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How to Start a Catering Business in 9 Steps

Eric Goldschein

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

The catering industry attracts a broad range of entrepreneurs. Maybe you’re an excellent cook, maybe you love throwing parties, or maybe you’re interested in event planning and want to get the ball rolling by catering.

Or maybe you’re like Dannella Burnett, of Gainesville, Georgia, who formed her catering business back in 2009, and your reason is simple and sweet:

“I figured if I could cook for other people and put food on their plates, I could put food on my family’s plate,” Burnett says of her decision to start Oakwood Occasions.

But as Burnett knew even in the nascent stages of starting a catering business and expanding to event planning, the business is about much more than putting food on plates. It’s about thinking your way through stressful situations, planning for the unexpected, and most importantly, running a business just like you would any other.

In this guide, we are going to take you step-by-step through everything you need to know about how to start a catering business. With a little help, you'll be delighting guests at parties, events, and festivals in no time.

How to start a catering business in 9 steps

Before you get to the following steps to starting a catering business, note that you should decide on the type of catering business you want to start before learning how to start a catering business.

Some caterers only do cocktail reception drinks and small finger foods, others do buffet-style catering, and some do the sit-down catering that you might see at a banquet or wedding. Once you know what kind of catering you want to do, you can get on to the next steps.

Step 1: Choose your business name and business entity type

Once you have the type of catering business you want to start in mind, you can move on to choosing a name for your business and defining the entity for it as well. You'll want to choose a name and make sure it's available in the state where you're opening your catering business. In most states, you can check business name availability online with the Secretary of State.

You'll also need to choose the business entity you want your business to operate as. Here you've got a lot of options depending on a few things, including whether you want to go it alone or not.

If you decide to operate as a sole proprietor, your business will be unincorporated and be owned by you alone (or you and your spouse). If you want to have a partner for your business, or want to avoid taking on all personal liability for your company, you can choose to register your business as a general partnership, a limited partnership, a limited liability partnership, a limited liability company, or another business entity. Each offers different protections for the partners and the business.

Step 2: Write a business plan

Once you have your business name and entity chosen, the next step on the "how to start a catering business" checklist involves writing a business plan. This will take some work, but it will pay off in the long run because you'll have the plan to fall back on and it can help you know what to expect while running your business.

You can use a business plan template or you can make a plan on your own. When you do make the plan, it should include quite a bit of research. You'll want to include an overview of your company, a market analysis, your business's organization, the specific products and services you'll be providing, and your marketing and financial plan. If that sounds like a lot, don't worry—you can always add to your plan as you learn more about the catering business world.

Importantly, though, you should also research your competition and identify potential customers. Is there a particular type of catering that is needed in your area that is currently underserved? For example, if you live in an area with a lot of golf courses, you may find that they are always in need of caterers for weekend events. Your market research into the needs in your area can go a long way to helping you sustain your business.

Part of your business plan for how to start a catering business should also include the vendors and suppliers you plan to use. Look into sourcing all the supplies you need, including linens, utensils, china, even tables and chairs for some events, and of course the food. When it comes to non-food items, Burnett suggests renting first, before buying things outright.

“At the beginning, you can rent anything you might ever want or need,” she says. “And renting is great: You know what the cost will be and you don’t have the upfront cost of purchasing something.

“But at some point, though you want to buy those things yourself because you still can charge for them and basically you’re paying for the ownership of them. And they ultimately pay for themselves.”

When it does come time to buy, equipment financing can provide you with the funding you need to cover the cost of supplies.

Step 3: Register your catering business and get an EIN

Depending on the business entity you chose, your business's name might by default be your name. If you want to change that, you might need a DBA or "doing business as" name. You'll want to register your business and its name with the state you plan to operate in.

For a catering business, because you're handling food, this might also require some other registrations depending on the rules in your state. The health department might need to check out the place where you're cooking and preparing the food you'll be serving, for example.

You'll also want to apply for an employer identification number also called an EIN. You can apply for one online from the IRS in just minutes and enjoy the benefits of having one for years to come. It can serve as a business tax ID number and help you do other business tasks like applying for a credit card and paying your employees.

Step 4: Get all licenses and clearances needed to start a catering business

As with most industries involving food prep, you can’t just, well, do it. You need to obtain a business license from the state, as well as a food handling license. You also need to pass a county or state health inspection—a residential kitchen likely won’t cut it, so consider looking for a commercial kitchen that has already been approved.

Some other requirements you might need to consider include workers' compensation insurance and permits or licenses to work out of certain venues—the monthly or annual costs of which can cut into profit margins.

If you’re unsure of what will be required, get in touch with your local Chamber of Commerce , Small Business Development Center , or the Small Business Administration to find out more.

It's not a bad idea to consult a lawyer in your area who specializes in the food or service industry for help filing everything and getting all of the registrations squared away before you start cooking.

Step 5: Determine your pricing

Pricing your work depends greatly on where your business is located and what kind of catering you do. Many businesses create price tiers that provide a certain level of service and amenities for various amounts. Burnett never went down that route.

“I started off doing custom proposals for people, and I’ve stayed with them throughout these nine years,” she says. “It takes a lot more time, but a lot of my proposals get accepted, rather than a package deal where it may or may not fit what someone is looking for. If they don’t need something, if it doesn’t pertain to their event, it’s not going into their pricing. If they need more, they pay for more; if they need less, they pay for less."

To get an idea of what costs what, Burnett says that her price per person has varied from $7-$8, for light appetizers for cocktail hour, up to $80 for filet and lobster.

“It varies because we do buffets, plated dinners, simple appetizers, or [events] where we’ve just dropped off food and they’ve served it themselves—to very high-end menus with unique ingredients,” she explains.

Step 6: Hire, train, and outfit your staff

It’s unlikely you can cater an event all by yourself, so staff is a requirement. Hiring and training staff is something that came organically for Burnett, but that might not be the case for you, so do whatever is best for your business is recommended here.

“At the first location, we brought on staff members one by one as we needed people. There was no real formal training from the beginning," she says.

