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How To Write a Catering Business Plan w/ Templates (PDF, Word Doc)
Whether you’re starting a catering business full-time or planning to operate out of your house initially , writing a business plan is essential to getting clear on the type of catering business you want to open. After all there’s some pretty important stuff covered inside of what can seem like a stuffy document.
For the purposes of starting a catering company, think about the business plan as the one place you put your operation details. Things like the cooking equipment you need to purchase and the total cost, tentative catering menu, food costs, and who your target customer is. These are all super important details you need to understand before opening! This document provides a place for you to organize everything.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to draft your plan and start on that first catering gig you’ve been planning to open. We also provide templates you can use in PDF and Word Doc you can download and edit. Let’s get started.
- Executive summary
- Mission statement
- Company concept
- Market analysis
- Management structure
- Product line and services
- Sales and marketing
- Financial projections
- Operational plan
- Download templates
Catering spread for a Mexican food concept.
Start your business plan with an executive summary. This is a way to introduce your catering business so whoever is reading your business plan will know what to expect. This will include a brief introduction of your catering business, a description of your company, the services your catering business will be providing, and the customer focus.
A quick introduction helps the reader get a bird’s eye view of your catering business. Here you’ll be talking about what to expect and what you can offer as part of your catering service.
This section isn’t considered lengthy. This usually has two to three sentences. What you need to focus on when writing this down is by the end of it, your reader will more or less understand what your catering business is all about.
Here’s an example introduction you can use as a guide:
The Big Spoon is a small catering business headed by Lydia Smith. She specializes in Italian cuisine but can cater to American, Mexican, and Asian dishes as well. The Big Spoon can accommodate an intimate dinner for 2 up to a large party of 50 accompanied with table settings and chafing dishes to complete that delicious home-cooked meal experience.
Just by the introduction, the reader will know how big your catering business is, what cuisine they can expect to order, and how many people the business can cater for. It also gives them an introductory glance about your catering style wherein you already provide more than just food but also a table setting so they don’t have to look for a supplier for this separately.
Keep your introduction informative but also short enough. You will be able to add in more to the details later on.
Some food trailers make more than 50% of their annual revenue from catering gigs.
A little background on your catering business is needed in the company description part of the business plan. Here, you can describe the meaning behind the name for your catering business, who the owners are, and what their roles are going to be. Who will be in charge of cooking? Who will be in charge of accounts and marketing?
This may just be brief but this is a way for you to introduce what’s going to happen behind the scenes of your catering business.
Catering works great for food trucks and restaurants.
Although your catering business may sound self-explanatory, it would still be of great help to you if you mentioned the services you’ll be offering.
For example, The Big Spoon already mentioned in their introduction that they’ll be catering food and offering table settings. They could also add that they will be offering an ice cream station and even a cocktail bar.
You will describe more of this in detail later on but you can summarize it and mention it here already.
For a catering business to flourish, you must know your target market early on. And though a thorough explanation of that can be found in the Market Analysis section, you can briefly state them in this portion as well.
Also, remember that your customer focus would also have to coincide with your skills. You can’t be targeting customers who are vegans if your culinary skills and knowledge do not include cooking vegan food. This is why it’s important to write this early on so you can narrow down the customers you are planning to cater to.
What’s your mission statement?
Businesses with clear goals stated from the start lead to a successful operation. Why? Because every decision you make revolves around these goals which will lead you closer to success.
Here’s a sample mission statement to picture it out clearly:
The Big Spoon aims to cater delicious home-cooked meals to its customers. Every dish that is served will contain natural and fresh ingredients. We see to it that the service we provide is top-notch so that our customers will feel as if they are being served in a fine restaurant in the comforts of their own home or wherever they choose to have us cater them.
By writing this down in your business plan, you and your staff will have to stand by the standards you’ve set for yourselves. For instance, as stated in The Big Spoon’s mission statement, no fast food will be served and no artificial ingredients will be used so you and your staff will always remember this by heart.
