There is some good news and some bad news…
The good news is that as a caterer you can make anywhere between $30,000 and upwards of $150,000 a year doing what you love. The bad news… It can cost between $300 to $15,000 to get your business of the ground.
Any way that you look at it the catering business is a great place to be. Being able to do something that you love is a great thing, but being paid on top of that is absolutely unbelievable!
Ok, I don’t want you to start fantasizing about being a millionaire caterer offering your services on plates of gold. The truth is that catering is a job and a fun one at that. You will be challenged and there will be stressful times but the opportunity to make a great living doing something you love is an unbelievable opportunity.
In a recent survey of profits many caterers in the food and beverage community claim that they made $50,000 a year… Still others claim that they made in excess of $200,000 a year leaving the middle of those numbers at $150,000.
There are many strategies that you can use to keep your costs low. These strategies range from the number of employees you use to the method of advertising that you use (many of these are not what you would expect). To cut down cost you can do many things, the least of which is learning from successful caterers that have done it before you.
Different Styles for Different Events
Chances are even if you want to form your catering business into serving only one specific niche, you may have to do a variety of events early on to get some paid jobs and build your reputation. Every style of event is slightly (or greatly) different, and it’s always a good idea to have multiple plans prepared for different events. You wouldn’t plan a formal wedding and an informal outdoor graduation party the same way, so why would you assume two other events should be planned the same way?
Event catering means taking a look at every single specific event and planning the setup according to its unique parameters as well as playing to your strengths and abilities as a catering company.
Catering for informal indoor events
Event catering can vary greatly depending on whether the set up is formal or informal, or if the event is inside or outside. These are perhaps the four greatest factors overall in determining your set up for any given event. Informal indoor events are some of the easiest to cater because there isn’t the same high level of expectation for decorations that you have for a wedding, a 50 year anniversary, or a Fortune 500 Company’s event.
In this case the normal settings and place mats will normally do, with basic nice table cloths, paper napkins, and a buffet style set up. These require the least amount of work among the various events to cater and should be easy for an experienced catering company. Since this is an outdoor setup, don’t forget to make all the necessary plans for preparing food at one location and then transporting it to the outdoor setting.
Catering for informal outdoor events
While the informal aspect of an outdoor event (many high school graduation parties fall under this category) may make it much easier to set up than a formal setting, it’s important to be prepared for all the extra challenges that being outdoors can bring. Having a shaded area for buffet set up is critical, as too much sun and heat on the food can lead to health issues.
In addition, there’s the wind issue. You might not think about the wind too much, but when it starts blowing napkins across a park, it becomes a big issue. Bring napkin holders, tape, and any other supplies you have to make sure lighter objects don’t get blown away or tossed around.
Nothing ruins a nice catering set up more quickly than major gusts of wind when there’s nothing to hold the plastic plates, silverware, and napkins down on the table.
Catering for formal indoor events
You need to consider many different issues when setting up a formal indoor catering event. The exact set up of the tables are important, especially since many set ups will need a long formal or “VIP” table near the front with a catering or buffet style table to the side if that’s necessary or requested.
Set up for these types of events should include the best table clothes, cloth napkins with silverware folded inside, and as formal a layout as you can provide. Don’t forget centerpieces or other decorations for each individual table, and it’s very important to get clear instructions on what’s expected. Show up early and give yourself plenty of leeway for set up times, so if something goes wrong you still have plenty of time to fix it before the event takes place. Employees should be dressed to match the formality of the event.
Catering for formal outdoor events
Catering for formal outdoor events can be a little trickier, as you are required to bring the full level of high service expected while having to prepare for whatever Mother Nature might throw at you. This includes being prepared for heavy sun, having awnings prepared for shade or bad weather, and being prepared for even smaller nuisances like wind. Formal attire will still be required in most situations, and you need to make sure to have the transportation issue figured out as food will need to be prepared at one area and brought to wherever the outdoor event is taking place.
When setting up your catering company, a long term strategy for dealing with event catering is specializing in one or two types of events. This has the advantage of allowing you to really become an expert in one or two particular styles and charge premium prices for those events as your reputation climbs.