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Catering Start-up, advice needed

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone, 

 

I wanted to get some opinions from the members of this forum on starting a catering business.

 

I'm currently in the early stages of assembling plans for a catering business. I am the Executive Chef at a country club in NY and won't be in a position to really start the catering business for about 2-3 years. However, I do want to start catering parties on the side. I'm frequently approached by members and their acquaintances to do cater parties for them and would like to do so. 

 

My questions is: should I cater these parties as "John" or should I operate/cater these parties as "XYZ Caterers" implementing the building blocks of what i envision my future catering company be? i.e. name, brand, menus, service style....

 

If I were to start catering as "XYZ Caterer" rather than "John"  would it be smart to start get the proper licensing and register the business this early?

 

 

Would love to hear some feedback...I'm sure many of you have started out in a similar way...

 

 

Thanks,

Chris

post #2 of 8

You say you won't be in a position to start the catering business for 2-3 years. I think you meant to say "full time".

If you already have members asking you to cater and you want to do the work, I will presume they are asking you to work outside of the country club. Is this an ethical problem? Does  the country club have any rules regulations or contract stipulations about it's Executive Chef doing catering jobs for members outside of the club? Will you be using the clubs' kitchen to do these catering jobs?

 If there is no conflict with the country club, I see no other reason not to form a catering company under XYZ and begin working whenever you can. 

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Chefwriter, thats correct, I will not be able to cater full time. 

 

 I've thought about the ethical dilemma and while I haven't actually addressed it with the GM, he has been telling members to contact me for catering parties during our down months when we only o 2 or 3 parties a month...

 

 

Thanks for your response!

post #4 of 8

If it isn't already obvious from my original post, I'll state the obvious.  I would sit down with the GM and have a talk before he makes any more recommendations. i think there is ripe potential for misunderstanding here. The GM is telling members to ask you to cater during down months.

     After you cater an event,  you will be saying "But I thought it was obvious you would let me use the kitchen for these catering jobs." He will be saying "Obviously you kick a percentage back to the club'.   Of course there are other points to misunderstand between the two of you but you get the idea. 

Having worked in a several private clubs, I know not all club members understand how things work behind the scenes. Are some of them thinking you will be catering their event as part of your job? Is it clear this is "extra" and they will pay you, not the club? And what does the GM say to the member while recommending you that may lead to misunderstanding between you and the member? "But the GM said...."

 Talk isn't always cheap. Sometimes not talking is what ends up being expensive. 

post #5 of 8

CM,

I agree with Writer.  Clarification is needed to establish if this is in addition to your current duties.  If so, hopefully you are in a position to renegotiate your contract or pay grade.  Creating a catering business where you hold the full burden is a huge financial and legal risk, plus the previously mentioned conflict of interest.  If the "club" establishes the LLC, you will be free and clear, plus you can spin it as an investment for the "club".  Let them hold the burden!

MM

post #6 of 8
Quote:

Originally Posted by CMDiesing View Post

 

If I were to start catering as "XYZ Caterer" rather than "John"  would it be smart to start get the proper licensing and register the business this early?

 

 

Never, Ever, Never, Ever, Never (repeat 10x, rinse, spit, repeat) work undprotected under your own name. At least form a DBA. It's not overly complicated or expensive and it's a lot simpler (and less $$$) than creating an LLC. Every thing you own and any money you may ever make the rest of your career is at jeopardy if you work under your own name. 

It only takes one sick guest for major problems to arise. Remember food-borne illness can arise from products you buy (Think listeria D'Artagnan). Every one forgets how easy it is to have a breach of contract and that every time you serve a guest there is an express and implied warranty that the food is fit for human consumption.

Don't risk every thing to save your self a few bucks for a license and the time it takes to open a checking account.

If your required to in your state make darn sure you collect sales tax.

Beyond that +1 to every thing thats already been said.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by DuckFat View Post

 

Never, Ever, Never, Ever, Never (repeat 10x, rinse, spit, repeat) work undprotected under your own name. At least form a DBA. It's not overly complicated or expensive and it's a lot simpler (and less $$$) than creating an LLC. ...

Dave

As a small businessman, myself, I agree with all that DuckFat said.  Beyond that, you want to start building a brand and protect any name you may have thought about using.  A DBA will NOT protect your personal assets should you have a foodborne illness disaster.  You really need a corporate shield.  An LLC will help, a C-Corp would be best, but cost prohibitive when starting out.  And make sure you have liability insurance counted in the millions (5+).  It won't be cheap, either, and with a good contract your liabilities can be limited should there be a problem.  But number one is build that corporate shield to protect your personal life from a lawsuit.

 

In NY, you will need to be licensed and work out of a certified kitchen.  The permiting agency for the caterer is the Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene and you will need a fire safety inspection and there are several others involved.  Best to rent kitchen space.  I am working off old memories, but here's the website with the regs for licensing a food service operation: http://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/nycrr/title_10/part_14/subpart_14-1.htm

 

Good Luck.  I want a truck, but will never, ever work in NY, even with my entire family there.

post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Weforrest59 View Post

As a small businessman, myself, I agree with all that DuckFat said.  Beyond that, you want to start building a brand and protect any name you may have thought about using.  A DBA will NOT protect your personal assets should you have a foodborne illness disaster.  You really need a corporate shield.  An LLC will help, a C-Corp would be best, but cost prohibitive when starting out.  And make sure you have liability insurance counted in the millions (5+).  It won't be cheap, either, and with a good contract your liabilities can be limited should there be a problem.  But number one is build that corporate shield to protect your personal life from a lawsuit.

 

In NY, you will need to be licensed and work out of a certified kitchen.  The permiting agency for the caterer is the Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene and you will need a fire safety inspection and there are several others involved.  Best to rent kitchen space.  I am working off old memories, but here's the website with the regs for licensing a food service operation: http://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/nycrr/title_10/part_14/subpart_14-1.htm

 

Good Luck.  I want a truck, but will never, ever work in NY, even with my entire family there.

This is excellent advice.  I'm new to catering as well but have only taken on private gigs under the understanding that I'm doing them a favor and for the cost of the food and labor paid out.  But that is also very risky.  While I have a business license, I'm filing for a fictitious business name as well.  I operate as a private chef and "prepare food at the venue."

 

If you cater through your employer (the country club), then they are liable.  This arrangement creates exposure and if they aren't already insured for catering, it could be very costly.  Discussing these issues with your GM may curb the referrals.  Less money for you to make, but less risk too.  Those regulations will get you every time.  So until you are able to put up the protective walls and do things to code, you're putting yourself at great risk.  I wish there was an easy way around it because I'm in the same boat too.

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