You may be able to find staff just as easily, either by word-of-mouth or by combing your own network. But you might also need to reach out on foodservice-oriented job-seeking sites, or look into how competitors found their staff. Just keep in mind that what works for you when you're starting a catering business might not be what works once your business starts growing.

"But when we moved into our new location, at the Hall County Government Center, we opened up a café, coffee shop, and expanded the catering business at the same time. Since we were going to have in-house staff as well as catering staff, we had to go through a much more extensive training period.”

Here’s another place where having capital at the start comes in handy: If you’re hiring and training staff before they actually work an event, you need to set aside training dollars.

Additionally, uniforms, including vectorized logos, can be “really cheap or really expensive,” in the words of Burnett.

“Hey, I want aprons with logos on them—getting that logo vectorized for $75-$80, then $5-$7 a piece depending on how big you want the logo. Then you have to buy the apron. If you need 20, 30, 40 of those—that adds up,” she says.

Step 7: Market during your own events

When it comes to marketing and advertising your business, Burnett has one suggestion that trumps all the rest.

“When you’re putting food in somebody’s mouth, that’s the best time to find your next client,” she says. “It’s through the guests that are attending the events you’re catering for.”

Otherwise, it depends on what kind of catering you specialize in. If you focus on weddings, you’ll want to attend bridal shows—which involve bringing food samples and sometimes buying a booth. Corporate catering might involve more focus on LinkedIn advertising, where you can buy leads; you might also pay people to knock on doors and pass out fliers to bigger businesses.

“Really, it’s about networking. A lot of word of mouth, a lot of referrals,” she says. When you're just starting a catering business, that’s where the putting food in someone’s mouth tactic comes in.

Step 8: Get funding

Burnett made the decision to start her business out of necessity after her husband lost his job in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. She had previously worked in food and retail management, and she fell back on that experience when it came time to find a new source of income.

“A woman at my church said, ‘Why don’t you reopen your catering business here at the church?’ I didn’t think you could do that, but we called the health department and had them do a site visit at the church kitchen. It was deemed sufficient for commercial use, so I had my church kitchen licensed as a catering commissary, and I launched the business with zero capital, zero plan. Nothing but me, myself, and I,” Burnett explains.

Burnett found herself in business well before she expected to be. Despite making things work, she says luck took the place of capital and wouldn’t recommend that path to other future caterers.

“There are some things that I could look back on that I would say either by sheer doggedness or dumb luck, the next right thing did happen,” she says. “Was it more stressful because there wasn’t a plan at the beginning or there wasn’t capital? I think definitely.”

Burnett notes that, for the catering industry, access to capital is especially important: “Most small businesses fail because they don’t have the capital to get them through the ebbs and flows. And in something like the catering business, there should naturally be some ebb and flow, whether it’s the seasonality of the type of catering that you do, or the calendar—seasons and holidays.”

If you aren't as lucky as Burnett, you will probably need some funding to get your catering business off the ground and through slower months. Knowing how to acquire capital is one of the keys to figuring out how to start a catering business. There are plenty of routes you can go to acquire small business funding to get your business going.

If you want to go the traditional route, you can go for a traditional term loan, a business line of credit , or maybe a business credit card . Once you're established you can look into getting an SBA loan .

Step 9: Plan for emergencies — both financial and others

You should have extra capital when you start out, and continue to budget wisely as you go, because you never know when something will go wrong in the catering industry.

"Things break, so you have to replace them. Maybe you started off with china for 200 and now you only have china for 150 because they break,” says Burnett, listing the things that caught her off-guard when starting out.

“Repairs to vehicles: Catering can be hard on your vehicles, so you’ll need replacements to tires. The price of gas, when it went sky-high, it had an impact. Food was costing more. And people understood that food cost more to a certain extent, but people still had in their head that they need to do a lunch for $10 or $15 a person, and when the price of gas and food has gone up, it’s easy for that not to be profitable.”

But preparing for the unexpected is about more than budgeting. Most events are catered at a venue that can be 30 minutes, an hour, or even a few hours away from the kitchen. That can put you in a tight spot.

“The ability to be a MacGyver is a requirement. Every venue is different, and if you forget something, you’ve gotta figure out how to make it work,” Burnett says.

How to start a catering business: The bottom line

Catering isn’t an easy business. Burnett says you need to “know what you’re getting into,” due to the physical and demanding nature of the work.

“You can be a great cook, and that doesn’t necessarily make you a great caterer,” she says.

But Burnett was able to build a massively successful business—so much so that she actually began tapering off of catering in 2019 to focus more on event planning—off little more than an idea that was born in a church kitchen.

How Much Do You Need?

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

business plans for catering business

Catering Business Plan Template

Business Plan Outline

Start Your Catering Plan Here

Catering Business Plan

You’ve come to the right place to create your catering business plan.

We have helped over 100,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans and many have used them to start or grow their catering companies.

Below are links to each section of your catering business plan template:

Next Section: Executive Summary >

Catering Business Plan FAQs

What is a catering business plan.

A catering business plan is a plan to start and/or grow your catering business. Among other things, it outlines your business concept, identifies your target customers, presents your marketing plan and details your financial projections.

You can  easily complete your catering business plan using our Catering Business Plan Template here .

What Are the Main Types of Catering Businesses?

Catering services are available for a variety of different occasions including parties, weddings and corporate events. 

What Are the Main Sources of Revenues and Expenses for a Catering Business?

The primary source of revenue for catering companies is individual, private events and corporate events. 

The key expenses for catering companies are rent, wages and salaries, equipment and food costs.

How Do You Get Funding for Your Catering?

Catering companies are often funded through small business loans. Personal savings, credit card financing and angel investors are also popular forms of funding.

What are the Steps To Start a Catering Business?

Starting a catering business can be an exciting endeavor. Having a clear roadmap of the steps to start a business will help you stay focused on your goals and get started faster.

