape & Grain
- Cravings Fine Foods
- Ariana’s Deli
- Fettuccini and Co
- Napoli Restaurant
- Brindiamo Catering
- Wild Duck Brewery
- Oregon Electric Station
- Local and national grocery stores chains
- Local and national sandwich fast-food chains
- Strategic Alliances
- Organizational Structure
- Management Team Gaps
- Personnel Plan
- Other General Assumptions
- Fundraising Strategy
- Fundraising Programs
- Funding Forecast
- Start-up Summary
- Income Statement (5-Year Projections)
- Balance Sheet (5-Year Projections)
- Cash Flow (5-Year Projections)
Although your plan will keep changing as your business grows, here are a few key sections that would form the foundation of your business plan:
1. Executive summary
This executive summary section would be the first one on your plan. It provides a summary of all that your business stands for. It can be divided into the following subsections:
- Objectives : This segment would consist of the chief objectives of your company. What it aims to achieve, who it wants to serve, and where it wants to reach.
- Mission : This segment includes the mission statement of your business, it consists of what market gap you plan on filling with your business.
- Financial Summary : This segment will give a summary of the past and present condition of your finances as well as projected gains of your business.
A clear executive summary can come in handy if you need funding.
2. Operational Strategy
The operational strategy section helps you plan how to work toward achieving your business goals. It can be divided into the following subsections:
- Day-to-day activities : In this segment, you’ll write an overview of the best way of carrying out your business from onboarding clients to fulfilling the services.
- Long-term goals : This section would consist of long-term goals like serving a certain number of clients, growing your business to a certain size, and expanding to a certain number of branches, etc.
A good operational strategy would make your business activities less chaotic and prevent them from being all over the place.
3. Market Analysis
In this segment, you’ll write down every single detail you can find out about the market. It would include the following segments:
- Market trends : Knowing about all the prevailing market trends can help you design a plan that would change as per the evolving market, and also help you maintain the foundation your company stands on. It would also give you an overview of what your competitors are doing.
- Target Market : This segment would describe everything about your target market. The locations they prefer, the kind of cuisines they are into, how and when they procure catering services, etc.
This segment helps you understand what you are getting yourself into.
This section consists of a detailed description of the services you offer. For example, the events you cater to, the volume of people you can serve, the food options your services have, what additional services you offer, etc.
This segment helps your target audience understand your services better, it helps them in deciding whether you are the right fit for them or not. So, make sure you describe your services in a clear and precise manner.
5. Financial Plan
The financial plan segment includes everything starting from the funds you need to start your business, the funds you need for procuring supplies and employing people, the projected cash flow of your business, expected profit, and loss of your business, pricing strategy, etc.
Download a sample catering business plan
Need help writing your business plan from scratch? Here you go; download our free catering business plan pdf to start.
It’s a modern business plan template specifically designed for your catering business. Use the example business plan as a guide for writing your own.
The Quickest Way to turn a Business Idea into a Business Plan
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Write your business plan with Upmetrics
A business plan software like Upmetrics is the best way to draft your business plan. This incredible tool comes with step-by-step instructions, customizable templates, and 400+ sample business plans to help you get started.
So, whether starting a catering business or planning to grow an existing one, Upmetrics is the tool you need to create a business plan.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning today!
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Frequently asked questions, how do i write a business plan for catering.
Writing a catering business plan from scratch requires a lot of research, but you can report it most effectively with the help of a catering business plan example. Using our business plan software, you can also quickly finish your plan in just a few hours or less.
What should be included in a catering business plan?
These are the key components of a business plan your catering plan must include to stand out to investors:
- Executive summary
- Business Overview
- Products and services
- Sales and marketing strategies
- Operations plan
- Management team
- Financial plan
Where to find business plan writers for your catering business?
While many business plan writers are available to help you, believe it or not, no one knows your business better than you. So we recommend you write your catering business plan and outline your vision as you have in your mind. You can use AI business plan generators like Upmetrics to speed up the writing process.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a catering business plan?
Following are some of the common mistakes to avoid when writing a catering business plan:
- Poor market research and ignoring industry trends.
- Inadequate and inaccurate financial projections.
- Undefined goals and lack of details.
- Including outdated and irrelevant information.
- Not proofreading the document for typos and grammatical errors.
- Not regularly updating your business plan.
About the Author
Upmetrics is the #1 business planning software that helps entrepreneurs and business owners create investment-ready business plans using AI. We regularly share business planning insights on our blog. Check out the Upmetrics blog for such interesting reads. Read more
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1. start off with a business profile, 2. focus on marketing, 3. create financial forecasts, executive summary small catering business plan example.
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Easy-to-Make Dishes You Can Serve for Your Catering Business
1. caesar salad.
3. Gyoza and Sushi
4. grilled food (pork, beef, or seafood).
5. Mini Cheesecake Cupcakes
6. ice cream.
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Back to All Business Ideas
How to Start a Catering Business
Written by: Carolyn Young
Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
Edited by: David Lepeska
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on October 27, 2021 Updated on November 10, 2023
$23,750 - $55,750
$325,000 - $750,000 p.a.
Time to build
1 - 4 months
$39,000 - $75,000 p.a.
Your culinary talents make you and your family happy, so why not spread that joy to the rest of the world?