By following this and revolving your decisions around your mission statement, you will be able to keep such standards which will lead to pleased and returning customers.
This is the section of the business plan where you can finally put in detail the concept you’ve been planning for your catering business. Remember the things you’ve been holding back in saying in the introduction? This is the time to write them all down now.
Related Reading: 7 Powerful Ways I Promote and Market My Catering Business
You can start by answering the following questions:
- What cuisine will you be offering?
- How many people can you cater to?
- Will you be offering healthy options such as vegan, keto, or paleo meals?
You may also add in other concept ideas that are not mentioned above. Just make sure to cover everything so you can have a basis for your product line and services to be tackled later on.
A compelling catering business logo.
Planning to put your business out there means you also have to know the industry you’ll be diving into. This is to help you analyze your potential customers, the growth of the catering business in your area, and the competition.
As mentioned above in the customer focus, your skills will have to match your target market. You’ve already written a brief introduction about it so in this section, all you have to do is to explain it in detail.
The catering business has been going on for a long while now so it’s important to gather in as much information as you can regarding this industry. This is to help you figure out if there is a potential market for your business and how to put your plans into action.
Another helpful guide is to look into the type of cuisine most people in your area look for. You can then incorporate it into your business and offer it as part of your menu.
The bottom line is that analyzing the industry around you helps you plan better for the future of your catering business.
You will not be the only catering business in your area. You’ll have to consider restaurants as your competition too. Check their prices and set menus. Do a competition check by tasting their food once in a while. Knowing who the players are in this competitive business game gives you the upper hand because you’ll be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and how to deal with them on the field.
Determine the key players in your business.
A catering service is run by a few people. In this section of the business plan, you’ll list down everyone who is working on this business alongside you as well as the roles they possess in your business. This includes:
- Business Partners
- Co-chefs (If you’re not the only one doing the cooking)
Why is this so important, you might ask? Stating clear business roles and laying out the management structure keeps everyone in check and helps avoid any misunderstandings. Most businesses that don’t define this early on end up having a messy workflow. So make sure to state each duty clearly for everyone to follow.
Product Line and Services
Burgers are a proven catering option.
This section of the business plan goes hand in hand with your company concept. Here you can present your different sample menus for all the cuisine you wish to cater to. Be sure to include the prices for the set menus per head.
You can also write down the services you plan to offer. Here are some you can consider for your catering business:
- Out of town catering
- Cocktail station
- Set up style (buffet or plated)
- Table setting (formal or casual, rustic or summer feel)
- Wait staff or food display only
Writing them all down in this section will keep your business more organized which is very important when you start on your catering business.
Sales and Marketing
Grilled chicken is another popular option for caterers.
How are you going to market your catering business? Do you plan to have an ad out in your local newspaper and on social media? Both strategies are fine but you need to find more ways to get your catering business out there.
One way to market yourself is to partner up with rental spaces such as function halls that do not provide food. Give them a proposal that when there are inquiries regarding the rental of their halls, they would present your set menus to the guests as well so they don’t need to trouble over finding a caterer.
Related Reading: How I Started a Legit Catering Business Out of My House
Partnering with several event coordinators is also a way to get your business known. People these days hire event coordinators to do all the planning for them. They expect these coordinators to answer all their questions from food, music, and decorations. By partnering up with an event coordinator, they’ll be the ones to pitch in your catering business to their customers.
Remember to uphold your mission statement as well. By providing good food and high-class standards during your catering event, you’re already marketing your products and services to the number of people you’re catering to. So always make an exceptional first impression because that will stay with the guests long enough for them to remember hiring you on their next and succeeding events.
Plan your financial future.
Knowing where you’re going to get the funds to start your catering business is a must. This is how you’ll know if your plans are going to be achievable or not. Besides, having a solid financial plan will also allow you to go through with your ideas without any interruptions.
In this section, break down your financial plan into two categories which are your plans to request for funding and your financial forecast.