1. Develop A Catering Business Plan - The first step in starting a business is to create a detailed catering business plan that outlines all aspects of the venture. This should include potential market size and target customers, the services or products you will offer, pricing strategies and a detailed financial forecast.  

2. Choose Your Legal Structure - It's important to select an appropriate legal entity for your catering business. This could be a limited liability company (LLC), corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks so it’s important to do research and choose wisely so that your catering business is in compliance with local laws.

3. Register Your Catering Business - Once you have chosen a legal structure, the next step is to register your catering business with the government or state where you’re operating from. This includes obtaining licenses and permits as required by federal, state, and local laws. 

4. Identify Financing Options - It’s likely that you’ll need some capital to start your catering business, so take some time to identify what financing options are available such as bank loans, investor funding, grants, or crowdfunding platforms. 

5. Choose a Location - Whether you plan on operating out of a physical location or not, you should always have an idea of where you’ll be based should it become necessary in the future as well as what kind of space would be suitable for your operations. 

6. Hire Employees - There are several ways to find qualified employees including job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed as well as hiring agencies if needed – depending on what type of employees you need it might also be more effective to reach out directly through networking events. 

7. Acquire Necessary Catering Equipment & Supplies - In order to start your catering business, you'll need to purchase all of the necessary equipment and supplies to run a successful operation. 

8. Market & Promote Your Business - Once you have all the necessary pieces in place, it’s time to start promoting and marketing your catering business. This includes creating a website, utilizing social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, and having an effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. You should also consider traditional marketing techniques such as radio or print advertising. 

Learn more about how to start a successful catering business:

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Catering Business Plan Template

Catering business plan.

If you want to start a catering business or expand your current one, you need a business plan.

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 5,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their catering businesses.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Catering Company

Below are links to each section of your catering business plan template:

Next Section: Executive Summary >

Catering Company Business Plan FAQs

What is the easiest way to complete my catering business plan.

Growthink's Ultimate Catering Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Catering Business Plan.

Where Can I Download a Catering Business Plan PDF?

You can download our catering business plan PDF template here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.

What Is a Catering Business Plan?

A catering business plan provides a snapshot of your own business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business’ goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.

Why Do You Need a Business Plan?

If you’re looking to start a catering business or grow your existing small business you need a business plan, especially if you are seeking financing for your business. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your company in order to improve your chances of success. Your catering business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your catering company grows and changes.

How Do I Write a Successful Catering Business Plan?

The best way to write a catering business plan is to follow a proven catering business plan template. This template should include the following information: Executive Summary, Company Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Marketing Strategy & Plan, Operations Plan, Management Team, Financial Projections & Plan, and Appendix.

What Are the Sources of Funding for a Catering Business?

With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a catering business are savings and/or credit cards of the business owner, bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.

The second most common form of funding for a catering business or cafe is angel investors. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding, or, like a bank, they will give you a loan. Venture capitalists will not fund a catering business. They might consider funding a catering company with multiple locations or a massive footprint, but never an individual location. This is because most venture capitalists are looking for millions of dollars in return when they make an investment, and an individual or small location could never achieve such results.

What Are the 3 Types of Catering Service Businesses?

There are three types of catering service businesses: on-premise catering, off-premise catering, and event catering.

What Are The 5 Steps to Starting a Catering Business?

Starting a catering business is not as difficult as one might think. Here are the five steps needed to get your catering business up and running:

Once your business is up and running, it’s time to start promoting it! Create a marketing plan and start spreading the word about your new catering business to potential clients.

What are the Benefits of Starting a Catering Business?

There are numerous benefits of starting a catering business, including:

What are the Pitfalls of Starting a Catering Business?

While there are many benefits to starting a catering business, there are also some potential pitfalls that should be considered. These include:


Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Use This Simple Business Plan Template

Business Plan for Investors

Catering Business Plan Template

NOV.11, 2016

Catering Business Plan Template

If you are planning to start a catering company, you need to have a professional catering business plan. OGS Capital can help you with that; we have a team of professional business personnel and writers who work with us on a daily basis to ensure that clients get customized plans for their business. We strive to make sure that we deliver the final copy of the business plans for catering companies  to the customer on time, and this has so far helped us to get referrals and returning customers.

Tips for Succeeding in Writing a Mobile Catering Business Plan

The quality of your catering company business plan will determine whether you will get capital from investors and financial institutions. Hence, it is important to make sure that every detail in the plan is factual and verifiable before presenting it to the investors or banks.

Here are four tips for writing a good business plan for your catering company.

Adhering to these four tips will help you to come up with business plans for catering companies  that you will not be afraid to present and defend when pitching the business idea to the financial institution. Let us proceed and discuss the primary benefits of having an expertly written small catering business plan.

Assist in Decision Making

Every decision that you make will have a positive or negative impact on your catering business. It is, therefore, important to make sure that you consider all the plausible direct and indirect effects that a resolution may have on the enterprise before implementing it to avert regrets.

A good catering company business plan will act as a blueprint that will guide you through the decision-making process. Our team will work hard to make sure that each recommendation made is right for your business. Without a catering company business plan , rest assured that you would be prone to making hasty decisions that could plunge your business in deep financial crisis.

Proper Management of Funds

Unknown to most people is that a catering company business plan does not aim to discuss the business idea only. It goes an extra mile to provide precise details of how the funds will be spent at every stage of the business growth. For instance, it describes the total amount of money that will be used to acquisition equipment. Hence, it will be instrumental in helping you manage your funds correctly. Note that it only takes one financial mistake to compromise the financial stability of the business.

Fosters Transparency and Management

Transparency and proper management are the two primary virtues that set professional catering companies from their counterparts. Poor or lack of transparency results in losses and unnecessary disagreements. All this information will be included in the plan to not only increase your chances of getting funding but also to help you make informed managerial decisions.

Facilitate Setting of Sales Targets

The marketing teams need to have sales goals that they want to achieve after a given duration. Without these goals, they will be operating in a void, and you will also not be able to monitor their performance.

Our marketing professionals will not only help you to come up with a marketing strategy but also provide ideas on how you should set sales targets and objectives.