Take your cooking skills to the next level and embark on a new career in the wonderful world of catering. If you enjoy parties and specialized food preparation for events of all kinds, then let your entrepreneurial spirit guide you into starting your own catering business.
Starting a business takes planning and hard work, but if you follow this simple, step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to build your own catering business from scratch.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Form your business immediately using ZenBusiness LLC formation service or hire one of the Best LLC Services .
Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Pros and cons.
Every business has its advantages and disadvantages, including running a catering business. Weigh each pro and con to find out if catering can work for you.
- Invest in your passion – Share your culinary talents with your community.
- Flexible – Work on your own time and in your own niche.
- Simple – Uncomplicated business model with a consistent service offering.
- Opportunity – There are always reunions, weddings, corporate events, etc.
- Choose your clients – Choose your own clients and workload, with a high degree of client retention if you deliver good service and delicious food.
- Rich networking capabilities – You never know who you will meet at an event!
- Must satisfy – Even one dissatisfied or sick customer can hurt your business.
- Health and safety – Food preparation means you are legally bound to focus on.
- Weak profits – Catering industry offers relatively low profit margins.
- Repetitive – Catering can be repetitive work, leading to high employee turnover.
- Low scalability – Difficult to scale your business over time.
Catering industry trends
In the last decade, the catering business has grown faster than the rest of the US economy, benefitting from a larger urban population and more corporate events.
Industry size and growth
- Industry size and past growth – Market researcher IBISWorld values the US catering industry at $16 billion. The market has recovered from the pandemic slump, which brought the average annual growth rate to 1.4% over the past five years.(( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/caterers-united-states/ ))
- Growth forecast – Market research firm Technavio expects the global catering industry to grow 4.5% annually through 2025.(( https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/catering-services-market-2021-2025-industry-analysis-market-trends-growth-opportunities-and-forecasttechnavio-301349349.html ))
- Number of businesses – There are around 145,000 caterers in the US.(( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/caterers-united-states/ ))
- Number of people employed – The industry employs nearly 300,000 people.(( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/employment/caterers-united-states/ ))
Trends and challenges
Trends in the catering industry
Tech design and education firm Harbinger Learning(( https://harbingerlearning.com/blog/catering-industry-growing-by-leaps-and-bounds-and-sustaining-beyond/ )) attributes the industry’s strong growth to four main factors:
- Technological reach – Apps and websites put catering at event planners’ fingertips
- Healthy consumer spending – The average catering order has increased in recent years due to larger corporate profits and a surge in consumer spending
- Rise in catering avenues – Boxed lunches, catering out of a vehicle, interior decorating, and other non-traditional services have expanded industry offerings
- Better packaging – New packaging that controls temperature and maintains food freshness has enabled caterers to be more mobile and flexible
Challenges in the catering industry include:
- High level of competition
- High employee turnover
What kind of people work in catering?
- Gender – 57% of caterers in the US are female, while 43% are male.(( https://www.zippia.com/caterer-jobs/demographics/#gender-statistics ))
- Average level of education – 47% of caterers hold a bachelor’s degree and 28% hold a high school diploma.(( https://www.zippia.com/caterer-jobs/education/ ))
- Average age – The average age of a caterer is 36 years old.
How much does it cost to start a catering business?
Entrepreneur magazine estimates the startup cost for a catering business at $10,000 to $50,000 , with an average of $30,000. The most significant costs include cooking equipment (~$15k) and potential furniture fixtures such as tables, chairs, and refrigerators (~$15k). And these costs are likely to increase as your business grows.
The right equipment is crucial for the successful launch of a catering business. You might consider specialty equipment for your particular menu needs. Here’s a list of some of the major items you may need to get started:
- Kitchen equipment: ovens, stoves, grills, fryers, plates, bowls, trays, utensils
- Holding cabinets (for easily transporting trays of food)
- Chafing dishes (steel, lidded containers to keep food warm)
- Food pan carriers
- Hot food tables
- Catering carts
- Catering service trays
- Ice beverage bins
- Insulated beverage carriers
- Punch bowls
- Tabletop and buffet displays
- Food and drink fountains
- Ice sculpture molds
- Buffet serving utensils
- Concession equipment
Here is an overview of some of the likely startup cost estimates for a catering business in 2021, as compiled by Step by Step Research:
How much can you earn from a catering business?
A catering business can expect to make $30,000 to $50,000 in annual profits, with leading jobs site ZipRecruiter putting the national average at just over $42,000. A typical catering firm maintains a 10-12% profit margin, which may be low but is a sizable improvement on restaurants’ 3-6% margin.
A catering solopreneur could thus expect to take in $350,000 to $420,000 in annual revenue, and $35,000 to $50,000 in net profit. A catering business’s main source of revenue is the per-event fee, which varies based on the number of people being served and the extent of service.
Event catering can cost clients anywhere from $500 to $3,000 and above, depending on the number of people and the market niche of the caterer. To make $40,000 in annual profit, a catering firm would have to host around 200 events and charge an average of $1,800.
In your first year or two, you could work from home and do 15 events per month for $1,800 per event, bringing in $325,000 in annual revenue. This would mean about $39,000 in profit, assuming that 12% margin. As your brand gains recognition, sales could climb to 25 events per month and you could charge higher at $2,500 per event. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial space and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to 10%. With annual revenue of $750,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $75,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
The primary barriers to entry for starting a catering business include:
- Startup capital – A catering business requires a kitchen, cooking equipment and possibly furniture, each of which requires significant monetary investments. Licenses, permits, and insurance are other initial costs.