Some business owners are ready to put up their catering business due to having saved enough money through the years. But what if you lack the funds to do it? Don’t fret. You can still loan from the bank and invite investors.
Whatever your plan is that deals with requesting for funding, include it here so you can document it.
Make conservative and best case scenario financial forecasts.
Reaching break-even is the ultimate goal when you’re putting up a business. You can compute how long it will take you to reach it early on in the planning stage.
You can also list down all your proposed expenses here which include the following:
- Pots, pans, and other large kitchen appliances and tools for cooking
- Chafing dishes
- Dessert displays and trays
- Table cloths, plates, glasses, and utensils
- Uniforms for you and the staff
- Storage boxes and food warmers
You may also add in tables and chairs if you do not want to keep on renting these. But sometimes, the venue where you’ll be catering can provide these as well.
Download Now: Bakery Business Plan Templates for 2021
Be sure to include your staff’s payroll expenses. Since catering events are not done daily (unless you’ve already made a name for yourself and you’re booked every day), you can just have your wait staff be on call and pay them per catering event rather than a daily wage.
By computing these, you’ll know just how much you should allot for your startup capital and how much should your goals be to reach during every catering gig in order to profit off of it.
What’s your operation plan?
Put your plan into action by making a timeline of your operations. Here is an example:
Date Plan [Insert Date Here] – Finalize the business documents you need such as permits and registrations for your catering business. [Insert Date Here] – Start marketing your business on social media and the local news. Send out proposals for partnerships with event coordinators and function halls. [Insert Date Here] – Hire and train staff. [Insert Date Here] – Start catering when booked. [Insert Date Here] – Achieve goals and reach break-even.
The appendix section of the business plan is where you can put all your documentation. This includes photos of your food and table setting and your copies of the permits and registration for your catering business.
Here are the catering business plan samples in PowerPoint, Word Doc, Google Doc, and PDF. These are ideal for commercial or home-based catering businesses.
- Catering business plan template Google Doc
- PDF catering business plan sample
- Catering PowerPoint template
- Catering businesses are ideal because there is no space for you to rent which is considered one of the main expenses that can be quite heavy on the pockets. You will be cooking in the comfort of your own home. Just make sure your place can handle heavy cooking and there is enough space for you and your staff to move about.
- It would be nice to learn more about the different cuisines as you go along so you can cater to a wide variety of audiences.
- Include a checklist of all the equipment you need to operate at the start. These equipment requirements make up the bulk of your startup costs. You can download a checklist of frequently used catering equipment here .
Throughout this entire guide, we have been referring to your readers as one of the main reasons why you should make your catering business plan easy to understand. But in truth, making this business plan is for you as well. You will need this plan when you’re requesting for financial assistance in banks and this would also serve as your work guide. So remember to keep it detailed and easy to comprehend because you will be using this on the road to putting up your business.
While opening a catering business can be extraordinarily rewarding there are a few factors you should consider before deciding to push ahead. Creating a business plan lets you understand what the factors are, what’s going to make this business become a success, and how you can profit from the venture.
If you’re serious about starting a catering business, don’t forget to sign up for our Food Business Startup Kit . This free community will give you access to exclusive interviews with catering professionals you can use to help grow your own business.
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Starting Catering Services Business Plan (PDF)
Catering simply refers to availing food at wide-ranging events. A catering business is a very lucrative business to start, with huge profit margins. No matter the prevailing conditions people will always need catering services. The customer base is large, as you can offer catering services at corporates events, weddings, birthday parties, social gatherings, sporting events, political events and even religious events. It is usually the norm that the majority of these events outsource catering services. That makes a catering business very viable. There is no end to the types of events where catering is usually needed. Since it is such a huge market it is strategic to start a catering business. Understand that the nature of catering business is so broad, diverse, and dynamic. That is why niching is a common element in the catering business. The choice of niche is often informed by a number of factors. It could be how the food is prepared and served. It could be how the food is priced. It could also be type of event to be served. At the end of the day you need to come up with well-defined catering services and the menus on offer. This article will outline how to start the catering services business, and the catering business plan – PDF, Word and Excel.
