Do you like cooking and organizing events? These hobbies can be monetized by starting a small party catering business. In this article, we will tell you what important skills, besides culinary, you will need, and where to start a career in the catering industry along with small party catering tips and ideas to suit every type of budget.
What you should know about small party catering
Small party catering is the organization of meals outside cafes and restaurants.
For example, at weddings, parties, business events, buffets. Services include food preparation and delivery as well as table setting and serving.
In this business, two areas are distinguished: private (birthdays, picnics, family celebrations) and corporate (negotiations, team building, office dinners).
The specialty of a small party catering career is easy scaling and investments in stages.
You can start alone by serving small events for private consumers.
Once you are satisfied that you may handle the organization, gradually hire staff and expand your client network.
Organizing meals means much more than feeding customers.
This activity requires a strict organization and responsibility.
Before starting, check if you have the following skills:
Experience in the restaurant business
You have to deal with many organizational issues: purchasing products and equipment, negotiating with suppliers, timing preparation, and planning logistics.
Dealing with these processes is easier for someone who has worked in a management position in the small party catering industry.
If you feel you are lacking in experience, take courses in the hospitality industry.
The success of the events will largely depend on your work.
Therefore, the main principles should be punctuality, diligence, and organization.
Personal relations with clients play an important role in the service sector: you have to find a common language with any people, take into account the requirements, and look for compromises.
Despite careful planning, you are not immune to unforeseen situations: a burnt dish, broken dishes, or a stalled machine.
Be prepared to resolve any issues quickly and not to panic.
What you require to get started in the small party catering industry
Find a niche
Decide on your specialization and the activities you will serve. It can be:
- snacks and cocktails;
- healthy eating;
- vegetarian meals;
- kosher kitchen;
- banquet menu;
- brunch dishes.
When choosing, be guided by the following factors:
- Interests and skills. Think about what food you like and cook well: sincere interest and love for what you do are important in cooking.
- Location. Explore the needs of the environment. For instance, if many families with children live nearby, organizing children’s parties may be a popular service.
Study the market
Find out who else offers small party catering in your area. Analyze the specialization, menus, prices, and core audience of rivals.
Remember: it is not simply food you have for sale, but convenience, pleasant emotions, and positive experiences.
Get a license and insurance
Typically, a professional license is required to open a small party catering business.
Regulations may vary from country to country, so we advise you to check the laws in your area and obtain any necessary approvals.
Another important point is the small party catering insurance.
It will protect you in the event of customer claims, poisoning, injury, or property damage.
You will need a cooking room, dishes, occupational equipment, and transportation.
Their number depends on the direction and scope of the activity.
- Premises. Feel free to use a home kitchen or rent a professional one: concentrate on the required area for storing food, dishes, and equipment.
- Dishes. Think about how many pots, pans, bowls, plates you need. You also need serving dishes, cutlery, napkins, tablecloths, and glasses.
- Equipment. Depends on your specialization: for desserts, you need at least two ovens, for barbecue – professional grills, for frying – deep fryers.
- Transport. Make sure there is enough space in your car to transport food and equipment. If not, buy or rent a van or minibus.
Think over the menu and prices
You can create several options for ready-made menus, accept individual orders from customers, or specify a list of dishes from which they can choose.
Prices should include costs for grocery shopping, food preparation, transportation and service.
The rate can be fixed (for a specific event) or flexible (for each person or hour of service).
Consider the strategy of marketing you follow.
It is possible to find out about your services from different sources:
- Online. Google and online networks are the first places where consumers look for service providers. Make a site, share what you do on Facebook or Instagram to get your core audience.
- Marketing buzz. Start by serving family gatherings, offer you can to your friends, and tell them to talk about what you do. Go out of your way to ensure the first few events are perfect – and clients will start recommending you. Step up your networking: make friends with people associated with the entertainment industry: event organizers, photographers, animators.
- Offline. Meet potential clients offline: participate in thematic exhibitions, hand out flyers, arrange tastings.
