A few things you might like to think about before you get carried away with the possibilities are:
· Do you have animals or pets in your kitchen? If so, it will not go down well at your EHO inspection as all animals including humans carry potentially harmful bacteria.
· Do you have enough space for additional fridges/ freezers as it is highly unlikely that your normal domestic fridge or freezer will have enough capacity for even a small event or function. As a general rule EHO’s generally like to see the commercial food kept separately from the family food, which is not unreasonable.
· Do you have a facility for a second sink that can be kept for hand washing?
· Can the kitchen be kept clean and to a commercial standard?
Generally speaking, outside caterers will start up doing small private functions and then move on to larger opportunities and commercial clients as their reputation and confidence grows, but this does not have to be the case. Whichever route you choose, the key is quality and service. You need to get these two things right. Price is of course another factor, Don't neccessarily think i must be cheaper but aim to be better than the competition, this will always help you get new clients and more importantly keep existing ones. Really good caterers are actually a rare commodity, become one and you will never be short of work as word of mouth alone could keep you in business.
Most people think that throwing together a few rolls, sandwiches and nibbles for a function is a simple affair that almost anyone could pull-off. That is simply not the case. There is a lot more involved to outside catering than initially meets the eye and to build a successful business requires both culinary skills and business acumen, patience and a lot of nerve, but without doubt the biggest factor is planning. Getting the food to the customer on time, looking good and tasting great requires a lot of planning and forethought. If you can’t plan well, catering is probably not for you.
The ability to know your client is also very important, what are their motivators? Do they like plain and simple or exotic? What is important to them? is it service or price? Most likely both. Without this knowledge it is impossible to please the client.
Customer's tastes are evolving and their palates are becoming more complex. As a result, your menu, has to be more creative than porkpie, sausage rolls and a bowl of crisps with a few sandwiches plated with cling film.
Creating a quality meal for groups of 100+ is not a simple task and requires an enormous amount of planning and equipment.
Corporate/business clients are always a good banker but remember they may also want credit terms which can mean cash flow problems so a good client mix between private clients who pay a good deposit and then cash on the day makes for a good mix.
Repeat business is what you are after, all good catering business’s rely on repeat clients, that means quality food, well presented, reasonably priced and first class service are the order of the day.
Another important factor is knowing and staying ahead of your competition. If you have a good client, be sure someone is going to try to steal them from you, so you should also try to offer something that your competitors don’t, maybe silver service waiting staff or party tent hire. The one stop shop principle still works, clients are lazy and they want someone else to take the strain, just be sure you can deliver before you say yes.