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displacedtexan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-14-06 04:53 PM
Original message
Any caterers out there?
I'm about to finish pastry school, and I'm thinking about
starting a small biz catering DC biz meetings.

Anyone have any advice?
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bliss_eternal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-15-06 10:06 PM
Response to Original message
1. Congratulations, displacedtexan!
Edited on Wed Nov-15-06 10:13 PM by bliss_eternal

I'm not a caterer, but wanted to offer you some resources and suggestions. Sounds like a great idea for a business!

First off, contact the small business administration of your state and/or area for information. Also, check your local library for books on starting a small catering business. I like to go to when I'm researching something and punch in the area I'm researching. For example, in your case enter "how to start catering business" in their search.

I've heard that catering can be a bit costly to get up and running with. I'm not saying that to discourage you at all, because everything costs something in the grand scheme of things--it's just a part of starting a business.

To help you create some revenue (and contacts) to get up and running eventually as a caterer there are some things you can do to still utilize your love of cooking. You could work as a personal chef specializing in small dinner parties in people's homes. For more information, check out this site: Very nice, enthusiastic and helpful people there!

Depending on the laws and guidelines of the health department of your state, as a caterer you would have to find a commercial kitchen to work out of (or rent/lease a kitchen)to do your cooking. That's generally where the greatest amount of cost comes in for catering, the kitchen and cooking equipment.

Doing small dinner parties in people's homes allows you to get a feel for catering--but on a smaller scale and for less cost initially. If you are cooking in someone's home, as a personal chef--that alleviates your need to pay for (rent/lease) a commercial kitchen and you can usually use much of the client's cooking equipment (again alleviating your cost). That would also give you time and money (and some happy customer testimonies) to develop a larger scale catering business. :)

Another way to start off in catering (help you build your name, contacts, etc.) is to offer your services as a pastry chef to some established caterers in your area. Some caterers hate to bake, and are happy to have a pastry chef/baker that they can contract with to handle cakes, pastries or dessert for an event. The advantage in this is it gets your name out there, with small risk. You aren't "on your own" as a caterer per say, but are testing your creations through someone else's catering service as a "dessert caterer."

A way to possibly get around building a commercial kitchen or paying for a space all your own, is to find somewhere that already has a commercial kitchen. For example, restaurants that may be closed a day or two a week that may be open to allowing you to pay to use the space (hourly, weekly, etc.). Another place that sometimes rent their kitchen spaces are churches with commercial approved kitchens or other caterers.

Also there's a chapter on starting a small catering business in the book, The Best Home Based Businesses for the 20th Century and Beyond, by Paul and Sarah Edwards. They discuss possible costs to start, etc.

Hope some of these suggestions are helpful to you! Maybe an actual DU caterer will come along with more specific advice for you!

bliss :)

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displacedtexan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-20-06 06:08 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thanks for the help!
"Dessert Caterer" is a great idea.

Here's what's happened since I last posted: I live in DC, where it
is against the law to have any kind of food-based biz in your home,
but it's allowed in VA (only minutes away); I checked on basement
apt. rentals (about $500 per month), and baking is allowed (no flames or other dangers), and
several students in my class have indicated that they would rent time
in my rental space when I'm not using it.

Since I already own most of the equipment (except the oven and the packaging),
the start-up won't be outrageous. also, I'm concentrating on small-venue
biz meetings at first, and I have absolutely no plans to go big. Ever.

Plus, my recipes and procedures are all tried-and-true White House gems (dating back to JFK),
and they're all scalable. If you think of anything else, please let me know.
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