They say that when you enter the hospitality industry, you’re hooked for life, with the excitement and broad scope of this exciting career appealing to many. Whether your role is in service or the kitchen, catering is the intersecting element, although there isn't an oversupply of catering businesses out there operating. This presents an incredible opportunity to build a catering business, so let’s get stuck into the tips and tricks that are going to make this happen.
Quality assurance above all else
When it comes to catering, you’re only as good as your last event booked. You won’t be seeing any return events if you get a reputation for serving food that isn’t fresh, and you can achieve this standard with the right processes and materials like a vacuum sealer and a van that has the appropriate refrigeration. An easy way to ensure a fresh catering business is to use seasonal produce that is in ready supply in the area you are operating, with unseasonal and hard-to-get items maybe betraying your quality and reputation.
Choose a style that sets you apart
What’s your elevator pitch when you imagine selling your catering business? This is an important practice to do, as articulating what your differentiating factors are will steer the direction you take your business. Are you a black-tie event catering business, an edgy and relaxed one, or are you going to be only operating in a specific niche? Your style is going to appeal to different groups of people, so don’t feel pressured to be everything to everyone and try to mould your business to fit the client. By being true to your unique style, your clients will have greater respect for you and what you are trying to achieve.
Customer service is half the job
Your food is sure to turn heads, but it’s your customer service or lack thereof that will truly be remembered after the event. If you are starting your business as a culinary professional, it’s a great idea to actually appoint someone to be the face of your business so that they can smooth the details and be accessible to client contact, so you can concentrate on the food. Conversely, if you are a hostess turned catering business owner, don’t shackle yourself with the task of food management and preparation - both roles should be respected.
Get some experience with planning and logistics
A catering business really needs to have a great many more skills up their sleeves to really excel in this industry. Knowing how to plan an event and work with logistics will allow you to exceed the expectations of your clients. You don’t want to arrive at a venue for service and then realise you don’t know how to read an event schedule or run sheet. Clients will hire you back again and again if they know they don’t have to babysit you or have to have a heavy induction. If you haven’t got these skills yet, ask your friends, family and colleagues if you can help them plan any events coming up.
Design 4 menu concepts and ask for feedback
You might think your food is fabulous, but will your clients have the same feedback? Before you launch your catering business, prepare each menu and serve your friends and family to see what they have to say. You might glean some incredible insight that you hadn’t thought of and can implement these changes immediately. In fact, why not make your launch one of your first events and then catch up with all who attended to see what they loved most.
Cater to all
Dietary requirements are more prevalent than ever, and failure to cater to a diverse mix of needs could see you losing business to a catering business with more flexibility. If possible, try and work with chefs that have had some experience in tailoring menus for all dietary requirements, and you might even want to consciously hire employees who are vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian to try out your food and give you some targeted feedback.
How will clients find you?
A successful catering business will inevitably get to a point where they receive return or referred business, but what about before that happens? If you aren’t ready to launch a website, take your business onto social media and be proactive in engaging with your community and the types of clients that identify with the style we spoke of earlier. You can also create some great business cards and see what online directories you can put your catering business details in so that new business leads can find you.
Catering is a hard business, but it is an incredibly rewarding one that will have you in some of the most stunning venues and meeting a fantastic mix of people. Don’t give up if your first few months of business are slow, as things will build in momentum!