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10 Steps to Setting up a Functional Catering Outfit

So you’re interested in replicating the fanfare around food and drinks you see at events. For you, cooking is more than just a chore; it’s a passion. And you find that there’s an opportunity for you to make a living off it or earn some extra cash by the side from it on weekends (if you already have a regular job).

You want to get into the catering business. But you have no idea how to proceed.

In this article, we detail ten steps to setting up a functional catering outfit. You should find them helpful if you have the intention of becoming a caterer.

1. Acquire relevant skills and get certified.

Not sure you have what it takes to do the catering thing? Attend a catering school. There you’ll get trained in the various aspects of the trade, and receive a certificate to back up the knowledge you acquire. You may also consider working for an established catering service for a while, just to get a feel of what it’s like to actually be a caterer. There’s no substitute for hands-on experience.

2. Decide what type of food you will make.

Catering embraces a vast array of food types. Specializing in the preparation of particular kinds of food will help you perfect your skills and enable you to establish a niche for yourself in which you can thrive. You might go for small chops or cocktails, proper meals or deserts; just be sure to select types that fit in with your passion. Also look out for supply gaps; take advantage of opportunities that exist in sections of the catering market that are not yet being served.

3. Create your menu.

The list of foods you will be serving should be made ready at the planning stage. Decide on what foods you will be preparing, and do so with the aim of offering something unique, a different take on what your competitors already give. Test the menu at small events (organized by you or by family and friends). Get feedback on it from those in attendance, and tweak the menu accordingly.

4. Research your suppliers.

Find out what suppliers of catering equipment and foodstuffs exist in your locality, and how much they charge for their products. Knowing this ahead of time will help you determine the cost you have to cover in setting up and running the business and select suppliers to work with, as your budget allows.

5. Have a business plan.

The business plan provides a blueprint for your business. It paints a picture of the business’s growth trajectory during its startup phase and could serve as an evaluation manual for the entrepreneur who wants to know how well his venture is performing. Financial aid from lending institutions can also be sought if there’s a business plan in place.

6. Select a space to rent.

You can do this if you are starting out on a scale that can’t fit into your own kitchen, or would want your own front to sell your dishes at. The rent should be within your reach and the space suitable enough for the use to which you want to put it.

7. Get equipment.

The equipment you purchase will depend on the type of food you will be making. Ovens (for baked items), fryers (for fried foods), plates and utensils (including disposable ones), blenders, mixers, freezers, pots and pans, linen and table decorations are just some of the items needed.

8. Set up.

Once you have your equipment and space, you’re ready to set up.

9. Hire staff.

More hands will be needed as the business grows. You may have just one or a few assistants at the start, but a larger catering enterprise will require additional staff. Train employees to offer the quality of service you would like your business to be identified with.

10. Market the business.

You can set the marketing ball rolling by providing catering services to family and close friends. If your service is good, they will spread the word about what you do. Social media is also a good marketing front, as it gives you access to a potentially wider audience than you can reach offline. And if you can manage it, have a website for your business, with your services and contact channels on it.

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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