How to hire and organize staff
The number of people required for a catering business depends on the format of your service.
The team can be permanent (if you regularly serve events of the same type) or hired for a specific event: for example, cooks, bartenders, waiters, sommeliers, baristas, etc.
To search for employees, advertise on job search sites, or use the recommendations.
To organize the well-coordinated actions of the staff, tell us about all the nuances of the services that you provide.
If necessary, send employees for training – courses or training.
How to plan for emergencies
Preparing for force majeure situations involves calculating time and money.
To reduce risks, always allow for additional preparation time and troubleshooting budget.
Think ahead of time what problems may arise and how you are going to settle them, for instance:
- vehicle breakdown;
- spoiled dish;
- broken dishes;
- sick staff.
A reasonable approach is the main condition for any savings.
The choice of catering services for the upcoming event is no exception to the rule.
We have tried to collect the most useful methods and advice from European experts that will help you significantly reduce the estimated costs.
Plan your event by the hour
Pay attention to the time frame. You can significantly reduce costs by controlling the length of your event.
Instead of the usual cocktail hour followed by dinner at the banquet tables, which lasts about five hours, you can have a buffet party where drinks and snacks are served to guests for three or four hours.
Take advantage of advertising opportunities
If a large-scale event is in your plans, then in order to save up, you can invite catering organizations to participate in the promotion – invite several agencies or restaurants with a wide range of ethnic menus at once and arrange a special place for each of them.
Such a concept can be presented under the slogan “Travel all over the world”.
Organizations are unlikely to refuse to participate in a prestigious event whose guests are valuable clients for their business.
This way, you may reduce your overall costs before paying for the initial items and the work of the cooks.
Cut down on labor costs
When organizing small events, attendants are sometimes not needed at all.
Many catering companies offer their customers a so-called “underfilled package of services”, which does not include waiters, who, most often, constitute the main expense item.
After preparing the agreed menu and setting the tables, the agency only gives the necessary advice on updating the treats.
Make your drink choices less varied but more appealing
A limited selection of drinks in a bar is a rather risky move, so if you decide to save on this particular article, be careful in your choice.
The easiest way is to limit the list to two or three standard drinks, depending on the season, and add one original cocktail to the menu.
It is always possible to replace famous brands of wines with less advertised ones, but you should not go overboard and order untested or too cheap brands.
Give up specialized dishes
When ordering rolled utensils, choose a universal option for all intended dishes.
This is especially true for drinks because renting glasses of various shapes and styles for wine, champagne, and cocktails, you ultimately spend more units per person than if you chose only one type of glass.
Banquet tables, at first glance, are the most expensive due to the need for service and serving, so many people choose buffets as an alternative.
But it is worth noting that by allowing guests to serve themselves, you lose control over how much you eat.
To maintain beauty, the buffet has to be full all the time, not half empty, and this increases the number of necessary treats in future.
On top of all, after 30-40 people come to the table, the snow-white tablecloths and unique decoration will certainly lose their perfect appearance.
Say yes to paella and no to filet mignon
Instead of the standard portioned steaks and side dishes, serve unique ethnic treats. For example, dishes of stew or seafood served immediately to the whole table.
Cross out items that no one else will notice
Very often the budget is spent on details and nuances that guests do not need. For example, many invitees do not drink tea and coffee at events, but you still order cups, sugar, cream, and cutlery.
Choose your location wisely
As in all other cases, early booking always plays into your hands when it comes to renting premises.
Have lunch on a schedule
Another important piece of advice from the experts is to let the catering company and the rented premises work on their own schedule.
By arranging an event too early or too late, you will significantly increase the cost of services.
What is the best way to organize a catering service?
The easiest option is to start by serving small events (up to 100-150 people) based on the existing base, expanding it with the most necessary ones by purchasing additional dishes, furniture (folding or stacking chairs, folding tables), textiles, etc.