There are several approaches to the catering business. You can offer catering services for corporate events. One of the most common ones is providing catering services for weddings or engagements. You could do catering for social events. This is quite broad; it includes events such as parties, official launches, bridal showers, and the like. The other common one is providing catering services for big events. This can include live shows or sporting events. How you will make money is based on which niche(s) you will be serving. Other than the catering services, there are always several other ways to incorporate to make more money.
Due to the colossal size of the catering industry it becomes even more important to conduct research first. You need a good understanding of how the catering industry works, its trends and financial viability. Find out and closely study how existing catering business players are doing it. We are talking about things like services provided, food packages, markets served, pricing and marketing strategies amongst other things. In this age of the internet and social media this can be done by looking them up online. Alternatively you visit such service providers to learn about their business structures and models. Even when you attend events or are being served as a customer by a catering business service provider you can always find a way to draw insights on how they operate. If you do this diligently you are rest assured to build your own catering business with a strong value proposition. Most importantly you require a detailed catering services business plan before you venture into this business.
Location And Premises
There are basically 2 ways in which you can prepare the food that you will serve to your clients. You will either prepare it onsite or offsite. Preparing it offsite implies you will need a working space and that branches off into basically 3 possible options. You can set up a working area at home, you can have dedicated office & kitchen premises or your pay to use an already established working space. Operating from home might somehow be cheap but it is not recommended unless you build a professional working area. Bear in mind that catering businesses can be inspected by local and health authorities so it is important to have a standard working area. Generally, preparing offsite requires excellent logistical management to avoid inconveniences for the clients. Preparing the food onsite might be the best considering the elimination of other costs plus providing the food whilst still fresh. At the end of the day you will have to assess and see which approach works best for you. The approaches might not be cast in stone since you might have to alternate amongst them according to the dictates of each new client or scenario you encounter. If you are to establish a fixed working area it must be visible, accessible, clean and distanced from any possible contaminant factors. Your catering business plan should take into account the costs of renting or buying the premises.
The catering business is marked by stiff competition. It is often the case that there are several competitors in your target location or market. You need to closely examine all those competitors. What type of foods do they serve? What are their prices? What is their niche(s)? It is essential to not forget that you have indirect competitors too. People can sort out their catering needs themselves; that is a competition element you cannot ignore. There is a wide range of other businesses that can provide catering services.
Examples of such are supermarkets, hotels, or fast food joints. You have to study all of those to figure how to find your place in the market. Also take time to analyse their digital footprint. This will help you know how they reach out to people and generate leads. Your aim is to identify areas you can improve to become a superior catering business.
There are different kind of equipment that you will need for the catering services business. Examples are working areas (fitted with necessary items such as tables, sinks, taps and so on), freezer units, stoves, ovens, fryers, grills and the like. It is better to acquire or use industrial-grade equipment rather than makeshift with domestic equipment. Especially when the business grows to medium or large scale you will see how important this is. You will also need utensils some of which are knives, spoons, graters, scales, chopping boards, bowls, pots and so on – the list is endless. Transportation vehicles might also be vital for delivery purposes. When starting with a limited budget, you can consider buying preowned equipment, as this will lower your startup costs. Your catering business plan should include the costs of purchasing the equipment.
Products and Services
There are several ways of doing the catering services business. You can partner with event planners and provide food and beverages at a wedding parties. Most wedding clients prefer full service and real display catering services. You will provide all the equipment required to prepare and serve the food including silverware, plates, napkins. Also you prepare and serve the food. Catering services can also be offered to corporates & organizations, whereby you prepare and serve the food daily to company employees, or at corporate seminars & training events, business conference catering etc. Social event catering also has a big market, you can offer your catering services at music events & concerts, social parties like birthdays etc. Sporting events, religious events and political events also require catering services. Your products/menu will depend on the need of your clients. Practically you will end up preparing different kinds of meals as clients have different requirements. The catering services business plan should outline the services you will be offering.
