Party catering is always in demand, from gourmet cooking for dinner parties, buffets for informal parties to children’s birthday tea parties. It would probably work best in a large town or city, since your customers would be within easy travelling distance. This business could easily be combined with something like speciality cake making for leverage and extra profits. You need to be a decent cook, have a few specialities which you cook well and have a set of carefully thought out menus for every occasion.
Give your clients a choice of ‘packages’ from four course dinners at home to simple children’s tea parties with jelly and ice cream on the menu. You will need to prepare most of the food at home and deliver ready to present to your customer. For dinner parties, you could package the food for re-heating by the customer, or you could offer to serve dinner and clear up afterwards for an extra fee.
Packaging boxes and foil or plastic bowls for food are readily available from many wholesalers and you can make good use of cardboard boxes from the corner shop. Be careful to abide by the health and safety laws and guidelines and be scrupulously clean when preparing food. You must be ready for an inspection of your kitchen at any time. You can easily start this business for under £100 and if you get a deposit from your customer of up to
half the total amount, you can use this to buy the groceries you will need. It’s a
good idea to get a deposit anyway, since this will discourage customers from cancelling at the last minute. Sit down with your customer and discuss numbers, party arrangements, dates, deadlines and menus well in advance. Have a portfolio of photographs of your dishes and parties to show new customers.
You may need to hire dishes, glasses or kitchen equipment if your customer does not have them, so it is a good idea to make a list of contacts in your area where you can hire these items. Have an idea of the costs, so you can charge the customer. You may also need some help on occasions and it is a good idea to have a couple of friends or casual staff you can call on if you need them for a large party. You may be able to offer other services as well, such as arranging entertainment or music. You could develop the business into a comprehensive party organising service with enough time and extra help at hand. Start off small, though, and re-invest some of your profits into expanding the business.
Special dishes for special occasions… offer different menus from those available at local restaurants.
Range of parties catered for
Part or complete catering service
Run from home
Very little financial outlay to start
People who host parties of all kinds want to make a good impression, whether it’s a posh dinner party or a carefree children’s party. With time at such a premium, there will always be customers who will be glad to pay someone to deal with the catering for a party.
Print some leaflets, which you can display cheaply or free in local newsagents, Post Offices, doctor’s surgeries, launderettes, dry cleaners and anywhere there is a customer notice board. You could also leave a few business cards for people to take away.
Try sending a letter of introduction and a leaflet to professional businesses such as solicitors, accountants and banks who often entertain clients and network with other professionals. You could also try business groups such as the local Chamber of Commerce and enterprise networking groups. Also try places like schools, playgroups and childminders where you can target
parents for children’s parties. You might also try bridal shops for wedding parties and community parish notice boards and magazines for weddings and christenings. A carefully targeted leaflet drop to local homes and businesses is also worth a try.
Editorials are a good idea as they offer free publicity, although often now, the paper will expect you to advertise with them in order to get an editorial. Weigh up the cost of advertising and decide whether it’s worthwhile. This will depend on the response you are already getting from your leaflets and whether you have spare money to experiment. A small advert around Christmas time might be worthwhile if you want to cater for Christmas parties.
Talk to people whenever you can about your business. The very best way to promote your business is by word of mouth and viral marketing (see marketing feature).
Work out the costs involved in preparing each of your menus as a guideline, then add on your profit. Include the costs of fuel for cooking and travel costs. Quote prices per head. You can get an idea of the sort of prices to charge by looking at the prices for meals in restaurants. Aim for the same sort of price for a comparable meal.