How to Start a Catering Business

How to Start a Catering Business

Catering is a food service activity, related to people feeding on remote sites, including all enterprises that render services for the companies’ employees and private persons on the base of contract agreement on- or off-premise, managing different events through meeting its food requirements, and selling ready-to-eat foods and groceries by retail.

In practice catering means either cooking and its delivery, or event managing, table layout, bottling and serving guests up, and providing the things of this nature.


The global catering market development started in USA at the beginning of 20th century. This was the time when skyscrapers were constructed, and plenty of workers needed food service. The idea of catering spread very quickly for it was the best option of providing foods to a large construction companies workers, and American and European business centers employees. It encouraged more efficient planning of the working day.


Catering differs depending on the event location, the way of service and its price. It may be event catering (cooking for private party, or setting up a retail outlet during city events), transport catering (including aircraft catering and airline meal), social catering (school, hospital, office, prison, military food, and food stamps, etc.).

There are the following types of catering:

  • on-premise;
  • off-premise (remote site service);
  • food delivery contract (office delivery);
  • social;
  • trading ready-to-eat foods and groceries by retail;
  • VIP;
  • beverage and cocktail catering (off-premise bar service);
  • aircraft;
  • hospitality rider.

Off-Premise Catering Types:

There are several types of off-premise catering:

  • Buffet;
  • Smorgasbord;
  • Coffee break;
  • Cocktail;
  • Picnic or BBQ;
  • Banquet;
  • Lunch food delivery;
  • Gala dinner.

Step-by-Step Guide on Starting a Catering Business

  1. Find a niche and trading technique.
  2. Create a menu;
  3. Pick a name for your business;
  4. Make a business plan;
  5. Register your business and obtain food service permits and licenses;
  6. Find a space to rent;
  7. Hire staff;
  8. Purchase the catering equipment;
  9. Buy a van or other equipment for transporting food;
  10. Apply for an account with food suppliers;
  11. Build your own website and a community in social network;
  12. Register in Google My Business;
  13. Market your business.

Popular Foods and Its Selling

The most popular foods can be often found on food carts. It is a kind of trailer without a powerdrive, which is usually hauled to the point of sale by a car, bicycle or even pulled by hand. It is set up in parks or crowded places, such as sidewalks. Each cart is equipped with refrigeration and heating systems that are set up onboard. This equipment provides the ultimate condition for food keeping and cooking.

The following foods and beverage can be served from carts.

  • Hot dogs in pair with different kind of sausages in the USA;
  • Burritos and tacos, or other food from Mexican cuisine that can be eaten from hand. Such carts are usually called taco trucks or “lonchera” in Spanish manner;
  • Halal meals, as like chicken or lamb over rice or wrapped in a gyro.
  • Ice cream or similar frozen treats;
  • Bagels, coffee, donuts, and egg sandwiches, including an egg, bacon, cheese and different breakfast items;
  • Pig roast, usually put in a divided bread bun or baguette with apple sauce topping or onion and sage stuffing;
  • Barbeque popular foods include sausages, burgers and chicken.

If an entrepreneur wants to trade a larger amount of meals, a catering truck will do the best. The way of serving is the same, but this time a ready-to-eat meal is carried for customers by the self-driven truck. The well-known example of a truck is an ice-cream van in USA, Canada and UK.

A food truck differs from a truck by a built-in deep fryer or barbeque grill. It can offer menu, containing a larger number of items because entrepreneur can start cooking as soon as an order is taken. Besides, the food can be kept fresh. To start trading, a truck owner may stop in any crowded place or keep driving across the city and organize trading on several locations. Taco trucks or West Coast Tacos are the perfect examples of mobile kitchens in USA. As for UK, recollect Fish & Chips trucks. People used to call these trucks “roach coaches” or “ptomaine wagons”. The author of Walter McGinley’s Cooking Hour show prefers this kind of trading most of all.

There is another variant of food on wheels – a concession trailer. It has the same equipment as trucks do, but its construction is engineless. Concession trailer match long-lasting events, as like traveling funfairs.

The Seasonal Peculiarities of Catering Business

The catering industry lays upon seasons much. Events layout and its theme are changed as time goes by. Holidays and weather patterns play important role here. The profit or income depends much on the season. It stays stable for every season year after year.

The first spike in catering activity starts in December. The largest amount of the orders falls on the second part of this month and the very beginning of January. This is caused by celebrating Christmass and New Year. Banquets and buffets are required on the frequent base. December and the beginning of January account for 25-30% of total annual amount of orders.

The second season covers May, all summer months with June especially, and September partly. Events are related mostly to open-air prom night, weddings, and corporate entertainments. Team-building events are popular at this time. The most demanded catering service form is a picnic, BBQ or buffet. The second season accounts for 50% of total annual amount of orders.

The third spike of activity falls on the second part of February, March, April, September and October. The catering service is most demanded on presentations, exhibitions, business trainings, business events, seminars, and press briefing. The popular catering forms are coffee break, cocktail, and buffets. A catering company’s owner maintains 20-25% of orders from total annual amount in this period.

January and November are the most inefficient months for this business. Dinners, cocktails, and private parties are required in this season only. They do less than 10% of total annual amount of orders.


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