- Competition – The catering industry is growing fast and that means competition. Many restaurants perform catering services as well.
- Logistics – Cooking a mass meal is one thing, but effectively packaging, transporting, and delivering it to an event is another. The logistics of catering can be a problem if you do not have the experience or equipment to effectively do it and maintain your food’s freshness and quality.
- Difficult to scale – Due to the time-intensive work required, scaling your business enough to serve multiple events simultaneously is difficult.
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Step 2: hone your idea.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a catering business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
To begin as a prospective caterer, you should research your local market to identify what kinds of businesses are catering events, what kind of events those are, and what kind of equipment, fixtures, and logistics such events require.
Consider the most common avenues of wedding catering and corporate catering. Other special events, such as graduations or birthdays, are also likely to use catering. Alternative niches in the realm of catering might include flowers, tables, or other non-culinary decorations and interior design.
What? Determine your products or services
Compare your local market’s needs to the food and beverage menus you’re capable of providing. Do you want to provide full-service, multiple-course meals, or just pastries, cookies, and desserts? Will you serve alcohol? These decisions could necessitate additional planning.
Determine your offerings by researching the most popular food and beverage products at the events you plan to serve. Examples of catering niches include:
- Corporate lunches
- Holiday parties
- Rehearsal dinners
- Award ceremonies
- Bar mitzvahs
- Box lunch events
- Baby showers
- Dessert delivery
Adding some personality to your menu could also be a boon to your brand.
Maybe you provide the best brunch, vegan meals, or mobile dining. Traditional or cultural dishes could be popular in your market.
Consider how you’d like your dishes served — on plates, by servers, or in boxes. There are many options for your choice of food and its delivery. It is best to consider your market relative to your capabilities, both in terms of skill and equipment.
How much should you charge for your catering services?
Generally, catering services charge based on the size of the event. You should structure your pricing plan based on your expected expenses. Whether you are preparing mass meals or just delivering treats, you need to weigh labor and ingredient costs against your desired profit margin (avg. 10-12%).
Search site Thumbtack provides a handy guide on catering costs on a per-person basis. Their rates for weddings and other common events include the prices customers should expect to pay. On average, for the most common food station or buffet-style catering, they calculate that the customer will pay around $30 per head:
For high-end food and services, the prices will of course be higher. Formal plated meals with multiple courses, for instance, require more preparation time and more expensive ingredients. Here are some more example prices from Thumbtack:
Depending on your target market and specific catering offerings, this should get you started in brainstorming your own pricing plan.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market – whether it’s corporations, weddings, or another niche – will have different demands. You should adjust your menu and your services accordingly.
For example, weddings and rehearsal dinners are more likely to make specific requests and ask for certain dishes. Corporate events may be more informal, with generic food requests or adherence to your menu offerings.
If you are ready to customize your menu and include a capacity for your cooks to accommodate unique wishlists for meals, then perhaps you should seek out weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other personalized celebrations. If you intend for your meals to be more standardized, boxed, and templated, then corporate events and conferences may be a better fit. If you want to make extravagant meals fit for fine dining, then you should pursue the higher-end clientele looking for that type of service.
You should understand going in, no matter what type of cook you are, your menu will largely be determined by the desires of your target market.
Where? Choose your business premises
In the early stage of business development, you may want to operate your business from your home, assuming your kitchen is big enough. This will help you keep expenses in check.
But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out a physical storefront. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist , Crexi , and Instant Offices .
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
- Central location accessible via public transport
- Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
- Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
- Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Catering Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
- Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
- Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
- The name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
- Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for name suggestions
- Including keywords in the name, such as “catering” or “foods”, boosts SEO
- Choose a name that allows for expansion; “Tasty Temptations Catering” rather than “Wedding Bells Catering” or “Vegan Ventures Catering”
- Avoid location-based names, as they may hinder future expansion
- Use online tools like the Step by Step business name generator . Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
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Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that set your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Catering Business Plan
Every business needs a plan, a rough outline that helps guide a startup through the launch process while maintaining focus on key goals. A business plan is also crucial for helping potential partners and investors understand your company and vision:
- Executive Summary: A brief summary outlining the key points of the catering business plan, including its mission, objectives, and anticipated success.
- Business Overview: A comprehensive introduction to the catering business, encompassing its mission, vision, location, and legal structure.
- Product and Services: Details on the specific catering services offered, including menus, pricing, and any unique features that set the business apart.
- Market Analysis: A thorough examination of the target market, customer demographics, and trends to justify the demand for catering services in the chosen area.
- Competitive Analysis: An assessment of competitors in the catering industry, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to inform the business strategy.
- Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting the catering business, including advertising, promotions, and sales tactics to attract and retain customers.
- Management Team: Profiles of key personnel in the catering business, outlining their roles, expertise, and contributions to the company’s success.
- Operations Plan: Detailed information on the day-to-day operations of the catering business, covering logistics, suppliers, staffing, and facilities.
- Financial Plan: Projections for the financial performance of the catering business, including revenue forecasts, expense estimates, and break-even analysis.
