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Help for a complete beginner?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 



I'm not even sure where to begin, but I am in dire need of help to be pointed in the right direction! I have no professional training, but was brought up being taught everything I know about cooking by my Italian-trained grandmother and equally skilled mother. Recently, I voluntarily catered two gourmet, 5 course dinners as a "thank you" to two different, generous donors who contributed to a fundraiser for a local non-profit - this was my first time ever catering. The attendees (35 total over two nights) of the dinner were all very wealthy, powerful people in the city I live in. Well, the dinner was an extreme success and I am now literally the talk of the town. I have offers to be hired for catering events coming in nearly every day from extremely well positioned individuals. It's all been a complete dream! But I do not have a catering business and never have (though it's been a dream of mine for years). I'm at a loss for what to do now. I've begun research on how to start a catering business, but I feel I need more specific advice from chefs with experience. I have business cards ordered and am beginning to meet with some people who are wanting to help get my business going. Literally any advice on how to begin this process and things I should know would be an extreme help and very appreciated! I do not pretend to know what I'm doing, but this is my dream job and the opportunity to make it happen is a huge blessing. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make my dream come true! Thank you in advance to anyone willing to help me!

post #2 of 7
Start pretending to know! Its your business.
Keep reading and don't quit your day job. Or go all in!

There is a lit of info on these forums, browse the catering forum and pro chef forums too. There are even articles that will help you tremendously.

Look up " catering business plan" on google. It helps to lion at other peoples plans. Create your own also. If you don't want to make a plan, don't bother.

It can be very exciting when people talk up your food and encourage you to make a business. Be honest with yourself, will these people be repeat customers? Who do they get to cater at the moment? Why are they switching?

Are you going to be sticking to in house dinner parties, or do wedding and other big events.

My personal catering business developed organically by people asking for services and me being a yes man. I like to work on my off time, I didn't quite my day job.

Fruit centrepiece for the VIP; Yes.
Ice carving; Sure!
Wedding; why not.

There are many legal issues. Where are you located? Where are you going to prepare food? This is the main legal implication/ roadblock to me. I have 5 kitchens I can use (rent)if needed across my small town and a food truck if needed. People sometimes think you can cater out of your home kitchen. In my case it is illegal.

Don't forget to make a business plan, its important, it makes you think critically about issues you don't even realize exist.

If business cards is all your marketing strategy at the moment: write it down in your business plan!

Do some research, ask questions.
post #3 of 7

Make sure to check out the legal part of being a caterer.  Especially if you are doing high profile events.

post #4 of 7

@chefboyOG hit on a lot of important issues.

Read and study and read some more... take notes and INHALE it !

CT has a lot of info but it can be sketchy (what is a good name, how to charge, how much to prep) when it comes down to Catering 101.


Have you ever owned a business before?

Any experience in accounting and tax law?

How to arrive at your budget numbers?

Hired and managed a staff ?


The business plan is the first thing you should complete.

Put in every idea you have as well as the who and where and what and how and when and why of all your thoughts and dreams.

The business plan is a fluid thing... you can always delete and add as you go along, as your business grows (God willing) you may want to do only small dinners in someone's home or buy a warehouse, remodel  and do big in house events only.

It may take months to go from rough draft to completed document but when you approach a lender this is what they will want to see.


The cooking is actually only a small part of being an owner/operator but of course it is a very important small part.

Can the recipes you already know be altered to serve a crowd without losing quality?

How many will it serve?

How much is your cost per serving?

You will have to have a health department approved kitchen.....

Will you purchase and build out or rent space from an incubator kitchen company?


Tables chairs linens crockery tableware..... all have to come from somewhere (so what are your purchase prices , rental prices, deposit charges)


You asked lol...:crazy:




If it helps there are F and B consultants out there if you need someone's shoulder to cry on lol.



post #5 of 7
Here is a pretty goo business plan example.


If anyone has any good ones specifically for catering/ small restaurant I'd love to see them.

Another very important thing: storage space!!!!
Catering equipment takes a lot of room. I have half a room in my house dedicated to cooking odds and ends.
post #6 of 7

The upcoming holidays are a busy time of year for caterers.

They will be needing seasonal help.

A job, even if just washing dishes or prepping fruit and veg would provide you with a priceless learning opportunity.

I wouldn't mention your plans to anyone tho :cool:.




* and don't quit your day job!



post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Awesome! I really appreciate this information!! Thank you, everyone! 

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