As Britain has become more cosmopolitan, our attitude and demand for different and interesting food has expanded considerably, but how do you decide which one to make? Here are our thoughts as to the things you need to consider:
Why are you doing this?
Some people go into catering because they need a job, some because they see a gap in the market and others because they love producing food or love the lifestyle of event catering, street food, roadside or function catering.
For those going into the industry for purely financial reasons, then they should really concentrate on the food that offers the best potential to make money. For those who do it for the love, we would suggest cooking the food that has a story behind it; this could be recreating an old family recipe that has been passed down the generations, a cuisine from your favourite holiday destination or a simple staple that you grew up with.
There is no right or wrong answer as to what food you should produce, and it really should depend on what you want to do and whether it can be profitable. Most people come into the industry with an idea of what food they want to sell, look into how feasible it is and then the methods around how to do it. Really it should start with the food and work out from there. It is through testing the product via market research that you will get a clear idea about whether it can make money.
What do you like?
Think about it. Whichever food type you decide to make, you need to take into consideration the fact that you will be making it over and over every day. Therefore you need to LOVE that type of food. This will really help you to excel at it and to motivate yourself to keep doing it.
Many traders talk about the smile on their customers’ faces when they eat their food being a major factor as to why they have stuck at catering. If you want to delight your customers with your own take on Mexican food or your great-grandma’s family pasta recipe, and if you love the food you produce, then it will make it easier for you to do your job, attain customers and get event organisers to pick you for the job.
How innovative are you?
Some foods such as burgers will always sell – it’s a big market but there are also lots of people selling them! Therefore do you want to pick a food that is already popular or do you want to innovate either a new food type or a new way of producing an accepted dish?
Developing a new way of doing something can open doors for you in this trade, but it is far harder to be a true innovator than to take the well trodden path.
Can you make money out of it?
If you can’t make money out of your food, you don’t have a business, and if you can’t pay your bills then you won’t be in business for long.
You have to produce food that people will want to buy, and you have to do that at a price that will allow you to make a profit. Therefore you will need to research the market to see if the food that you want to produce will actually sell, and at a price that can support your business.
You also need to understand what it will cost to produce your food, from raw materials to wages, equipment, pitch fees and fuel. You need to ensure that you are making enough margin on your produce to make it viable to sell.
Can you cook it?
This might seem a bit on the obvious side, but you need to bear in mind that in order to make money selling food, you will have to be able to produce the food to a consistent quality at large volumes. Yes you may be able to produce great Jerk Chicken, but do you have the skill to produce 200 portions in a few hours? And can you do this safely and to the same standard in terms of quality?
The capacity to scale up your operation to one that will be capable of turning a profit will be critical to the success of your business. Your group of 20 friends may have loved the food you cooked them, but could you do the same for several hundred day in day out? There are some foods which require minimal skill to produce to a reasonable quality, and with high profit margins. However, if you are a foodie, this may not satisfy you as this is unlikely to be the reason you got into the game in the first place.