This guest post comes from Alex White. It’s great advice for home cooks who would like to transition into catering.
You’ve been cooking for most of your life and have decided to start your own small business. You figured you may as well make some money off the time and energy you put into doing something you love anyway, right? What many fledgling caterers wind up doing is putting all their planning energy into the food and don’t think much about other logistics that can make a catered event go from amateur to professional with just a few basic elements. Here are some points to consider when planning your first catering gig.
Some cooks prefer to be alone while working in the kitchen — and that’s okay. Whether you are working in your own kitchen or have chosen to rent a professional facility, doing all the cooking yourself may be the best way to save money, particularly in the early stages of your business. However, you may want to consider hiring help for the day of your event. If you cannot afford the expense of paid help you can get a competent friend or family member to volunteer their time in exchange for some free food. Serving people can take a lot of time, which is a major reason having help at the event is key to your success. You may be responsible for setting up banquet tables and chairs, serving the food, and then the dreaded clean up. Even for a small group of less than 50 people, this can prove to be a lot to do in addition to all the cooking. So get however many extra hands as you can afford on the day of the event.
No one likes to be served cold soup — unless it’s meant to be cold like a gazpacho. However most people like for their hot food items to be served, well, hot. The temperature of your food can also affect sanitation, so you want to make sure you have the proper equipment to maintain the temperature of your food and drinks. Be sure to have heat candles or lamps on your banquet tables. Keep ice on hand for salads and other items containing ingredients that can spoil quickly if the temperature gets too high. You don’t want to have to go through the process of planning and serving a meal only to find that half of your guests were unsatisfied because of the temperature, or worse, made sick by spoiled food. These types of incidents will certainly kill your catering business before it even gets started.
Stick to recipes you know are a hit
Your first catering job is not the time to experiment on a new recipe. You want to knock your first job out of the park, so to speak, so that you can get referrals for more jobs in the future. You should already have an arsenal of recipes ready to go whether they be on index cards in the closet or filed away in your computer.
With the proper preparations, these early events are sure to be a success for your fledgling catering business.
Alex White is a food critic and an avid blogger.