Permits/Licenses, Insurance & Business Bank Account
Permits or licenses.
Avoid the temptation to operate as an informal catering business. Build your catering business into a brand and get is registered as a business or company. It is even wiser to set up a proper office for your catering business. Catering entails food services so you need to be licensed. Apply for an operating license from your municipal or local authorities. It is also strategic to hire or work with properly certified catering staff. This will cement your brand image. Plus it will make your catering business more preferable; clients love getting served by professionals.
Insurance & Business Bank Account
Due to the nature of processes involved in catering, getting insured is paramount. That is why you need proper premises from which to operate from. This will make it easier to get your catering business insured. When looking for an insurer, do not just consider one insurance provider. Explore several of them so that you can compare. Handle the finances of your catering business via a business bank account. Every banking services provider has a facility specially tailored for businesses to open such accounts. This will help you manage your catering business finances separately from your personal finances.
Staff And Management
The required staff depends on the size of your business and the nature of the services that you will be offering. At the minimum you need chefs, waiters and logistics personnel. Some of these employees may be part time workers which you can call in whenever you get a contract to do. This maybe necessitated by the fact that offering catering services may not be a daily thing. Other required staff include accountants, supervisors, security team, stock controllers and managers, though this depends on the size of your catering services business. Your catering business should have sufficient number of well trained staff. This is because repeat purchases and ever-growing customer inflows are a product of swift, good and quality service from the staff. Having a small or skeletal staff makes it very difficult to provide swift service. Remember we are living in a fast-paced world where people don’t want to be kept waiting for too long. The salaries of all your employees must be catered for in your catering services business plan.
Marketing And Sales Strategies
Be known online.
Get a website set up for your catering business. Include e-commerce functionality on the website. In fact, make it a web app so that it is also optimized for mobile access. There should be functionality for clients to order online. Have high definition visuals showing your catering business offerings. These will also be instrumental in your digital marketing efforts. This includes social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and social media influencer marketing, amongst others. Getting known online is enhanced by propagating positive reviews and testimonials for your business. Any client you serve must be a source of social proof to buttress your catering business brand image. Get included on local online business listing platforms.
As a catering business you have the advantage of being able to make a difference in the community. There are lots of charitable activities you can do to put your catering business name out there. You can be involved by providing your services at community events. For instance, there can be sporting or entertainment events. There can be a wide range of conferences that can be held e.g. church conferences. You can always find a way to prepare and sell food to anyone participating in such events. You can even consider sponsoring community-based causes or events. This solidifies your catering business’ brand image.
The demand for catering services is huge. Catering services can be offered to weddings, business seminars, corporate canteens, training events, business conferences, funerals, sports events, political events, birthday parties, social gatherings, picnics, universities, religious events etc. A good reputation for reliability, consistency and good products & service are the key ingredients for developing the customer base for your catering business. You must also invest in proper branding and extensive marketing drives (especially on the internet and social media). Figure out competitive pricing regimes that can tip your competition over. One way to attract customers is by coming up with regular specials. Hygiene and presentation of your service offering and products are paramount to a favourable brand image. Take your time to conduct customer surveys in order to fully acquaint yourself with what exactly your customers like or dislike. Your catering services business plan should have a proper marketing plan.
Keys To Profitability
No substitute for quality and efficiency.
When it comes to preparing food, clients always expect efficient services and quality food. When you are expected to deliver lunch at 1pm, it has to be so. The food must exceed expectations in terms of quality. Quality should also be in the form of general cleanliness and presentability of catering staff. These are the most important considerations clients make when choosing catering businesses. They of course also consider the pricing but efficiency and quality can overshadow pricing.