After that, you will have to adapt your production (kitchen) to work in a new format, the specifics of which have already been mentioned above (perhaps, provide for the option of increasing the production area, additional consulting and training for the chef and production manager) and develop a catering menu.
Then you need to calculate how many employees will be required and form a base of involved personnel or find a contractor who will take over this procedure.
Today in the capital there are already several specialized recruiting companies of this kind.
It will be very promising to attract students from specialized educational institutions to such events – this will ultimately have a double effect – both for the high-quality training of professionals and for the needs of the business.
Own staff members involved in the project need to be explained that their range of competencies is expanding.
In most cases, it is not recommended to hurry to create a separate catering service in the state right away.
This makes sense only in the case of large volumes of sales and regular orders, otherwise, it is an unjustified waste.
When working with outsourced staff, full-time employees receive additional powers – they organize and control the work of freelancers.
Among the cooks, waiters, and bartenders, those who have a penchant for management should be singled out and put them in charge.
Such a scheme is especially relevant for holding large events, where an intermediate management link between managers and involved personnel is needed.
A separate topic is the sale of these services.
It can be quite passive at the stage of entering the market – you can simply send out information about your new service to all regular customers.
But as the business develops, it will be necessary to actively sell, getting new customers.
Catering is the sale of services most often to a corporate client, and all the tools for working with this audience are quite suitable for him.
For instance, “cold calls”. It is essential to stay in touch with a “cold” client all the time so that in the event that he needs service, he remembers about you.
How to calculate the costs and profits from the start of the systematic work of your restaurant with catering services?
The amount of investment depends on which segment you are going to work in.
In the middle price segment, companies prefer to follow the path of unification of the equipment fleet in order to avoid additional costs.
For example, you can purchase five options for plates (for hot dishes, for dessert, etc.), or you can approve a single type.
In the latter case, you can serve both small and large events using the same set of dishes – both an off-site banquet for 200 people with five courses, and a business lunch at a conference with one single dish, but for 1000 people.
If you had special plates for hot dishes, you would have to buy them additionally.
To launch a middle-class catering service, an amount will be required (for the purchase of all equipment, excluding furniture for servicing events designed for no more than 300 people), at least INR 7490-11235.
In the premium segment, it is much more difficult to determine the price range – it all depends on the concept of the service.
Although, of course, there is always an opportunity to develop the material base in an evolutionary way, reinvesting the profit received.
The income generated by catering for a hotel will depend on various factors – by region, customer base, etc.
It is essential to remember that the approaches to pricing in catering are somewhat different – the cost of food and drinks themselves will be slightly lower than in traditional restaurant or banquet service.
A significant part of the money that the client will pay you will have to pay for service personnel, transportation costs, etc.
The commercial offer of catering services – what is the main thing?
Unfortunately, it is precisely in terms of forming a high-quality commercial offer that catering services work the most weakly.
This is explained by the fact that most of them come from the restaurant business, for which the menu is often synonymous with the offer.
A competent commercial offer should be capacious, but not overloaded and contain the following parts:
- A statement of the advantages and benefits that the client will receive if they choose the catering service of your hotel as a contractor.
- A proposal for choosing a venue – in case the client has not decided on the venue for the event (of course, first of all, the hotel should offer its own premises, but at the same time it must have other options).
- Related information on the menu (what is included in its price, what is offered additionally).
- Drinks section (cold, hot, alcoholic, and non-alcoholic).
- Additional services section, if any (decoration with flowers, balloons, inviting artists, etc.). However, most catering companies tend to move away from non-core services as rather onerous activities.
- Additional information on how to arrange the event – table setting, staff clothing options, etc.
- Menu as an attachment to a commercial proposal.
Catering is not the easiest business that requires both artistic and organizational skills.
To be successful, test your skills at small events, follow a clear plan, and expand as clients grow.
About the author:
Melisa Marzett works for super proficient resume services in general and a resume editing service resume revise in particular as a resume writer for more than 5 years. She has interests in psychology, fitness, and traveling.