If you are looking for professional business plans for catering companies that will enable you to enjoy these four benefits, get in touch with us by filling this form. One of our customer care business consultants will get in touch with you to discuss our services in details.

Catering business plan for starting your own building firm

Catering is a business in which you provide food to remote locations to serve people at parties, ceremonies, events, filming sites, and hospitals, etc. The service can sometimes also include the provision of furniture, tables, chairs, utensils, and crockery.

If you are a person who wants to start a business that holds minimum risks, takes a small team and a little investment, then catering is the right choice for you. Besides, another good thing about this business is that it starts yielding profits as soon as it is launched.

What you need to do is just ensure that you manage and market your business plans for catering companies properly. For that purpose, the first step to take is making a business plan for catering. If you need any help regarding how to start a catering business plan, you can have it from here. Here we are providing a business plan for a catering startup, Marlon Caterers.

Executive Summary

2.1 the business.

Marlon Caterers will be a registered and licensed catering business in Atlanta. The business aims to help people celebrate their memorable events with an unforgettable dinner. Moreover, the business will also take care of the needs of patients in hospitals by offering them healthy and nutritious food according to their doctors’ advice.

The business will provide several types of catering such as buffet catering, sit-down catering, hospital catering, corporate catering, and more.

2.2 Management

Management is a very important factor in the catering business. It’s only through efficient management that you can ensure

To maintain a good reputation among your customers, you must know all the difficulties and risks you can encounter. The risks may include budget disruptions due to sudden cancellation of orders, or any small/ large mistake during the business operations.

Before starting a catering business, you should study many catering business startup plans and then prepare a set up catering business plan for your business.

2.3 Customers

Our target customers belong to various niches. They will include the residential community, business organizations, film studios, government institutions, and hospitals.

2.4 Target of the Company

In this how to start a catering company sample business plans for catering companies we are enlisting the business targets set by Marlon Caterers.

Catering business plan

Company Summary

3.1 company owner.

Marlon Redford will be the owner of Marlon Caterers. Marlon has acquired a degree in Business Administration from McDonough School of Business. Marlon has been serving on a managerial post in New York’s top luxury wedding planner company, Colin Cowie for four years. But a few months back, he decided to quit the job and start his own business.

3.2 Why the Business is being started

Marlon always wanted to have a career in which he could utilize his creative ideas to serve his community. He loved food and had an interest in cooking as well. So he decided to make a small team and start a business plans for catering companies .

3.3 How the Business will be started

The first step before starting a catering business is creating a description of catering business plan. Your catering company business plan should cover all aspects such as startup expenses, market analysis, sales strategy, personnel plan, and an extensive financial plan for your business.

In this catering company business plan example, we have listed the business strategy created by Marlon Caterers. Marlon devised his start a catering company business plan himself as he had adequate knowledge to do so. If you don’t know how to write a business plans for catering companies , you should either take help from this sample business plan for catering service. Or you should hire a professional person.

Marlon will rent a facility in Atlanta to set up his office there and keep the inventory. He will purchase luxurious crockery, flatware, tableware, chairs, tables, and sofas to host high-end events. To serve the other categories of target customers, inventory that comes in reasonable rates will also be acquired.

Besides, Marlon will hire the general staff, chefs, waiters, and some supervisors to help him run the business.

The start-up requirements, start-up expenses, total assets, funding, liabilities, planned investment, and other parameters for the successful launch of the business are given below.

Catering business plan

Before you start a business plans for catering companies , you must identify the services you can provide under the catering domain. Including your services in your business plan about catering, can help you in acquiring the right licenses, required inventory, and relevant staff.

In this template of a catering business plan we are enlisting the services provided by Marlon Caterers.

We’ll offer on-premise and off-premise catering in the following categories.

In this catering, our waiters will lay out the food on individual tables. So, the guests will have to eat whatever is laid out on the plates for them.

In this type of serving we will serve the dishes and food in one place. The guests will have to prepare their plates themselves according to their needs and wants.

Our wedding or party dinner will be preceded by a cocktail hour. Our cocktail servings will include Manhattan cocktail, Daiquiri, Margarita, Bloody Mary, Mojito, and Hurricane.

We will supply food, snacks, and drinks to film studios, production sets, and shooting sites located near us. As the film crew works on a particular site on a weekly or monthly basis, so we’ll offer them various weekly and monthly packages.

We’ll offer fresh, healthy, and nutritious foods to hospitals for patients. Our nutrient-rich meals will help them recover fast.

Marketing Analysis of Catering Business

If you are starting a business plan for catering companies , you should focus on doing accurate marketing analysis. Through market research, you can identify local trends and expectations. Besides, you can also select the most suitable location to launch your startup.

Marketing analysis should be completed before you create a business plans for catering companies . Because it will help you in recognizing your customers and setting your prices accordingly while also making sure that you are not running at a loss.

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5.1 Market Trends

The demand for the catering business has been high in the last few years. Due to a boost in average household income, more people had started utilizing private catering services to hold events. However, there is a slight problem these days. Due to the coronavirus pandemic mass gatherings aren’t allowed. So, your business might suffer a loss in the initial phases if you only provide catering for wedding ceremonies and parties. Marlon found the solution to this problem as he decided to offer hospital and film catering too.

Overall, business is surely profitable. According to First Research, catering industries in the U.S. make up above $11 billion in revenue on annual basis. More than 12000 catering industries are running in the U.S. Moreover, Statista also reports that the market size of this business has reached $12 billion in 2020.

5.2 Marketing Segmentation

Before you think how to write a business plan for a catering business, you should consider who will be your customers. Knowing your customers will enable you to devise customer-oriented pricing and sales strategy.

In this sample of business plans for catering companies , we have listed the market segmentation done by Marlon Caterers.

The detailed marketing segmentation of our target audience is as follows:

Catering business plan

5.1.1 Residential Community

The biggest consumer of our services will be the residents of Atlanta. They are expected to avail of our catering services whenever they host birthday or anniversary parties, gatherings, wedding ceremonies, etc.