Explore Cost Control Strategies
In order to offer competitive prices you need to control costs. In order to widen profit margins you need to control costs. Find areas you can tweak to reduce your operating costs. One area to explore can be your raw materials, ingredients, and the like. A catering business involves several inputs so factor in everything and seek to keep costs low. You should not compromise on quality though.
A catering business thrives on having a good reputation. Providing the best customer experiences is the core aspect your catering business must strive for. You should also look to perpetually expand your clientele.
Pre-Written Catering Business Plan (PDF, Word And Excel): Comprehensive Version, Short Funding/Bank Loan Version and Automated Financial Statements
For an in-depth analysis of the catering business, we encourage you to purchase our well-researched and comprehensive catering services business plan. We introduced the business plans after discovering that many were venturing into the catering services business without enough knowledge and understanding of how to run the business, lack of understanding of the financial side of the business, lack of understanding of : the industry, the risks involved , costs and profitability of the business; which often leads to disastrous losses.
The StartupBiz Global catering business plan will make it easier for you to launch and run your catering business successfully, fully knowing what you are going into, and what’s needed to succeed in the business. This is a complete business plan for catering services. It will be easier to plan and budget as you will be aware of all the costs involved in setting up and running the catering business.
Uses of the Catering Services Business Plan (PDF, Word And Excel)
The catering business plan can be used for many purposes including:
- Raising capital from investors/friends/relatives
- Applying for a bank loan
- Start-up guide to launch your catering services business
- As a catering business proposal
- Assessing profitability of the catering services business
- Finding a business partner
- Assessing the initial start-up costs so that you know how much to save
- Manual for current business owners to help in business and strategy formulation
Contents of the Catering Business Plan (PDF, Word And Excel)
The business plan for catering services includes, but not limited to:
- Marketing Strategy
- Financial Statements (monthly cash flow projections, income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, break even analysis, payback period analysis, start-up costs, financial graphs, revenue and expenses, Bank Loan Amortization)
- Industry Analysis
- Market Analysis
- Risk Analysis
- SWOT & PEST Analysis
- Operational Requirements
- Operational Strategy
- Why some people in the catering business fail, so that you can avoid their mistakes
- Ways to raise capital to start your catering business
The catering services business plan package consists of 4 files
- Catering Business Plan – PDF file (Comprehensive Version – 84 Pages)
- Catering Business Plan – Editable Word File (Comprehensive Version – 84 Pages)
- Catering Business Plan Funding/Bank Loan Version- Editable Word File (Short version for applying for a loan/funding – 43 pages)
- Catering Business Plan Automated Financial Statements – (Editable Excel File)
The business plan can be used in any country and can be easily edited. The financial statements are automated. This implies that you can change eg the markup, salaries etc, and all the other financial statements will automatically adjust to reflect the change.
Click below to download the Contents Page of the Catering Business Plan (PDF)
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Get the Catering Business Plan (PDF, Word And Excel)
Click Buy Now below to purchase using Paypal, Credit Card, or Debit Card. After you have purchased, you will immediately see the download link for the business plan package on the screen. You will also immediately get an email with the business plan download link. The Pre-written business plan package (PDF, Word, and Excel) costs $30 only!
If you want to purchase multiple business plans at once then click here: Business Plans Store.
The business plan package is a zipped compressed file containing the PDF, Word and Excel documents. To open the package after downloading it, just right click, and select Extract All. If you have any problems in downloading and opening the files, email us on [email protected] and we will assist you.
We wish you the best in your catering business! Check out our collection of business plans , and more business ideas .
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Catering Business Plan
Every event or occasion calls for good food. And although the majority of people like good food, not everyone has the talent to cook the same.
And if you are someone who receives constant compliments for your cooking then you must have thought of having your catering business.
But having a catering business is much more than that. It all boils down to the quality of your service in the end, but before that, you need to have a strategy to attract your customers’ attention, build trust, manage your finances, and many more.
All of the above might sound a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. All you need is a catering business plan.