- Appendix: Additional supporting documents and information, such as resumes of key team members, detailed financial spreadsheets, and any other relevant supplementary materials.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to catering.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Businesses come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your catering business shapes your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so it’s important to choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
- Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
- General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
- C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
- S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC , which just needs to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization , and answer any questions you might have.
Form Your LLC
Choose Your State
We recommend ZenBusiness as the Best LLC Service for 2023
Step 6: Register for Taxes
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number , or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate on a calendar year (January–December), or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist , and taxes can be filed online.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
- Bank loans : This is the most common method, but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
- SBA-guaranteed loans : The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan .
- Government grants : A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
- Venture capital : Offer potential investors an ownership stake in exchange for funds, keeping in mind that you would be sacrificing some control over your business.
- Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
- Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
- Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best options, other than friends and family, for funding a catering business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Step 8: Apply for Catering Business Licenses and Permits
Starting a catering business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting a catering business include doing business as (DBA), health license and permit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( OSHA ), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
For a catering business, you will potentially need state-level licenses, a business license, and local county or city-based health and food-handling licenses and permits. If you plan to serve alcohol, you will need to obtain a liquor license as well.
Additional permits may be required by your state, such as a general business permit or license. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary from state to state, so check your state government’s website or contact the appropriate person to inquire about licenses and permits needed to run a catering business.
You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package . They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.
This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.
If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.
Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account
Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account .
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your catering business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked but is vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your life and business.
Here are some of the different types of insurance to consider:
- General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
- Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
- Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
- Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
- Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
- Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
- Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
- Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.
Step 11: Prepare to Launch
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, a number of excellent software programs and digital tools can help you with many business tasks.
Several catering-specific websites and online tools can strengthen your business and boost efficiency. Here’s a list of top catering software offerings:
- Total Party Planner
- Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks , Freshbooks , and Xero .
- If you are unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders . This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your catering business, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing your culinary expertise, versatility in menu options, and exceptional service quality. Highlight how your catering can enhance various events, from intimate gatherings to large-scale functions. The goal is to establish your business as the go-to choice for clients seeking memorable, hassle-free dining experiences for their events.
- Professional Branding : Ensure your branding reflects elegance, quality, and the unique flair of your catering services, from your logo to your presentation style.
- Direct Outreach : Network with event planners, corporate entities, wedding venues, and other professionals who can refer your services.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
- Professional Website and SEO : Develop a visually appealing website showcasing your menu offerings, past events, and customer testimonials. Implement SEO best practices to optimize your site for relevant search terms related to catering services.
- Social Media Engagement : Utilize platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook to post high-quality images and videos of your food, events you’ve catered, and behind-the-scenes glimpses.
Content Marketing and Engagement
- Culinary Blog : Share posts about menu planning, event-specific catering tips, and the latest trends in event catering.
- Customer Success Stories : Highlight testimonials and case studies from successful events, focusing on your role in creating an unforgettable experience.
- Catering Tips and Guides : Create helpful content for event planning, dietary considerations, and how to select the right caterer for different occasions.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
- Tasting Events : Host tasting events for potential clients to sample your menu and experience your service style firsthand.
- Participation in Local Events and Expos : Get involved in local food expos, wedding fairs, and business networking events to showcase your services and build relationships.
Collaborations and Community
- Partnerships with Event Venues and Suppliers : Collaborate with event venues and suppliers for mutual referral arrangements and package deals.
- Community Involvement : Sponsor local community events or charities, demonstrating your commitment to the community and increasing brand visibility.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
- Referral Programs : Implement a program that rewards clients who refer new business to your catering service.
- Repeat Business Incentives : Offer special packages or discounts to clients who book your services for multiple events.
Promotions and Advertising
- Targeted Advertising : Use digital advertising on wedding and event planning platforms, and local online communities to reach potential clients.
- Email Marketing : Keep past and potential clients engaged with newsletters featuring your latest menu creations, event ideas, and special offers.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your catering service meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your catering business could be:
- Gourmet food on the go
- Niche food expert
- Organic and vegan meals
- Traditional or cultural dishes
- Well-planned; consistent and timely delivery
- Cater to customized requests
- Food presentation specialist
- Day-of prep and delivery
- Decorations, interior design
- Cooking instruction; a micro-culinary school
- Offer photography/videography
- Airline / cruise ship catering
- Cocktail catering
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a catering business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in a catering company for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in catering. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.
Step 12: Build Your Team
You may not need to hire any employees if you are starting with a small catering firm run out of your kitchen. But as your business grows, you will likely need full-time employees to fill various job roles, such as:
- Event planner
- Busboys and dishwashers
- Admin & HR
Your business may at some point need to hire all of these positions, or just one or two of them, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed , Glassdoor , or ZipRecruiter . Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Catering Business – Start Making Money!
Higher consumer spending and corporate marketing budgets bode well for a catering business, so be prepared to step up once the opportunity comes knocking.
To jumpstart word-of-mouth marketing, it’s wise to identify a niche market, such as product launches, meetings and conferences, and other corporate events. But you might also want to keep your options open and cater to a broader client base. Either way, cooking up a diverse and appealing menu is important to keep clients satisfied and inspire their loyalty.
You’re now ready to launch your catering business and start your entrepreneurial journey. Good luck!