5.1.2 Corporates & Film Producers

The second category includes business organizations that will need our catering for their business meetups, events, and parties. They are also expected to contact us for arranging just a cocktail party as that contains light refreshments and drinks to boost the energy level of workers.

Moreover, film studios that happen to shoot in Atlanta will also be needing our services. This group usually spent weeks and months on a particular site and thus need catering service continuously for days. So to compel them to hire us, we’ll offer them various weekly and monthly packages.

5.1.3 Hospitals

The last category of our target customers include hospitals based in Atlanta. They are expected to contact us for making nutritious and healthy plated foods for patients.

5.3 Business Target

Our business plans for catering companies targets to be achieved within a specified time are listed below

5.4 Product Pricing

Our prices are almost within the same range as that of our competitors. However, we’ll be offering several discounts on our initial stage to attract as many customers as possible.

Marketing Strategy

Sales strategy is also an important component of a catering business plan proposal. Through this, you can reach your qualified customers and make them comprehend that you are better than all your competitors. To give you an idea of what to include in sales strategy, we are providing the sales strategy of Marlon Caterers in this example of marketing plan for a catering business.

6.1 Competitive Analysis

Our biggest competitive advantage lies in our customer service. We are highly customer-oriented and are always willing to go the extra mile to satisfy our customers. Secondly, we have developed a user-friendly mobile app that will allow our customers to

Third, we provide on-premise catering in which we prepare the food on site. This will be a competitive edge for us as just two to three competitors are offering it.

6.2 Sales Strategy

6.3 Sales Monthly

Catering business plan

6.4 Sales Yearly

Catering business plan

6.5 Sales Forecast

Catering business plan

Personnel plan

While writing business plans for catering companies you should also create a list of your required employees along with their job responsibilities.

7.1 Company Staff

Marlon will manage the business himself. However, he will hire the following people

7.2 Average Salary of Employees

Financial plan.

As you make a catering business plan, you should also start analyzing your finances. Crafting a financial plan is an absolute need for a business as it maps the ways to minimize or even avoid loss. A good financial plan comprises a strategy to cover startup expenses with earned profits. Moreover, it also proposes a systematic approach to managing employees’ salaries, cost of business operations, and costs to cater for unexpected events.

To give you an idea of how a financial plan should look like, we are giving here the financial plan of Marlon Caterers.

8.1 Important Assumptions

8.2 brake-even analysis.

Catering business plan

8.3 Projected Profit and Loss

8.3.1 profit monthly.

Catering business plan

8.3.2 Profit Yearly

Catering business plan

8.3.3 Gross Margin Monthly

Catering business plan

8.3.4 Gross Margin Yearly

Catering business plan

8.4 Projected Cash Flow

Catering business plan

8.5 Projected Balance Sheet

8.6 business ratios.

Download Catering Company Business Plan Sample in pdf

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Create a Catering Business Plan: Complete Guide

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When you start a catering business, many details are vying for your attention. A catering business plan can help you refine and focus your efforts on the best interests of the company. Whenever you have a decision to make or a question about how your catering business operates, you need only to turn to the appropriate page of your business plan for your answers.

Sections of a Catering Business Plan

All business plans follow the same basic format:

How do you write an executive summary for a catering business?

The executive summary serves as an introduction to your catering business, letting readers know what to expect in the pages to come. In it, you should include:

A brief introduction to your business: In just two or three sentences, you'll discuss what your business offers and how. For a catering business, this will include the selection of foods your clients can choose from, the number of people you can serve, and whether you will also supply table settings and similar necessities.

A description of the company: Here, you'll provide some company background, including its owners and their roles, who will be handling the cooking versus the administrative details, and perhaps how you came up with the name for the business.

The services your business will provide: Here, you'll list each of the services your company will offer, starting with catering, of course, and adding any additional services you'll offer as well, like wait staff or a dessert bar.

__The audience, or customer base, your business will serve: __ You must identify your target market in order to know how to structure, operate and market your business. While the market analysis section of your catering business plan will go into greater detail on this subject, you can give a broad outline of those factors here.

How do you write a mission statement for a catering business?

A mission statement lays out the fundamental goals and objectives of your catering business. If your executive summary introduced the "what" and "how" of your business, your mission statement explains the "why." Why did you create this catering business? What do you hope to accomplish with it? What impact do you desire for your catering business to have on your clients and their guests?

With your mission statement composed, you've set the standards you and all your partners and employees will meet in your every action and interaction on behalf of the business.

How do you write a company concept for a catering business?

Here is where you spill all the details you reluctantly cut from your introduction for the sake of space. It may include more details on the dishes your business will offer and what makes it so unique or special. Is there a theme, like weddings or children's affairs, or a commonality to the food you'll serve, such as its ethnic origin or dietary system, like paleo, keto, or vegan meals?

How do you write a market analysis for a catering business?

You gave a brief overview of your target market in your introduction, but now you can delve into the finer details. Who is your target market? Do you serve a specific:

This section should also include an in-depth industry analysis that outlines the interest in and need for your catering business and an analysis of your biggest competition. For your industry analysis, gather all the data you can about the catering industry and, more specifically, the one in your service area.

Is there sufficient demand for what you have to offer? What kind of food does your target market seek out, and do your service options help meet that need in a way that is currently lacking?

This brings up the question of your competition. Study their menus, prices, clientele, and locations. How many other businesses like yours are there serving the same area? What are their similarities and differences from you? What do you have to offer that they do not? What are your respective strengths and weaknesses? How might you build upon your strengths and improve your weaknesses in order to remain competitive?

How do you write the management structure section of a catering business plan?

This section of your business plan should expand on the list of names of company officers and their respective roles that you outlined in your introduction. Here, you can include a bit about each person's background.

In addition to your business partners and key officers, you can also list your regular staff, both administrative, like your accountant and lawyer, and operational, like your assistant chef and waitstaff.