Catering Industry Highlights 2023
Here is an overview of the current state of the catering industry in 2023:
Market size and growth potential:
Employment scenario:, number of operational businesses:, major market drivers:, key market trends:, financial plan:.
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Build your business plan faster and easier with AI
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How Can a Catering Business Plan Help You?
The catering business is one of the most rewarding careers as it not only lets you pursue your passion, it has the potential to grow into a huge business by size and volume if planned properly.
A business plan is helpful for a catering business because along with great cooking skills, great management skills are an integral part of a successful catering business.
A business plan can help you conduct your daily business activities without chaos, have good finances, help you find your desired customers, and make your unique business idea a marketable one.
Things to Consider Before Writing Your Catering Business Plan
Make a list of items you can serve.
Having a list of items you will serve, helps you organize your services better. It also helps your customers understand what you can offer and decide if your service is the right one for them or not.
Figure out your location and staffing coasts
Figure out from where you’ll provide services, what would be the amount of rent you’ll have to pay, which location would be good for your business , etc.
Figure out where you’ll get your supplies from
Make a list of important equipment.
Although many catering services work on the go and prefer to rent equipment, it is a good practice to have the basic equipment in case of contingency. It would also decrease your reliance on other people, and pose fewer challenges while gathering supplies for new orders.
Now that you have done the research, let’s learn how you can write a business plan for yourself.
How to Write a Catering Business Plan?
A good catering business plan consists of a clear description of your business’s functioning, your target market, the services you offer, the size of your company, a pricing strategy, and a well-designed employee management system.
Now you might wonder, where to start from, how to go about writing a plan from scratch, and most importantly how to know if you have written a good one.
Well, you need not worry.
You can easily write a well-rounded business plan either through a pre-designed template or through online business plan software.
Moreover, online business plan software can help you write a flexible business plan that grows alongside your business.
Catering Business Plan Outline
This is the standard catering business plan outline which will cover all important sections that you should include in your business plan.
- Keys to Success
- Financial Summary
- Legal Entity
- Locations and Facilities
- Facility Design
- Boxed lunches
- Buffet style lunches
- Alternative Providers
- Future Products
- Internal Bright Future Customers
- Nonprofit External Customers
- For-profit External Customers
- Market Analysis
- Market Trends
- Market Growth
- Value Proposition
- Competitive Edge
- Distribution Strategy
- Marketing Programs
- Pricing Strategy
- Promotion Strategy
- Of Grape & Grain
- Cravings Fine Foods
- Ariana’s Deli
- Fettuccini and Co
- Napoli Restaurant
- Brindiamo Catering
- Wild Duck Brewery
- Oregon Electric Station
- Local and national grocery stores chains
- Local and national sandwich fast-food chains
- Strategic Alliances
- Organizational Structure
- Management Team Gaps
- Personnel Plan
- Other General Assumptions
- Fundraising Strategy
- Fundraising Programs
- Funding Forecast
- Start-up Summary
- Income Statement (5-Year Projections)
- Balance Sheet (5-Year Projections)
- Cash Flow (5-Year Projections)
Although your plan will keep changing as your business grows, here are a few key sections that would form the foundation of your business plan:
1. Executive summary
This executive summary section would be the first one on your plan. It provides a summary of all that your business stands for. It can be divided into the following subsections:
- Objectives : This segment would consist of the chief objectives of your company. What it aims to achieve, who it wants to serve, and where it wants to reach.
- Mission : This segment includes the mission statement of your business, it consists of what market gap you plan on filling with your business.
- Financial Summary : This segment will give a summary of the past and present condition of your finances as well as projected gains of your business.
A clear executive summary can come in handy if you need funding.
2. Operational Strategy
The operational strategy section helps you plan how to work toward achieving your business goals. It can be divided into the following subsections:
- Day-to-day activities : In this segment, you’ll write an overview of the best way of carrying out your business from onboarding clients to fulfilling the services.
- Long-term goals : This section would consist of long-term goals like serving a certain number of clients, growing your business to a certain size, and expanding to a certain number of branches, etc.