- Catering Business FAQs
Some licenses and permits are common to all businesses, such as zoning and sales tax. Other licenses/permits are specific to the food business and will need to be obtained through your state. You may need to register your business with the Food & Drug Administration and obtain your specific licenses and permits from there, depending on the type of food and beverages you plan to provide. Ultimately, it’s best to perform your own research to determine your specific business needs. State and local health departments can help you obtain the appropriate licenses and permits.
Startup food businesses do not need to build their own facilities and kitchens. Outside using your home kitchen, most areas offer many options for renting, or even co-renting, a professional kitchen. You could use an incubator kitchen , which are meant to nurture new food businesses, or a co-packer kitchen that will make your products for a contracted price. You could co-rent a kitchen facility alongside other caterers, or even rent out a restaurant’s kitchen on off-days or off-hours. Websites like The Kitchen Door provide search services for these and other options.
Food business owners should first and foremost understand the various food safety protocols, such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Many food safety procedures can be learned online and health inspectors can provide further educational recommendations and training materials. In general, preparing, packaging, and labeling your food appropriately is necessary to comply with food safety protocols.
The profitability of running a catering business can vary depending on factors such as target market, pricing strategy, and operational efficiency. Successful catering businesses have the potential for high-profit margins, but careful cost management and effective operations are crucial for profitability.
To attract more clients for your catering business, network with event planners and other professionals in the industry, build a strong online presence with an impressive website and social media profiles, encourage satisfied clients to provide testimonials or reviews, collaborate with local businesses for partnerships, and create appealing marketing materials.
When organizing a catering menu, consider your target market’s preferences, offer diverse options to accommodate dietary restrictions, consider seasonality and ingredient availability, create customizable menu packages, pay attention to presentation, seek client feedback, and regularly update your menu based on preferences and market trends.
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- Decide if the Business Is Right for You
- Hone Your Idea
- Brainstorm a Catering Business Name
- Create a Catering Business Plan
- Register Your Business
- Register for Taxes
- Fund your Business
- Apply for Catering Business Licenses and Permits
- Open a Business Bank Account
- Get Business Insurance
- Prepare to Launch
- Build Your Team
- Run a Catering Business - Start Making Money!
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How to Write a Business Plan for Catering
- Small Business
- Business Planning & Strategy
- Write a Business Plan
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How to Open an American Diner
How to start my own pastry shop, figuring out prices for baked goods.
- How to Start a Burger Business
- How to Sell Pastries on the Street
Writing a business plan for a catering business shouldn’t be that difficult; much of your plan will cover the basics of starting any small business, and you can find templates online to get you started. After you have the basic format set up, plug in the specifics for a catering business. Using a step-by-step method to write a catering business plan puts you on a path to launch sooner rather than later.
Choose a Format
Many business plans follow the same format. Smarty Cents recommends following this outline for direction and a logical flow to writing your plan.
- Contents page
- Executive summary
- Marketplace overview
- Product/service description
- Marketing plan
- Support materials
Do Your Research
Start your business plan by addressing the business – not catering – basics. Will you run the business out of your home? You’ll need a local business license and approval from your town. Will you incorporate? Talk to a tax professional about your options. You’ll probably want to set up a business checking account and get a credit card. Talk to your local bank or credit union. Check your local and state health department rules and regulations inside and out.
Decide on Your Brand
Your brand is your unique selling proposition or differential. For example, if you do high-end corporate events, that’s your brand. If you do private, in-home events, that’s your brand. You support a brand with branding and brand management, such as coming up with a name, logo, slogan and other marketing communications, but you first must decide precisely what you’re going to sell. Once you know that, you can start developing your overall marketing plan.
What Is Marketing?
Marketing consists of a combination of product, pricing, distribution, and promotional strategies and tactics. Together they are known as the marketing mix, explains MindTools . Advertising, PR, social media and other forms of promotion are known as marketing communications (the fourth P of the Four Ps of product, price, place and promotion).
After you identify your brand, look at the demand for what you want to offer in your marketplace. You’ll get a good indication by looking at your competition. This action helps you develop your product offerings, prices and distribution strategy. For example: Will you deliver box lunches or serve hot food on-site?) Schedule time to work on the marketplace overview and marketing sections of your business plan one after the other since they closely affect each other.
Create Your Menu
When you know your brand, competition, pricing structure and distribution plans, develop the menu. In addition to choosing the menu items, figure out your hard costs for each one. Your hard costs include food and labor expenses. After calculating those, factor in the overhead costs to run your business, the desired profits and taxes. This knowledge allows you to set your prices for each menu item and determine your profit margins.
Run Some Numbers
Project three sales scenarios – conservative, realistic and optimistic – to see what your gross profits might be based on the profit margins you calculated when you created your menu.
As part of your overhead costs, factor in paying down your launch costs. These are expenses such as the purchase of kitchen equipment, a vehicle, setting up a corporation, building a website, and getting all your fees and licenses set up. Decide if you want to pay off all of these in year one or over several years.
Create an annual budget with average monthly expenses. Try to determine if your business will make a profit based on the three sales scenarios. Adjust your expenses, prices or sales projections if you think you can do that realistically to generate the desired profit.