Setting out these roles will not only help you ensure all the business's needs are being met, but it can also serve as a reminder of each person's accountabilities to avoid misunderstandings that can affect workflow.

How do you write the product line and services section of catering business plans?

This section should complement your company concept by expounding on your menu and list of services. In this section, you can include prices for your various offerings. Some ideas to consider are whether you'll offer:

How do you write the sales and marketing section of catering business plans?

All the great food in the world means nothing for your business if people don't know how to find you. Your sales and marketing plan is, therefore, as instrumental to the success of your catering business as your menu items and service offerings themselves.

In this section, lay out in as much detail as you can how you will market your catering business. Will you place paid ads in physical publications or online? Will you use social media? Will you host or participate in events, like food fairs or offer promotions like holidays ? Will you attend conferences to network with your peers, partner with event coordinators and managers of event spaces? Will you give cooking classes?

How do you write financial projections for catering business?

This section is made up of two parts:

Where you're going to get the money for your catering business start up.

How much money do you expect to make with this business, and over what time period.

In the first section, you may list personal funds, investors, donors, and loans, as applicable.

In the second section, you'll lay out a start-up budget for your business and show how those funding sources will cover those initial expenses until you start turning a profit.

Remember to include supplies and payroll. Then, you'll set down projections of how much income you must bring in to reach, first, a sustainable stage and, then, a profitable one, and how long each will take to achieve.

Why is catering insurance one of your most important business expenses?

Whether you operate out of a business, your home, or run a mobile catering business , when you write your catering business plan, don't forget to include catering insurance in the expenses section. Basic catering insurance to protect you from the damage or loss of precious catering equipment and property includes:

General liability insurance

Commercial auto insurance

Business owners policy (BOP)

Workers' compensation

How do you write an operational plan for a catering business?

This final part of your catering business plan is a timeline for achieving each benchmark required to open your business, run it and reach profitability.

Tips for Creating a Winning Catering Business Plan

A detailed, accurate and complete business plan is essential to start a catering business on the right foot and on the path to success.

It can be helpful to hold off on writing the executive summary of your business plan until after you've written all the other sections. This way, you'll know which ones are the most salient details to pull out of each section for your introduction. Be concise in your writing and back up your claims with solid, verifiable research.

A business plan is not only essential for when you're opening a catering business. It is also essential for operating that business over its lifetime. As such, it needs to reflect the business accurately at every stage of development. Remember that a business plan is a living document, which means it must always adapt and grow with the company.

As you write your catering business plan and think about the catering insurance you want to include, contact CoverWallet to learn more about your different insurance options.

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The Complete Guide to Starting a Home-Based Catering Business

Blog > Food Entrepreneurship > The Complete Guide to Starting a Home-Based Catering Business

With lower startup costs than a restaurant and the ability to determine your own hours and dishes, a home-based catering business can be an exciting entry into culinary entrepreneurship!

With no brick-and-mortar, “customer-facing” space needed, starting a catering business from home can be more affordable, and a great way to either supplement your full-time income or replace it entirely.

Still, this is a big undertaking. However, you can follow this step-by-step guide to get your home-based catering business off the ground, and start wowing clients with your delicious food!

Table of Contents

On-site vs. off-site catering.

Start Looking at the Numbers

Create your business entity, craft your menu, assess your equipment.

Hire and Train Your Staff

Collect reviews and testimonials.

Catering services are generally split into two categories—on-site and off-site. With on-site catering, the food is cooked and completed at the event location, like a wedding venue or hotel. With off-site catering, food is cooked somewhere else and then brought to the event location. This is often the case with catered business lunches and private parties.

As a home-based caterer, you may have the option to work either of these methods into your business. You could do the prep work at home, and bring everything to the event location for the final cooking and plating. Or you could do all the cooking from your home kitchen, and deliver the completed dishes to the venue.

The method you choose could be influenced by your city and state catering regulations, so make sure to do your research before determining your business model.

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Know Home-Based Catering Laws

Before you file any paperwork or spend a dollar to establish your business entity, you need to know what is possible (and legal) in your area.

Does your city/county/state even allow for catering out of your home? And if so, does your kitchen meet the health department guidelines? These rules may require extra ventilation, a three-compartment sink, and non-permeable surfaces, like stainless steel countertops. Rules vary from state to state and city to city, so make sure to get the specific details for your region!

You may find that while you can operate the business side of your catering operation from home, you’ll still need a commercial kitchen rental where you can do the actual cooking for off-site catering. You may have to rent a shared commercial kitchen, or you may be able to cut costs by operating out of a kitchen at a local church, restaurant, or community center. Get creative!

Chef plating white dishes with tomatoes and feta cheese

There are two factors to a business’ profitability—income and expenses. Before you jump into your new venture, start sketching your financial outlook and making some projections so you build a profitable business.

What Will It Cost to Open Your Doors?

There are costs associated with every business—your job is to figure out how much you’ll need to spend starting and operating your catering business at home. Additionally, you should calculate your income to determine how long it will take to recoup those startup costs.

Keeping your expenses low at the beginning can help you become profitable sooner. Instead of buying all new equipment and serving dishes, what can you find second-hand or borrow? Can you purchase and store ingredients in bulk to save some money?

After you figure out your startup expenses, think about how you’ll pay for them. Will you be able to cover these startup costs out of your personal bank account, or do you need to seek a small business loan or grant? Even if you don’t need outside funds right away, you may want to secure a loan just to cover any possible emergencies that may occur as you get up and running. Unexpected expenses crop up, like higher food prices or broken equipment that needs repair.

Remember to factor in the cost of a rented kitchen space if you need one!

Smiling Caterer Delivering Tray Of Sandwiches To House

How Much Can You Expect to Bring In?

How many events can you reasonably cater per year? And how large do you plan for those events to be? This is a vital part of your planning process and goes to the very heart of your home catering business.

It’s not all about how many events you can do—it’s about how many you want to do. Flexibility is part of the appeal of this business model, so it’s up to you to decide what you want your business to look like.

Is this going to be a full-time venture with a team that serves large weddings and corporate events? In that case, you want every weekend to be booked.

