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Old 11-04-2006, 09:10 AM   #1
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Need help for Catering Business

I am serously considering catering as a side business venture. I have gotten much info concerning licenses, certifications, etc. for starting the business. What I need to know are things like typical cost per plate, sample menues, required equipment, serving ware, etc.

My goal is to use my cooking skill to turn cost-effective foods into gourmet dishes for the customer, and still be able to do this in a timely manner. I believe I can create menues that will give the customer something unique and a of higher quality than the competition, and at competitive prices. I also want to get my Pro-Cook son involved, both to expand his cullinary skills, and to prepare for him a way to leave this small town - little opportunity place where we live, and become successfull in his own right.

Hopefully, if we can make this work here, he can take the skills to somewhere like Tacoma, where there is greater opportunity.

Any help from those who already cater would be appreciated.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North


“No amount of success outside the home can compensate for failure within the home…"

Check out my blog for the friendliest cooking instruction on the net. Go ahead. You know you want to.- http://gwnorthsfamilycookin.wordpress.com/
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Old 11-04-2006, 10:16 AM   #2
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You have checked with the health department about your cooking venue? On other boards where there are caterers the usual price is 4X your cost. I'm not sure about other parts of your question, but good luck.
Maybe you should investigate opening one of these "come cook X meals at my venue for X amount of money".

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Old 11-04-2006, 10:30 AM   #3
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Also, you could sell yourself as someone who could go into someone's home and show them how to take plain everyday food and turn it into something tastier. Like a chicken breast - if it's pounded out and floured (with highly seasoned flour or even crushed melba toast) it can be turned into lots of things - marsala, or just finish cooking with some Fontina cheese and spring onions on it. All along teaching them about the health benefits of olive oil, etc...adding a bit of extra flavor with some lime zest, dressing it up with tomatoes concaisse at the end, etc., etc.

You know what I mean - I'll shut up! It could just be another layer of income.

"Count yourself...you ain't so many" - quote from Buck's Daddy
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Old 11-04-2006, 03:04 PM   #4
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Many governments have restrictions on cooking food for a business in a home kitchens. You should check that out if you haven't already.

To build on KE's idea, your catering could lead to added business teaching customers how to cook the dishes you cater.

Good luck!
"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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Old 11-04-2006, 03:42 PM   #5
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Andy is right about many places not letting you cater from your kitchen. Would definitely check the laws.

Also, please, please, please buy insurance. It is not that expensive and is well worth while. If one person gets sick from anything including a stomach virus (no fault of yours) you need to be protected.

Just my take. Good luck, am sure you'll hit a home run.
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Old 11-04-2006, 07:55 PM   #6
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This is something I am very interested in doing, too. I was figuring that I would have to rent a commercial kitchen somewhere. I need to do a lot of research in the coming months. Looking forward to any feedback you get on this thread, GW!

I'm all about the food!
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Old 11-04-2006, 08:20 PM   #7
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I don't know of ANY venue that in 2006 will allow you to cater out of a home kitchen. If you set up a separate kitchen with a separate entrance in your garage, or basement, in SOME places, you MAY get approved, but not in others. You may want to investigate renting a church or synagogue kitchen. Most of those are certified. In any case , don't wait for your local health department to find you out.. Go to them and make sure you are legal.

You will need liabillity insurance up the wazoo, as well, in this day of "your food made me sick!" You cannot afford to be personally liable.

Have you researched your market to see whether it can use another caaterer? and have you planned out an advertising campaign to get the word out about your new business?

Denise Vivaldo of Food Fanatics has a wonderful book (and workshop) that you would do well to invest in.. She has put years of experience between two covers. Google her!

