Start Your Own Catering Business
People with money seem to be on a binge to prove
their status and flaunt their wealth by staging large, catered
parties. As a matter of fact, in some circles of affluency,
a party or social get-together isn't considered an event of
any significance unless it's a catered affair.
With the same kind of reasoning, businesses of all sizes
are using catered lunches, cocktail parties and dinner meetings
to build their images and increase company sales. It's a matter
of keeping up with the competition in promoting a company
On a smaller, but just as busy marketing scale, more and
more working mothers are paying to have catered birthday and
graduation parties, as well as wedding receptions handled
by caterers. The reasons are simple to understand - if she's
working outside the
home, today's mother just doesn't have the time or the energy
to do all the planning and staging of a memorable party.
Besides those reasons for turning everything over to a caterer
working mothers feel a little guilty about the time away from
their children they lose because of their jobs. Thus, they're
ready and willing to make it all up to them by paying for
a lavish party the child will remember for years to come.
Caterers handle everything from birthday parties for children,
to breakfast in bed and intimate candlelight dinners for two,
to company dinner parties for 50 and wedding receptions involving
a thousand or more guests. This kind of entrepreneurial business
definitely growing and becoming more popular with people of
all income levels.
An imaginative caterer in a large metropolitan area can
easily gross $150,000 per year, while a small, part-time caterer
in a small town can count on at least $10,000 to $15,000 per
year. One small, but very ambitious caterer is reported to
have grossed $250,000 after only 2-years in business!
You don't need special education or training to become a
successful caterer. You do need an affinity for people and
a kind of intuition as to what people enjoy in different environmental
A quick survey of successful caterers across the nation
shows that many began with zero capital by working out of
their homes. The basic start-up investment would appear to
be around $500, with some big spenders capitalizing their
idea with as much as $15,000 in order to get off to a fast
This seems to be an ideal business for an ambitious couple
to start and operate with very little capital investment required.
One person can spend his time hustling up business while the
other would do the planning, organizing and actual catering.
As with any business, your success will be directly related
to the soundness of your planning, and the working of that
plan. Understand exactly what your client wants, and give
him what he wants in the way of service that reflects upon
the client in a complimentary manner.
Basically, you can start with an advertisement in your local
newspapers. This advertisement need not be much more than
a simple announcement: Creative Catering - Specializing in
personal service - We can handle any party or special event
from start to
finish - no idea too small or too large - Your satisfaction
is always guaranteed! We can handle everything for you...
Call us, and let us make your parties worth remembering...
Naturally, the first thing you want from anyone calling
to ask about your services, is that person's name, address
and phone number. Then you want to know what kind of party
or event they have in mind. As soon as you have this information,
relax a little bit and inquire to find out about the person
or the company - the people - sponsoring the party and their
ultimate goals or reasons for the party.
If it's to celebrate a birthday, graduation, anniversary
or a wedding reception - finding out about the interests,
background and ambitions of the guest of honor will be of
value to you in your planning. Taking a few minutes to learn
everything you can about whoever the party is for, and the
people giving the party, will also make it much easier to
close the sale than any sales pitch or special persuasive
People like to talk about themselves, and they especially
like to tell everyone why they're honoring someone, even when
they pretend to keep it a secret who initiated the idea. So,
it's important that you be a good listener, that you have
the ability to get people to talk about themselves, and that
you take notes on the things they tell you.
This same principle applies to business people, regardless
of who's talking to you or the purpose of the catered affair.
The more polished and adept you can become in getting your
prospects to talk about themselves, the more information relative
to their background you can elicit and the more you listen;
the better your parties will be, and the greater success you'll
attain in the catering business.
You take the information you glean from this first interview
and plan/organize the event on paper. This means you're going
to have to have contacts or at least working relationships
with innumerable service businesses.
If your client wants to stage a birthday party for a 12-year
old - he or she greets the guests as they arrive, makes sure
everybody knows who he is - then what about party favors -
a soft drink and a conversation leader until all the guests
arrive - the opening of presents - ice cream and cake - and
games to play, a thank you gift for coming, and a reason to
end the party at a pre-determined time...