Or do you envision it as a supplemental business to your full-time job, or a fun money-making hobby? If that’s what you envision, you may only plan to do one small, high-end dinner party per month, focusing on personalized service and top-shelf ingredients.

Do you plan to be a company of one? This will limit the size of the event you can manage, but it also reduces your expenses.

These factors determine how much income you can make per year. Build out a rough calculation of the amount you can expect to make versus your anticipated expenses to make sure there’s room for profitability.

If financial planning seems a bit daunting, Escoffier’s Online Food Entrepreneurship program can help you grasp the culinary math fundamentals to start a food business, such as money management, purchasing, receiving, menu pricing, inventory, and more!

Group of people smiling and talking at a dinner party

Name Your Home-Based Catering Business

Time to brainstorm some names!

Check with your Secretary of State (if you’re in the U.S.) to make sure that the name hasn’t already been registered. It’s also a good idea to do a web search of the name to make sure there are no catering businesses that already hold that name. Remember, you want to make it easy for people to find and remember you.

Plus, putting in a little research upfront can allow you to avoid confusion or legal troubles from a similarly-named company.

Build Your Business Structure

Consult with an attorney and/or tax professional to decide what the best business structure for your company will be.

A sole proprietorship is the easiest to create, but it doesn’t keep your personal and business assets separate. A limited liability company will protect your personal assets from business debts or liability, but it is a little more complicated to set up. If you’d like help with setting up your business, consider contacting a local small business center.

Once you’ve established your business name and structure, you can register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS.

Set Up Your Business Banking

Keep your personal funds and business funds separate, so you can accurately track your profit and expenses. This will also make paying your taxes much easier at the end of the year!

Get Any Required Licenses and Permits

Each state, county, and city will have its own requirements for permitting and licensing. To start, you’ll probably need a business license. Contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) to get guidance on the rules in your local area.

If your state allows you to cater from your home kitchen, you may need an annual health inspection from the local health department. You may need a food handler’s or food manager’s license as well.

And if you plan to sell alcohol as part of your catering services, you’ll likely need a liquor license to stay in compliance.

Long story short: be diligent in your permits and licenses! An error here could lead to financial or even legal trouble down the road.

Person using a laptop while also holding their phone

Get Liability Insurance

Even if you take proper precautions, any time you cook for others there is some element of risk. If someone gets ill from eating something you cooked—even if it’s not your fault—you may face liability. Liability coverage can protect you and your business if something unfortunate happens. A specialty insurance provider like the Food Liability Insurance Program may be a good fit for this type of business.

You may also need to update your homeowner’s insurance since you’re running your business out of your home. Contact your insurance company for details.

Now that all the paperwork is out of the way (for now), let’s talk food!

Caterers may choose numerous specialties, from regional cuisine to farm-to-table to plant-based catering. Choosing a specialty in your menu plan reduces your pool of possible clients, but it also makes it easier for you to stand out and market directly to your ideal customer. After all, if I’m a client who wants to serve guests a gluten-free, vegan meal, I’m probably more likely to hire the gluten-free vegan caterer than a “jack of all trades.”

“The most valuable part of my Escoffier education has been the knowledge I gained from all of the Chefs. Each one had a different take on things. It was a great experience.”* Kathy Gadison, Escoffier Culinary Arts Graduate

To avoid reinventing the wheel for every event, you can opt to offer a set number of dishes that customers can pick from. You may also want to establish “tiers” in your menu, with each tier having a different per-person cost. This gives your customers flexibility in choosing their dishes while still working with their budgets.

When pricing your menu, consider your food costs , labor costs, and additional overhead (insurance, kitchen rental space) to make sure you can cover all of your expenses and still have some profit left over from each event.

Also, consider your service method when designing your menu. If you’re only offering buffet-style catering, you may want to avoid dishes that rely on exquisite presentation or need refrigeration. Finally, think about on-site vs. off-site delivery. Food that you plan to deliver from your home kitchen to the venue must maintain quality through the transport and setup process.

Escoffier’s Online Food Entrepreneurship program curriculum also examines the various aspects of menu design and management, including how to use home-based catering menus as a strategic financial tool.

Mini sandwiches and bread on a plate in front of flowers

What do you have, and what do you need?

If you offer baked goods on your menu, for example, you may need a second stand mixer or multiple ovens. A dedicated catering refrigerator can give you extra cold storage, plus make it easier to keep your catering supplies safe from hungry family members if you’re cooking at home.

You may also need chafing dishes and Sternos to keep food hot when it reaches its destination, plus serving utensils and dishes.

When you have all these extra items, where will you keep them? If you have a large garage or storage shed, that can work. But you may need to rent a storage unit nearby to keep these things out of your home or rental kitchen space.

Start Building Relationships with Vendors

As a catering business owner, you have access to wholesale food suppliers that can supply you with bulk ingredients at better prices. They may also be able to help you source specific ingredients, which is valuable if you’re in a specialty market.

Event planner using checklist while examining delivery of crockery and decorations while movers unpack boxes

Start communicating with vendors early to get an idea for who has the best prices, quickest delivery times, and most responsive customer service. And if you’d like to source ingredients from local farmers and small food producers, start reaching out early to build relationships.

When it comes to sourcing, think beyond the food. If you can source linens, flatware, and plates as part of your service, you can both charge a higher rate and provide a useful service to your clients. So strive to develop relationships with rental vendors as well.

Start Marketing Your Home-Based Catering Business

How will you get the word out? If you plan to cater to an older crowd, you may want to go with traditional marketing methods, like taking an ad out in a local publication. If your ideal customers are younger and tech-savvy, social media is probably a better place to focus your efforts. Focus on high-end photography.

You’ll also need a website. A website makes you “findable” online, and it can be your home base to display menus, testimonials, photos, and pricing. It’s also where you can share your story and credentials, like your Food Entrepreneurship degree or diploma , and what is special about your cuisine.

