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Need to make the jump into full time catering - looking for advice

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I have been doing some small catering jobs for the last year, due to a change in employment I need to take the next step and go full time into catering, looking for much needed advice (marketing, menu pricing, good books to help me get started).  Thanks!

post #2 of 13

Welcome Chrisse,

tell us something about yourself....what's your cooking experience

what do you make for people

what is a "small catering job"

do you have a customer base already

 

 

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #3 of 13

I respectfully stand to be corrected by ShroomGirl, however, there are only three things you need to concentrate on fur a successful catering business; laser.gifmarketing, Marketing, and MARKETING! crazy.gif

 

Of course, that presumes that you have the menus, cooking, transporting, setup, serving, and all the other well in hand.

 

As ShroomGirl stated, tell us a little more and, maybe, we can provide some tips.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #4 of 13

Books will only give you an idea. You have to do it yourself with your own hands. One of the other secrets Pete forgot is Pre Planning. Leave as little as possible to the  last minute. And hire good compotent, reliable  people to work for you.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for the replies.

 

A little more about my business

Located in St. Louis, MO having done many small private home and hall catering functions such as elegant dinners, baby showers, birthday parties, children's birthday parties, high school and college graduations.  The largest function I have done is for 175 people.

 

I am looking for advise to move to the next level.  Need to become professionally legal and find a kitchen to use.  I do have a menu but try to work with the clients in doing themed parties. I believe my biggest challenge is to build my customer base - I know marketing is key but need advise in that area. 

 

Some of my favorite dishes to make are chicken pacata, white and red pastas.  I love making appetizers and some of my favorites to make are candied bacon, stuffed mushrooms and terriyaki chicken wings.  I've cater a party doing 'all organic' which I found to be a bit challenging.

 

I appreciate any insite, suggestions and help you could give to me.

 

Cook Chrisse

post #6 of 13

Mushroom Girl has a lot of expertise in Quality Private Catering, and your lucky she lives in your town. Why not look her up.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #7 of 13

where are you Chrisse? I've got a lead on a kitchen in South City that may work for you.....

PM me and I'll be glad to give you some pointers.

 

"organic" instead of local?  hmmmmm.....that's a new one for me, organic local sure but "all organic"? 

 

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 13

Chrissie,

 

You two most powerfull and best used tools are:

The menu--what you are capable of producing

 

Your contract--your terms and conditions.

 

I can't stress these enough, after that, everything else is pretty straight forward.

 

Marketing reflects a lot on you, your style, and your choices.  Some like to market at trade shows, wedding shows,etc, some focus only on corporate.

So I think marketing all depends on what you want for a target customer 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #9 of 13

Just head to West County, one or two parties a week there will set you up for life. I'm originally from the area, just on the other side of the river (IL) Miss it with all my heart.

 

One thing that my catering boss told me (we just celebrated 5 years as a company) is that the most important step is to get a customer return basis. Right now 97% of our customers are either return or are using our services from a reference an old customer gave them.

Reach out to your current clients, tell them you want to start doing bigger jobs and if anyone knows of one to let you know. This is my boss's advice for how to advance to the next level.

:chef tux

"Mother Nature is the true artist, the Chef is merely the technician"

    -MPW

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:chef tux

"Mother Nature is the true artist, the Chef is merely the technician"

    -MPW

Reply
post #10 of 13

Cook Chrisse, 

First things first. You should write a business plan, if you do not know how to there are many nonprofits that will help you for free. Then TRAGET MARKET you have to know what your traget market is, how many potential customers there are and your competition. I suggest that you find a niche market that you can capitalize upon. I hope this helps.

 

Joe Shuman
MenuDrive

http://www.menudrive.com

post #11 of 13

As an ex-caterer, and as someone who's hung around CT for quite awhile... your best resource is Shroomgirl.  She's not only experienced with your geographical area and a lot of the other people in it, she's knows a lot about your "niche" market.  Spend as much time with her as she'll give. 

 

In terms of general advice about taking a small business to the next level... the first thing you need to do is determine what it is you want to do.  What kind of food do you want to cook?  Whom do you want to cook for?  What do you like to do and do well, which also makes money?  In other words, you want to position yourself in a niche in which you can be competitive and identify a target clientele to whom you can market yourself.  Ultimately, you'll end up serving and advertising to several niches.  The more focused you are, the easier it is to appeal to people who are going to love what you do, and that's what makes you thrive.

 

One of the hardest parts of making the step up is learning to trust other people -- which, by the way, includes an accountant.  There's quite a bit you can't... or at least shouldn't... do yourself.  Try and find someone with other caterer clients.  Keeping really good books is the best way to avoid fooling yourself.

 

It's generally a very good idea to use some sort of business form other than just winging it.  Whether you incorporate, form an LLP or whatever... time to figure that out.  Insurance, too.  You don't want to leave yourself personally liable should anything go wrong.  You can actually do this yourself, but if you're not sure it's worth talking to an attorney.  Attorney fees for "start-up" services are usually very reasonable.

 

It's very worthwhile taking the time to write down what you know, and what you think you need to learn.  You could do it as an informal "business plan," as an essay, an outline, or write it with a flaming finger on a stone tablet (darling, you look divine).  As to a formal business plan, unless you're looking for a loan or an investor I don't really see the purpose. 

 

Adjust and open your perspective.  For instance, the next step up means that booze (or at least bar and wine service) and rentals will make you more profit than food. 

 

Don't take jobs you shouldn't.  If you're iffy about a wedding for 300, don't do it.  Find people to whom you can make referrals.  It creates goodwill with customers, is a form of casting bread on the waters, and is honest business. 

 

Get in touch with Shroomgirl.  She knows so darn much about catering herself, and can hook you up with a bunch of other locals. 

 

Very, very good luck,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/26/11 at 9:03pm
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi Shroomgirl!

 

Sorry about the delay in getting back to you.

Please tell me more about the lead on the kitchen.  I went down to St. Patrick's Cente today and am very pumped about moving forward.  Any help from you would be great. 

 

Also, if you ever need any help with any of your jobs, I'd love to shadow and help you in your business as well.

 

Cook Chrisse

 

post #13 of 13

cool, PM your contact info.

 

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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