Catering and meal prep are great ways to develop your profile as a personal chef. Through catering, you can learn the ropes of running a small business, master your cooking skills, and grow your personal and professional network.
Meal preparation and home delivery is a major growth industry. Just look at the recent success of startups like Blue Apron and Freshly. Businesses, families, and busy people alike are increasingly drawn in by the simplicity of having nutritious, delicious meals delivered or prepared to order. But how do you get started in the catering industry?
Catering tips that will help you get started as a personal chef
It takes hard work and dedication to cater your way to success. We’ve put together some steps on how to successfully jump start your catering business and your personal brand:
1. Start slow
Many people who enjoy cooking for friends and family believe they could do the same for clients. While that may be the case, be sure to slowly develop your catering business to create the experience and payoff you seek.
While your marketing and social media efforts may land you a big client right away, it’s essential to be mindful when bringing on any new help. Your assistant(s) must have the expertise and drive required to help you manage a big client and make a good impression.
A better move is to cultivate a following of smaller businesses, events, and groups of individuals at the outset of your catering career. These types of gigs will help you create great word-of-mouth buzz for your catering service while giving you the experience to be able to handle larger clients in the future.
2. Know the biz
Starting a catering business as a personal chef doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll incur major start-up costs. By preparing meals on-site for your clients, you can avoid most heavy-equipment investments. Be sure to investigate licensing and food safety regulations in your area. Chances are good that you’ll need a license, certification in proper food handling, and liability insurance, to protect you in an unfortunate case of kitchen-disaster, such as food poisoning or freak accident.
Similarly, check out what business incorporation entails to shield yourself further while taking proper advantage of corporate tax laws. These are details to handle before – not after – you begin cooking for clients.
Check with other caterers and restaurateurs who you might know regarding appropriate pricing for your services. Like most small business entrepreneurs, you may be tempted to undercut the competition in order to cultivate clients. However, given the necessary time, energy, and cost of catering, it is rarely a winning strategy to try and undersell every competitor.
Work with a good attorney to develop a standard contract that spells out your services, payment, and responsibilities with your clients. Be sure all of your clients review and sign your contract before starting any work – even if they are friends. Sound agreements make for good memories and happy clients.
3. Outsource help
You should look around for former co-workers or friends you trust who may be able to come on board with you for larger scale catering events. You can negotiate with potential clients for bigger events more comfortably when you know you’ll have the resources to scale up. You’ll also gain a better understanding of how much these resources will cost in the future.
Marketing and social media are valuable to a home chef just starting out in the catering business. Blog routinely about food events that interest or involve you, and stay connected with your local food community.
Like any small business, catering takes a lot of work, and it’s not for everyone. If you depend on catering as a main source of income, prepare for long hours when you first get started. But, when your network grows, you may find you have too many calls for your services – then you’ll really be cooking!