“For me, having access to the school online means it is now possible to receive the culinary education I have desired, while still being able to grow my business and take care of my family, without even having to leave our valley. It is awesome that in my lifetime, we have developed the technology making this educational venture even an option. I am grateful for the opportunity, to say the least.”* Kirsten Douglas, Online Culinary Arts Graduate, Owner & Catering Chef at The Main Event

If you’re catering small events, you may be able to handle them on your own. But as events get larger, they often grow in complexity.

Even if you can handle all the cooking on your own, who is going to serve it? Two or three people may be enough to keep a buffet well-stocked, but if you plan to do seated meals, you’ll need more staff to prevent slow service and cold food.

If you’re an Escoffier graduate, you may be able to find some team members among your fellow alumni through the Escoffier Alumni Association !

Smiling chef cutting carrots and other vegetables on a white cutting board in a kitchen

One of your best sources for new clients will be old clients. Along with relying on word of mouth, encourage past customers to leave positive reviews and testimonials you can share.

Some bookkeeping software has this function built in. After you send the final invoice and the client pays it, the software can send out an automated email with a link to your review platform of choice.

Celebrate Major Moments Through Food

Starting a catering business at home can be flexible and rewarding! You have the opportunity to make rewarding connections with interesting people and help them to celebrate life’s big events through food. But it can also be challenging and demanding.

Education can be a great way to prepare you for starting a catering business. Escoffier’s Online Food Entrepreneurship programs include core culinary principles, marketing concepts, and business planning methods that may help demystify some of the important concepts of entrepreneurship and set you up for success. And with online culinary school , you may even be able to complete your program while you start your catering business. To take the next step in your entrepreneurial journey, contact us today to get started!

Interested in learning more about culinary entrepreneurship? Try these articles next:

How to Start a Bakery Business From Home

This article was originally published on June 11, 2021, and has since been updated.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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Related articles, how to start a food business from home, how to start a restaurant: a step-by-step guide.

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Clicking the "Get the Workbook Now" button constitutes your express written consent to be contacted via phone, text, and/or emails by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts at the number(s)/email you provided, regarding furthering your education. You understand that these calls may be generated using an automated technology. You can unsubscribe at any time or request removal of street address, phone number, email address via Escoffier website.

7+ Small Catering Business Plan Examples – PDF, Word

Catering Business Plan Design Example

catering business plan design example

Small Catering For Kids Business Plan Example

small catering for kids business plan example

Mobile Food Small Catering Business Plan Example

mobile food small catering business plan example

Tips in Creating a Small Catering Business Plan

1. start off with a business profile, 2. focus on marketing, 3. create financial forecasts, executive summary small catering business plan example.

executive summary small catering business plan example

Easy Business Plan Template for Small Catering Example

easy business plan template for small catering example

Intro for Catering Small Business Plan Example

intro for catering small business plan example

Easy-to-Make Dishes You Can Serve for Your Catering Business

1. caesar salad.

delicious taco

3. Gyoza and Sushi

4. grilled food (pork, beef, or seafood).

delicious grilled food

5. Mini Cheesecake Cupcakes

6. ice cream.

cute ice cream

Small Catering Business Write-up Intro Example

small catering business write up intro example

Small Catering Restaurant Proposal Plan Example

small catering restaurant proposal plan example

More Design

What to include in a home business plan, how to create a startup business plan in 8 easy steps, how to create a business plan, importance of business plan, common business plan mistakes you need to avoid, how to make a business plan, how to do market analysis of a business plan, how to develop a human resources department business plan, 9+ restaurant and catering business plan examples - pdf, related articles.


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  1. How to Start a Catering Business in 9 Steps - NerdWallet

    Part of your business plan for how to start a catering business should also include the vendors and suppliers you plan to use. Look into sourcing all the supplies you need, including...

  2. Catering Business Plan Template (2023) - PlanBuildr

    Below are links to each section of your catering business plan template: 1. Executive Summary 2. Company Overview 3. Industry Analysis 4. Customer Analysis 5. Competitive Analysis 6. Marketing Plan 7. Operations Plan 8. Management Team 9. Financial Plan Next Section: Executive Summary > Catering Business Plan FAQs What Is a Catering Business Plan?

  3. Catering Business Plan Template & Guide [Updated 2023]

    How to Write a Business Plan for a Catering Company Below are links to each section of your catering business plan template: 1. Executive Summary 2. Company Overview 3. Industry Analysis 4. Customer Analysis 5. Competitive Analysis 6. Marketing Plan 7. Operations Plan 8. Management Team 9. Financial Plan 10. Appendix

  4. Catering Business Plan Sample [2023 UPD] |

    Your catering company business plan should cover all aspects such as startup expenses, market analysis, sales strategy, personnel plan, and an extensive financial plan for your business. In this catering company business plan example, we have listed the business strategy created by Marlon Caterers.

  5. Create a Catering Business Plan: Complete Guide - CoverWallet

    A detailed, accurate and complete business plan is essential to start a catering business on the right foot and on the path to success. It can be helpful to hold off on writing the executive summary of your business plan until after you've written all the other sections. This way, you'll know which ones are the most salient details to pull out ...

  6. 9+ Catering Company Business Plan – PDF, Word - Examples

    The catering business also allows you to attend lavish events and parties, relax when you need to, and work with clients you’ve always wanted to work with before. Although you do need to sacrifice most of your time and energy to make a breakthrough in the market, the outcomes will definitely be worth the sacrifices.

  7. The Complete Guide to Starting a Home-Based Catering Business

    Create Your Business Entity Craft Your Menu Assess Your Equipment Build Relationships with Vendors Marketing Your Home-Based Catering Business Hire and Train Your Staff Collect Reviews and Testimonials On-Site vs. Off-Site Catering Catering services are generally split into two categories—on-site and off-site.

  8. Small Catering Business Plan - 7+ Examples, Format, Pdf ...

    In this case, begin your catering business plan with a short background of your catering business. List down the name of your business, the dishes you cook, your target market, organizational structure, physical address, and online media profile (website and social media).