Write a Summary
Finish your business plan with a recap if you’re going to use it to attract investors. Restate your concept, startup costs, catering strategies, why you think the business will work, and your projected profit (which might not come until year two). State what your capital needs are and what you are offering to investors. You can leave this last step out if you are going to use your business plan to apply to a bank for a loan or line of credit.
- MindTools: The Marketing Mix and the 4Ps of Marketing
- Smarty Cents: How to Write a Business Plan the Right Way
- Complete food handlers training is offered by the Bureau of Consumer Health in Houston and online training is provided by the state of Texas to those companies operating outside of Houston. This training teaches you how to properly handle food to prevent food-borne illnesses such as botulism and salmonella and provides additional credibility to your business, especially if it is operated from a home.
- To maintain a food dealer's permit in Houston, your catering business is subject to two unannounced health inspections per year. Inspections of all food preparation areas, food storage areas (dry goods, freezer and refrigeration), temperature logs, sanitation areas and dish-washing stations are conducted to ensure a safe food preparation environment. Failure to comply with health inspection standards may results in non-renewal of your food dealer's license.
Steve Milano is a journalist and business executive/consultant. He has helped dozens of for-profit companies and nonprofits with their marketing and operations. Steve has written more than 8,000 articles during his career, focusing on small business, careers, personal finance and health and fitness. Steve also turned his tennis hobby into a career, coaching, writing, running nonprofits and conducting workshops around the globe.
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9+ Small Catering Business Plan Templates
Food businesses are always here to stay. The biggest ones started out very small and slowly worked their way up. One of the most common types of food business that are usually seen in events is the catering business plan samples . It offers a wide selection of food to its customers and serve them at their tables. Catering is becoming a lucrative business these days, and anyone who wants to go into it must have a comprehensive business plan . It guides the business owner on what to do with his business.
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Writing a Small Catering Business Plan
1. describe the business., 2. determine the amount of space and budget., introduction to food business catering plan template.
Catering And Event Planning Business Plan Template
3. List equipment.
4. obtain permits., 5. list additional costs., 6. make the marketing strategies., simple catering business template.
Restaurant Small Catering Business Plan Template
Starting A Catering Business
1. legal documents., 2. prepare the working space., 3. make the inventory., 4. prepare transportation., 5. determine the target market., 6. establish a good relationship with vendors., 7. make a comprehensive marketing strategy., sample business plan for food catering business.
Reasons To Start A Catering Business
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Catering Business Plan
Start your own catering business plan
Bright Future Youth and Family Services
Executive summary executive summary is a brief introduction to your business plan. it describes your business, the problem that it solves, your target market, and financial highlights.">, opportunity.
Society lacks resources for the less privileged or homeless youth population. Eugene, like all the other cities, has a migration of homeless teenagers who have run away from home. They are here for a few months of the year and then they hitch down to California during the winter for warmer weather. These are young adults who have no idea how to be part of society. They can’t provide for themselves and eventually they have children and the cycle continues.
We provide at-risk youth alternative education and career assistance in Lane County. We want to make this experience valuable for our clients. We do this through a series of curricula funded by the Lane Workforce Partnership, Oregon Youth Conservation Corps, Oregon Department of Human Resources, and the local school districts.
Our most recent program is a culinary arts program in which students learn about food preparation and safe handling and then put this knowledge to use by preparing lunches for their peers at the Chambers School. After completing the 9-week curriculum, students are placed with a local food service business for a 60-hour practical training where they can continue to develop their skills. Currently, the culinary arts program is available to five students per 9-week school term, or approximately 25 students per year. Students enrolled in the program are selected because of their sincere interest in the culinary field and their excellent attendance.
According to the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, “[a]t the heart of the Eugene economy are the homegrown small and medium-sized businesses. Most of Eugene’s businesses employ fewer than 20 workers. From specialty retail shops to financial service firms, from management consultancies to ethnic groceries, Eugene’s small business community is diverse, active, thriving and well-supported. Including sole proprietorships and limited partnerships, there are more than 10,000 businesses in and around Eugene.” Eugene/Springfield’s population has grown 3.95% on average since 1998 and this new growth has meant new businesses and expanding opportunities for catering companies who can serve these businesses’ needs.
Catering For Kids anticipates that Eugene/Springfield businesses have unmet demand for catered lunch meetings and other events. And unlike other restaurant and food-related businesses, business to business catering is not as cyclical as business to consumer catering. Businesses continue to have lunch meetings and employees who wish to purchase their lunches year round. In order to gain some insight into the market size and demand, we undertook some limited market research. An email survey was sent to 144 Lane County nonprofit organizations that requested their current or future demand for catering services and their interest in patronizing a nonprofit catering business. We received many responses like the ones that follow.
