If you’re a professional cook, are just coming out of culinary school, or if you’re simply someone with a passion for cooking trying to make a living, catering can be a very attractive field to get into.
While it may seem like an easy way to enter the food business, it is not without its set of caveats. However, by being well informed and by steering clear of a few major mistakes, you should be able to make a good living as a caterer. Here are some of the major do’s and don’ts of the catering business.
Do go with your strengths
One of the most important things in the catering business, and in the food business in general, is to go with what you’re good at. When I was at culinary school, my forte was bakery. If you’re more familiar with meats for instance, then opening a wedding cake business would not be the best idea.
You could also go with a niche you’re more familiar with. For instance, you could specialize yourself in Italian dishes if you’re familiar with the particular cuisine. But don’t make the mistake of entering a niche simply because it’s popular if you have absolutely no experience. Not only will you run a chance of botching the dishes, but you’ll be outclassed by those who are specialized in it.
Don’t be afraid to accept criticism
Most cooks are very proud of their creations and not all of them take criticism lightly. But as a caterer, it is essential that you listen to what your clients say. In some cases, clients might be unsatisfied with your creation, it might be the recipe, the presentation, the dish wasn’t authentic, too spicy or not spicy enough, etc.
Do not be stubborn and listen to what they have to say. It doesn’t mean that you have to overhaul your recipes completely since you may be dealing with someone with a peculiar palate, but if you hear the same criticism over and over again, maybe it’s time for adjustment.
Do choose the right premises
We’ve all heard stories of people starting a small catering business from their kitchen. While the idea may seem romantic at first, it is a very bad idea for a variety of reasons. First, this practice is illegal in most jurisdictions, and secondly, it might limit you in what you may accomplish. Having the right kitchen is important, and so is having the correct disposables and catering supplies.
But you don’t have to own a professional kitchen to run a successful catering business. As a matter of fact, if you’re just starting out, it’s better to rent a kitchen. Take a look at professionals like Dayan & Webb and De Santis. These companies rent their kitchens from FoodStars, a service that allows professional caterers to find a kitchen to rent in London by months at a time. This is the perfect option for caterers who are already established and who want to grow without making a large cost investment.
Don’t let stress overcome you
Catering can be a very stressful business, especially when you’re just getting started. However, if you let stress overcome you, you might end up making crucial mistakes. One of the best ways to alleviate this stress is to surround yourself with competent people who will be able to take some of the stress off of you.
You should also start with a smaller affair and move your way up. Ask your friends and family if they’d like you to cater for them and ask them for their feedback. This way you’ll be able to get some practice in without the fear of harsh criticism.
Catering can be a great way to get your feet wet in the food business. However, it’s important to take it one step at a time and refrain from committing any of the errors in this article.
Make sure that you start slow and listen to criticism. Also, make sure that you consider renting professional kitchen space so that you’ll have access to professional equipment and can scale up your operation. And last, but not least, stick to what you know and don’t enter niches you’re unfamiliar with just because it’s popular.