Feel free to pm me as well, GW.... and good Luck!
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Old 11-04-2006, 10:45 PM   #8
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I have started my research and found the going rate around these parts is about 13 to 14 dollars per plate for simple sandwiches and salad. I know that you can indeed set up a pro kitchen to meat health regulations, but that the equipment is cost-prohibitive. It is recommended that when starting a catering business to rent church or local club kitchens, such as Knights of Columbus, Christopher Columbus, VFW, Etc., that are already certified by the health department. Household kitchens are not allowed. A food safety course is not mandatory in Michigan, but is highly recommended. And yes, I plan on obtaining proper insurance for the business.

I have looked on Ebay and other venues for things like chafing dishes, fuel, and appropriate dinner ware. It is quite reasonable in cost, as are the pots and pans needed to prepare the food.

I still have to find out what others are providing as menu items, and at what cost. I truly believe I can cook as well or better than most of the professional cooks in my area. But I will have to donate a dinner or two, using menu items I plan to offer, just to make sure that I can make it work for a bunch of people. It's all research.

There are obvious items such as inside round, smashed spuds, rice, fish, soups, and veggies that hold up well in a chafing dish. But I believe I can do better than that, and at a reasonable price. I plan on offering a variety and quality unheard of in my neck of the woods, based of course on availablity of products.

I'm checking with the health department to see if I can use locally grown beef and pork that I know is better than I can get from Cisco, or GFS wholesalers. The product is fresh, cheaper, and of premium quality. I just have to have approval from the health department and make sure that the local growers can deliver what I might need.

I will also use fresh produce and fruits whenever available. And I know a host of herbs and spices that can be used to flavor foods and that are well tolerated by most people. I will stay away from nuts for obvious reasons.

And I will need to find a pastry chef for the cakes, pies, etc, who can decorate and arrange for a grand presentation. I have ideas that can set my catering apart from any others in the area. And I have imagination. And I have a son who's been a pro-cook for several years and who can help me make lots of food in a hurry.

I figure that many occasions besides weddings can be catered, birthdays, sports banquets (hockey is huge in my hometown), aniverseries, etc. I can even offer to be a personal chef for special occasions, or as has been suggested, a food coach?teacher. If it has to do with food, I have the skill, just need to create the opportunities, and discipline myself to take care of cost control.

I don't know the business end of things though. I will have to learn that, and what is a reasonable profit.

The end goal, to create a succeful business that can be moved to another state eventually (Washington), and that will give my son the means to escape the low opportunity area in which we live. I want to help him build his confidence and abilities beyond working for someone else all the time.

I have an appointment to speak with Michigan Works small business councilors on the 29th of this month for advice on starting a catering operation.

I still have much work to do before taking the leap.

Thanks for the advice so far.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
“No amount of success outside the home can compensate for failure within the home…"

Check out my blog for the friendliest cooking instruction on the net. Go ahead. You know you want to.- http://gwnorthsfamilycookin.wordpress.com/
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Old 11-05-2006, 01:50 AM   #9
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Goodweed it seems as if you have dotted your 'i's and crossed your 't's.

Go for it.
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Old 11-05-2006, 02:02 AM   #10
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Goodweed, the best advice I can give you is to do extensive market research in your area, and Im not meaning the average cost per plate.
It is imperative that you know what your potential clients want, what your competition are providing, ( all aspects of their service) then where you can fit in that equation.

The following may help:


and here is a link to a site I used a few years ago to get some marketing advice. Not sure if it as busy now, but some ideas were fantastic! Like making chocolate telephones ( I found moulds!) and send to potential clients with a menu/biz info plus ( of course!) my phone number. Included was a handwritten note to please give me a call to discuss how I could make THEM successful through my cuisine. Also got the great idea to send a packet of Forgetmenot seeds to anyone who did not reply.

Use it if it helps~!!


As I have a catering biz here in NZ, I cant advise on USA/State laws but can echo what June has said. Public liability insurance is SO important!! Do not run a business without it.

I wish you the best, it is very obvious you have the passion and drive, so you are already 1/2 way there!
Now you need the luck, and I wish it for you also.

In the book of life, the answers are NOT in the back.
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