“I think that this is a great idea and could be a good resource for the community. Springfield/Eugene Habitat for Humanity does not host many lunchtime meetings, however there is a group of about 13 or 14 Executive Directors of Habitat affiliates that meet here about every three months that might use your service.” – Susan Brown, Volunteer Coordinator, Eugene/Springfield Habitat for Humanity
“…if we do have an event that we need catering we will call your program first. We have a policy of using nonprofit organizations for services first.” – Bob Smith, Exec Dir, Pacific Youth Corps of Oregon
“Our needs for catering are not very large, maybe a few times a year. However, you may contact me to discuss the program. My son attends Chambers School and I would welcome hearing more details.” – Mark West, Lane County Agricultural Museum
“We do have General Membership Meetings where we require a venue for 50 to 100 people. I’m not involved with arranging the meetings but do know that our organization is in need of a place to meet where food and beer can be served. Perhaps you will hear from Dave – I think the first meeting is usually in October.” – Emily, Graduate Teaching Federation Office
A number of other caterers offer boxed lunches for business clients. However, none of these businesses specialize in serving the nonprofit sector, nor are they themselves a nonprofit that benefits the local community. Catering For Kids will specialize in developing excellent relationships with its nonprofit clientele. We believe that this unique position, combined with competitively priced, fresh, high-quality meals will set Catering For Kids apart as the premier caterer for the Lane County nonprofit sector.
Catering For Kids is dedicated to providing at-risk youth with an opportunity to gain work experience and transferable skills by providing our customers with healthy, homemade foods and excellent service at reasonable prices. Employees of Catering For Kids will be students who are enrolled in the culinary arts program at the Chambers School and Career Center and are interested in gaining work experience in the restaurant and food services industry. The experiences the students have while participating in this program will assist them in making the transition from school to work and will allow them to develop entrepreneurial skills that will be transferable to any job in the future.
The following benchmark chart indicates our key financial indicators for the first three years. We foresee slow but steady growth in demand for our services and consequent increase in operating expenses. During year one, Catering For Kids will serve its internal market only, as we ramp up to serving the external market in year two.
Financial Highlights by Year
One of our revenue lines is grant funding, $15,000 annually. And we need and anticipate donations of $2,000 per month, plus some revenue from fees for lunches and event catering.
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Small Business Trends
How to start a web design business.
The digital world is expanding rapidly. A website that functions as a digital business card is a critical tool for small businesses. It is the point of contact between your target market and your goods and services.
A well-designed website is a digital snapshot of a company’s brand and values. Websites are accessible 24/7 and can reach a global audience. E-commerce websites are secure and convenient. They are becoming the cornerstone of the digital retail industry.
Skilled web designers are in high demand. This blog will provide all the information to start a thriving business as a website builder. Learn how to start a business with a focus on web design.
The Web Design Landscape
A business owner must stay current on UX best practices, technologies, and trends.
- Minimalism is one of the profitable trends. Designing clean websites with ample white space provides an elegant user experience.
- Progressive web apps combine mobile and web technologies.
- Mobile devices continue to dominate web traffic. That’s why web builders must create mobile-first designs with optimized page loading speeds.
Read on to find out some of the bonuses to starting a company.
Small Business Deals
Advantages of launching your own web design business.
There are many benefits to starting or even bootstrapping a web design business , and they include:
When you have a company, you can set your own pace and choose projects that align with your interests. You have control over your work schedule and the ability to foster work-life balance.
Maintenance contracts for existing websites can bring in a passive income. Different revenue streams are available through other services like domain registration and hosting.
You get the professional satisfaction of taking client visions and transforming them into functional websites. Web designers contribute to an online presence for individuals and businesses.
How to Start a Web Design Business: Essential Steps
Following these steps can help you to build up a successful enterprise.
Choosing Your Web Design Niche
These companies cover a wide variety of niches. Each one has its requirements and focus.
- E-commerce sites need to focus on several different things, like seamless payment processes.
- Small business websites cater to contact information, service offerings and good local SEO.
- Content-driven websites and online magazines focus on dynamic stories.
Website building also includes nonprofit websites, educational websites and complex, large-scale products for organizations and corporations. Portfolio websites show off the work of artists and other creative people.
Offering Comprehensive Web Design Services
A good design company will offer a variety of services.
Basic Web Design
A good design needs to be user-friendly and appealing. A properly designed website should have consistent logos and color schemes.
Social Media Integration
A successful small business will know how to enable social sharing features for the website. They will know how to place social sharing buttons to keep content dynamic.
It’s essential to ensure a website appears correctly on smartphones and tablets. A good designer will understand how to build a responsive design that can adapt to different orientations and screen sizes.
This design feature allows visitors to navigate and find information quickly. Good websites make it easy to perform tasks like filling out a contact form and or making a purchase.
Crafting a Business Plan for Your Web Design Venture
A good business plan for running one of these companies needs to include a section on financing and costs.
- You’ll need various software tools, such as WordPress and Adobe Creative Cloud. Consider factoring in subscription-based licenses in your business plan. Annual subscriptions can save you money in the long run.
- Domain name registration is critical for your site and your clients’ websites as well. You’ll need to factor in an initial registration fee and annual costs. Offering domain management and registration services can be an additional revenue stream.
- Other overhead costs include rent and utilities for a physical office and marketing and advertising to promote your service.
Presenting precise financial requirements for your design company can also include equipment and hardware like monitors and computers. Make sure you budget for depreciation. While you are at, make sure to learn how to write a business plan for your web design company to ensure you have all of the information lenders will want to see.
Acquiring Essential Web Design Skills and Tools
Having the right industry tools and the skills to use them correctly is essential.
- Adobe Creative Suite is an excellent choice for making graphics and visuals. It allows you to edit images and create mockups for layout. Don’t forget to stay updated with the latest features and updates.
