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Seven Types of Catering Businesses You Could Open
Getting into the catering business can be intriguing if you love food and cooking for others. And with some caterers making thousands of dollars for a single event, the money can also be quite good. So catering might sound like heaven. (After all, who wouldn’t want to get paid thousands of dollars for doing something they enjoy?) But there are real challenges to opening a catering business. The first is, which type of caterer do you want to be?
First, Come Up with a Good Business Plan
Before anything else, you will need to develop a solid business plan. This plan will serve as a roadmap for your catering enterprise and help guide you through the fraught startup process. It will include information on things such as your target demographics, marketing plan, and financials such as typical costs.
There are many costs involved when it comes to starting up your own catering company. Fixed costs can include business insurance, marketing expenses, and rent. Unless you’re in a state that allows home kitchen use, you’ll need to rent space for food preparation. Licenses and related fees can also quickly add up depending on your location. (Insurance will be a prerequisite to becoming licensed in most cases.) Add in equipment and any additional labor expenses, and startup costs can become prohibitive.
Ensuring you have enough capital to meet these needs is why it is always good to be realistic about the costs involved in opening a catering business—especially regarding the cost of quality business insurance. The right insurance policy will be tailored to your business’s needs. For example, if your catering company uses a food truck or van to operate, you’ll likely need a special commercial auto policy that considers this. Other factors impact the cost of insurance for a caterer, such as where they are located, their specific type of work, the number of employees, and more. Again, an experienced insurance agent can help build a policy that will suit your business’s needs.
Few things are as high stakes as a wedding caterer. Do a good job, and at best, you may receive compliments, and at worst—no one will have noticed the hard work you put into preparing a meal for 15-500 guests. However, one screw-up and you are likely to face the wrath of a bride-or-groom-zilla!
When it comes to a wedding, the standards really are that high. Yet, wedding work can be worthwhile for those who can clear the bar. A typical wedding caterer will receive thousands of dollars for a single event. However, top-end talent can bring in six figures working as few as 11 events a year.
There are all sorts of special occasions that people choose to celebrate with catering besides weddings. These sorts of occasions are where more general event caterers make their bread and butter. This can include smaller, more everyday events, such as retirements, baptisms, anniversaries, graduations, or other special holidays. Other events can be a larger affair. Think catering cocktail hour at a plush movie premiere or book release.
While we call this category “Food Trucks,” it can include any mobile catering outfit. This means everything from a taco truck or a coffee cab to a barbeque caboose or “Breaking Bad” speakeasy RV counts. Of course, there are unique considerations to make when considering a food truck, including their seasonal nature in colder climates. However, for those that can afford to outlay tens of thousands of dollars on a set-up, the rewards can be plenty. A typical food truck can make one to two thousand dollars daily if parked at a festival. Though for private gigs, $5,000 or more per event fees aren’t unheard of.
If the stress of cooking up a meal for 200 big-wigs doesn’t faze you, corporate catering might be just the gig for you. And corporate catering doesn’t have to be all benefits and business lunches. Production work can also be a lucrative vein to explore. Busting into this industry can be difficult at first, but the work can be regular, and the pay is good.
Film and photo shoots can last sixteen hours or more and are regularly catered to with multiple meals. This work is also called craft services, and it does require that there is enough of a film, tv, or photo shoot industry in your area for regular work. However, pros in this niche can expect to make $45k a year or more if there is.
Do you ever think about who employs the people who sell you your peanuts and cracker jacks at the ballpark? Often enough, the workers slinging sodas in the stadium’s bowels don’t work for the team, but a separate catering company contracted out to do the work instead. For major stadiums, these contracts typically go to larger national corporations.
Still, smaller colleges and other venues often look for caterers to serve their hungry and thirsty customers. And while none of us has ever dreamed of serving up hot dogs and beer to bleacher creatures, the money can be quite good for the caterer that scores the work.
Hotel or Restaurant Catering
Not every catering company is dedicated solely to that side of its business. For many successful restaurants or hotels, catering can be lucrative but non-essential part of their business. Think of catering as a side gig for these businesses. The best part? Your catering customers will already be aware of your work! If the stress and unpredictability of catering doesn’t appeal to you, consider trying it supplementally. For some, this can be more easily handled while running your kitchen out of an established restaurant or hotel business.
Finally, there is specialty catering. This category can be a catch-all, including anything from a backyard hibachi experience to sharing a meal in a remote or service location. If you relish a challenge and are always looking for something new in your work, this type of catering may appeal to you. This niche typically offers a more premium experience and comes at a commensurate price point.