Do you greet the guests, does the mother or father, or the
little boy or girl? Where do you come up with party favors
at less than regular retail prices? Where are you going to
get the soft drinks - your cost - and the glasses or paper
cups to serve them in? What about ice? What kind of games
to play? Who will be the conversation leader? Will there be
a clown or someone special to keep everything moving according
to plan? Where do you get the ice cream and cake? What games
to play? How to get everyone involved? And finally, a feasible
and polite reason for ending the party and sending everyone
All this takes planning, organization, and if you're going
to make a profit, a definite awareness of cost control. Get
it all down on paper as a proposal to the people who want
to pay you to carry it off. Figure out your costs, the time
involved in putting it all together, and then get back to
Always leave room for changes in your proposal. In fact,
expect them - invite input and suggestions from the client
- and always have an alternate idea in your mind for each
of those on your written proposals. Discuss your proposal
with the client just as you would a script for a television
show, make the suggested changes and ask for a 50-percent
advance deposit. From there, it's just a matter of following
Regardless of size or type of party - whether your client
is a working mother or a giant corporation - the format is
always the same: initial inquiry, interview, your proposal,
second interview for any changes, agreement, deposit, staging
the party itself, and your final payment. As mentioned earlier,
success in this business comes from your planning - having
a lot of contacts - and working your plan.
An important word of caution: Try not to get "boxed
in" to setting or even revealing a tentative price until
you've had a chance to listen to what the prospect wants,
to study your own capabilities, and to make a formal written
proposal. If a customer wants to know how much you charge
- and if you feel it necessary in order to eventually close
the sale - you can tell him 50 to 100 dollars per hour, plus
expenses, and of course,
depending on the type of event the customer wants.
As for how much the average party costs, again tell him
that it varies anywhere from 50 to 5,000 dollars.
Always keep in mind that you are a professional, and that
if the ordinary person had your knowledge, contacts and ambition
to do it himself, he wouldn't be calling you on the phone.
He needs your help for any number of reasons. You specialize
in this kind of work or service just as a doctor specializes
in medicine and a lawyer in legal matters. Therefore, you
should, and do expect to be paid accordingly.
Something else - this business thrives on word-of-mouth
advertising - referrals - and thus, is a direct "freeway"
to the kind of customers where money is of no concern. However,
in order to gain access to this market, your business emphasis
has to be on
This means the capability of handling everything for the
customer, from having the invitations printed and sent out
to cleaning up after the last guest has left. Businesses and
people in the upper income brackets, like to pick up the phone
- tell someone that they want a party on a certain date -
and then forget about it, knowing everything will be taken
care of without further worry or time involvement from them.
Once you've developed your expertise and clientele to this
level, you'll have a business in the $200,000 to $250,000
per year range.
Definitely arrange for a display ad in the yellow pages
of your telephone directory. You will probably get 40% of
your inquiries from this source alone. Generally speaking,
radio and/or television advertising will be too expensive
when compared with the immediate results. However, it is recommended
that you consider these media prior to special holidays.
Working with restaurants, supper clubs, bridal shops and
the entertainment business in general, can bring in hundreds
of referrals for you. Rubbing shoulders with, and circulating
as a part of your area's civic and service clubs, should also
result in more business for you.
Keep your eyes and ears on the alert. Wherever you go, and
with whomever you associate, always be ready to promote and
sell your services, if not on the spot, at least make a note
to follow up when conditions are more in your favor. Promoting
your services will require at least half your time, and that's
why two people operating catering services are so successful
from the start.
The actual selling is quite simple so long as you emphasize
the service and time-saving aspects.
The more time-consuming work you can handle for the client,
the easier it's going to be for you to close the sale.
Handing out business cards is one of the least expensive
ways to advertise, promote and sell your services. One enterprising
caterer makes arrangements with the sponsors of all his parties,
to see that each of the guests gets one of his business cards.
Another gives each of his clients a stack of his business
cards, and tells them he will pay them $25 for each prospect
they refer to him. He tells them to write their name on the
back of the cards, and to hand them out to their friends.
And then, whenever a person tells him that John or Jane suggested
he call, and he presents the card with John or Jane's name
on the back, this very successful caterer sends John or Jane
a $25 check.
Another very successful caterer pays commissions to a group
of housewives and college students who solicit - via their
home phones - interviews for him with brides-to-be. They get
their leads from announcements, and pictures of brides-to-be
in the local papers.
Many caterers pay sales people a commission for letting
them know when they hear about a party or special event being
planned by one of their business customers.
The possibilities go on and on, and are seemingly unlimited.
Time is becoming more valuable to a lot more people every
day, which means there are more and more opportunities for
great wealth and personal independence as a professional caterer.
In reality, the success for just about any person entering
this field, will be limited only by his or her own imagination
There is definite opportunity for great wealth within the
catering field. Anyone with a sense of service to others can
succeed. Very little "ready-cash" is needed to begin.
Therefore, the only thing standing between you and the realization
of your dreams, is the action it takes on your part to get