The food catering business has become one of the most popular business start-up ideas these days. Compared to opening a restaurant, it doesn’t require that much of an investment.
Entrepreneurs looking for a low-investment and cost-effective option to starting a business should consider starting a food catering business.
The food industry is among the most profitable industries in the UK, earning up to £28.2 billion annually. A big portion of this amount goes to food catering, which contributed around £4.7 billion in 2017, and this could exceed £5 billion in 2021.
These figures prove just how lucrative a food catering business is.
If you have excellent cooking skills and have a passion for making delicious meals, then food catering is a good business idea to consider. To help you kickstart your business, here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Market Research
Since more and more people are getting into the food catering business these days, you can expect that the competition will be stiff. Therefore, preparation and research are necessary to get started with your business.
Take some time to diligently look into your local market. Find out what’s already on offer and what can you do to stand out from the rest.
When doing your research, create a spreadsheet and list down the name of your competitors, the type of food they offer, demographic, price range, and how big the company is.
Based on the information you have gathered, evaluate whether it’s feasible to open another catering business in the area or if you can offer something better than what your competitors are offering.
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You also need to identify the type of customers that are not yet adequately catered for, so you will have an idea of the menu or food concept that will suit the demographics, which paves the way for your success.
The goal is to gather as much information as possible to help you evaluate the revenue potential of your business.
Once you have gathered enough information about your competitors, try to assess their market strategies as well. How are they marketing their businesses to their clients? Check out their social media accounts and find out how many followers they have.
Determine what other marketing methods they have used and see if you are capable of implementing these strategies yourself once you start operating your business.
Do not hesitate to study all sorts of catering services in your local market even if their concept is different from yours.
2. Find a Quality and Reliable Supplier
When running a food catering business, sourcing ingredients is one of the key priorities.
Choosing the right supplier is critical to the overall success of your business since customers will only support businesses that guarantee the safety, quality, and value of the food they offer.
So, how do you find a quality and reliable supplier?
Personal recommendations are a good starting point when looking for suppliers. Ask friends, colleagues, or anyone who can suggest a good supplier based on experiences for recommendations.
Once you find a potential supplier, read the reviews, testimonials, and feedback of their existing and previous customers. You will find this online or from their website. Otherwise, you can ask the supplier directly to provide you with this information.
Reliable suppliers will not hesitate to share with you the feedback and testimonials they receive from their customers, whether good or bad.
If possible, visit the supplier to learn about their processes. That way, you can see for yourself how they source, package, and deliver these supplies.
Traceability is important when sourcing ingredients, especially when it comes to meat products, so find out as much information as you can regarding these things.
Once you find the supplier that you like, establish a service level agreement (SLA). This agreement should include information about delivery times, frequency, manner of order fulfillment, and policy on product substitution.
By having an agreement in place, both you and your supplier will know what to expect.
Nowadays, companies are putting more emphasis on sourcing from local suppliers. Aside from being able to use fresh and seasonal produce, this minimizes food miles.
So, see if you can work with local suppliers and try to highlight this in your portfolio. Customers will most likely support companies that help local businesses.
3. Food Safety Compliance
When starting any business related to the food industry, you must abide by food safety laws. So, get in touch with your local environmental health officers and ask them to inspect your kitchen.
During the inspection, they will typically check your walls, countertops, and other facilities to ensure that they are in good working condition.
They will also assess your ability to maintain proper hygiene when cooking and advise you on any upgrades that you need to do for your business to comply with the food safety laws.
The Food Safety Regulations also require every caterer to ensure that all their staff is supervised and trained in food hygiene matters. Failure to comply with this regulation can lead to prosecution, which may come with a substantial fine.
In the worst-case scenarios, this can land you in jail. Remember that bad publicity can ruin your food catering business, especially in matters about food poisoning.
Therefore, implementing effective staff training and supervision is of utmost importance, especially in the catering business, where there’s often a high turnover of both unskilled and semi-skilled staff.
Legislation training is covered by food safety and hygiene courses, but the staff should also be made aware of other significant issues. Examples are the proper use and storage of cooking and refrigeration equipment.
Storing food items at an extremely high temperature is one of the most common reasons behind food poisoning.
Poor understanding of temperature control can lead to foodborne illnesses, so the staff of a food catering business should fully understand the ideal temperature requirements for different food items.
Although this is not legally required, it’s expected that the legislation will be more stringent in this aspect in the coming years.
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