- Content management systems are crucial. Products like WordPress and Joomla are critical for managing website content. They make it easy for non-technical users. A good company will learn how to customize templates and themes.
Setting Up Your Website Design Portfolio
An excellent portfolio will help you to attract clients when you’re starting a web design enterprise. Try to include a diverse range of projects to show your versatility. A separate section can be dedicated to creative projects. Detailed case studies of some of your projects showcase tangible value.
Building Your Web Design Business Brand
A solid identity will keep your brand memorable. Here are three things you can do to separate it from the competition. Building a brand is a necessary part of business expenses.
- A catchy, easy-to-remember name will make your business stand out. Make sure it’s short and relevant to the industry. Check to make sure the domain name is available, and avoid hard-to-pronounce names.
- You’ll need a visual representation of your brand, which means designing a memorable logo. Logos help build client trust, so hire a professional graphic designer. Remember to use a combination of symbols, letters and colors.
- Your brand must be consistent across email communications, social profiles, and your website. Use your logo and brand colors across all platforms.
Marketing Your Web Design Business
Promote your web design business by making the most of the following strategies.
Dribble carries a collection of mock-ups and animations you can use. Behance is a creative network for these professionals. You can get high-quality images from each.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Increasing visibility to potential clients means optimizing your online content—research relevant keywords and meta tags. Make sure to update the content regularly.
Social Media Marketing
This type of marketing is an excellent way to expand your reach and showcase your expertise. Make sure to choose the platforms that line up with your target audience. For example, LinkedIn is best for B2B clients, and Instagram is great for visual designs.
Determining Pricing and Packages for Your Services
Value-based pricing is one option. That lets you set your prices based on understanding your client’s business goals and objectives. It’s a good idea to schedule a detailed discovery meeting and provide a personalized proposal.
Market-orientated pricing and a tiered pricing structure are other options.
Client Management and Communication
You need to manage feedback and adopt precise communication techniques effectively. Choosing client interviews helps designers to understand their target audience and design preferences. Always use jargon-free language when communicating and keep them informed about the project’s progress.
Overcoming Challenges in Web Designing
Like any other business, there are hurdles to starting your web design enterprise.
- The web industry is constantly evolving with new design trends and technologies. To stay current, take online courses, follow industry blogs, and attend web conferences.
- Challenging and demanding clients can be time-consuming. You can lessen that hurdle by adopting clear communication. That includes discussing boundaries, timelines, and expectations.
- Seasonal fluctuations and other low business periods can be a challenge. You can lessen that hurdle by diversifying your income stream and offering related services like hosting and SEO.
Having a business startup checklist as well as a website startup guide can help you anticipate and even overcome challenges when your business is up and running. Understanding common business structures during the formation of your company can also protect you from personal financial liabilities. Whether it is an LLC or sole proprietorship, the right business structure could end up saving you a lot of money and headaches in the future.
FAQs: How to Start a Web Design Business
Finally, here are some FAQs about starting one of these businesses.
Is web designing a profitable business?
The amount of money you make depends on several things. First, your skills and expertise should include innovative designs and quality work. Successful client management and marketing also play a role. Well-devised marketing plans should showcase your work to reach potential clients.
How much can a Web Designer Make?
According to Indeed , the average salary for a designer, broken down into an hourly rate, is $25.31 an hour. The highest paying location is Washington, DC, at $45.40 per hour.
How does a web designer find clients?
Business owners looking for clients can attend industry events and collaborate with others in the field, such as graphic designers and SEO experts. They can also showcase their work on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.
Is coding knowledge needed to run a successful web design business?
Coding is an excellent skill to have, but it’s not necessary. Designers can partner with developers, use content management systems, and build websites.
Image: Envato Elements
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Citi sticks to internal plan to communicate scaled-back business model by end of November, with full details for Wall Street in early 2024
Posted: November 16, 2023 | Last updated: November 16, 2023
Citigroup Inc. remains on track to carry out its restructuring plan starting this month and extending until March, a spokesperson for the bank said Thursday.
Citigroup declined to comment on a report by CNBC-TV that workers were being informed of job cuts as early as Wednesday. Citing people with knowledge of the company, the report said new dismissals will be announced every day over the next few days.
A Citigroup spokesperson on Thursday referred to an internal memo from September that said: “The next layer of changes to further align teams with our new model will be communicated and implemented by the end of November, and final changes will be made by the end of the first quarter of 2024.”
On Oct. 13, Citigroup Chief Executive Jane Fraser told Wall Street analysts that she would provide more details early next year on her September announcement about simplifying the bank’s functions to improve efficiency .
“When we speak in January, Mark and I will be in a position to update you on the financial and other metrics, showing the impact of the simplification amongst other details,” Fraser said, referring to Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason. “Now, while expenses [are] not the primary driver of the organizational changes, they will help us start bending the expense curve in the fourth quarter of next year. And at the end of the work, we will have a simpler firm that can operate faster, better serve our clients and unlock value for our shareholders.”
On Nov. 6, CNBC reported that as many as 10% of employees in some business units will be let go as part what the bank is calling Project Bora Bora, and that layoffs will begin soon.
Citigroup disclosed 238,000 employees as of Sept. 30, down 2,000 from June 30.
Citigroup’s stock has fallen by 1.3% in 2023, compared with a gain of 17.4% by the S&P 500
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