A good operational strategy would make your business activities less chaotic and prevent them from being all over the place.
3. Market Analysis
In this segment, you’ll write down every single detail you can find out about the market. It would include the following segments:
- Market trends : Knowing about all the prevailing market trends can help you design a plan that would change as per the evolving market, and also help you maintain the foundation your company stands on. It would also give you an overview of what your competitors are doing.
- Target Market : This segment would describe everything about your target market. The locations they prefer, the kind of cuisines they are into, how and when they procure catering services, etc.
This segment helps you understand what you are getting yourself into.
This section consists of a detailed description of the services you offer. For example, the events you cater to, the volume of people you can serve, the food options your services have, what additional services you offer, etc.
This segment helps your target audience understand your services better, it helps them in deciding whether you are the right fit for them or not. So, make sure you describe your services in a clear and precise manner.
5. Financial Plan
The financial plan segment includes everything starting from the funds you need to start your business, the funds you need for procuring supplies and employing people, the projected cash flow of your business, expected profit, and loss of your business, pricing strategy, etc.
Download a sample catering business plan
Need help writing your business plan from scratch? Here you go; download our free catering business plan pdf to start.
It’s a modern business plan template specifically designed for your catering business. Use the example business plan as a guide for writing your own.
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A business plan software like Upmetrics is the best way to draft your business plan. This incredible tool comes with step-by-step instructions, customizable templates, and 400+ sample business plans to help you get started.
So, whether starting a catering business or planning to grow an existing one, Upmetrics is the tool you need to create a business plan.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning today!
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Frequently asked questions, how do i write a business plan for catering.
Writing a catering business plan from scratch requires a lot of research, but you can report it most effectively with the help of a catering business plan example. Using our business plan software, you can also quickly finish your plan in just a few hours or less.
What should be included in a catering business plan?
These are the key components of a business plan your catering plan must include to stand out to investors:
- Executive summary
- Business Overview
- Products and services
- Sales and marketing strategies
- Operations plan
- Management team
- Financial plan
Where to find business plan writers for your catering business?
While many business plan writers are available to help you, believe it or not, no one knows your business better than you. So we recommend you write your catering business plan and outline your vision as you have in your mind. You can use AI business plan generators like Upmetrics to speed up the writing process.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a catering business plan?
Following are some of the common mistakes to avoid when writing a catering business plan:
- Poor market research and ignoring industry trends.
- Inadequate and inaccurate financial projections.
- Undefined goals and lack of details.
- Including outdated and irrelevant information.
- Not proofreading the document for typos and grammatical errors.
- Not regularly updating your business plan.
About the Author
Upmetrics is the #1 business planning software that helps entrepreneurs and business owners create investment-ready business plans using AI. We regularly share business planning insights on our blog. Check out the Upmetrics blog for such interesting reads. Read more
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13+ Food Catering Business Plan Templates – PDF, Word, Docs
Launching a catering or small catering businesses plan can be tricky for new business owners. You need to have the right financial resources, marketing strategy, and more to present your investors or bank. We prepared every content you need to launch your food service or catering company with our food catering business sample plan templates. The catering templates also provide a format and sample content suitable for launching other food businesses like a food truck or a mobile kitchen.
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No Food, No Party
Tips in managing a food catering business.
- Go realistic with the budget proposed . Make sure that you discuss the costs well with them so that you can understand why not everything is possible. Negotiate on the simple menu while taking note of your budget sample . There may be some dishes you need to give up for something more practical. That way, you will be able to accommodate everyone on your guest sample list . You would not want to end up at the party running short on food.
- Lay out your payment process . The arrangement about the date is something that should be agreed on, and the security you get out of the payment it entails. You do not want to end up surprising your sheet client with another sizable bill at the last minute. It is important that they are aware of the total cost of the service and everything it includes. Customers should also be firm about knowing this straight up. Encourage your client to be honest about their sample budget because you do not want to be producing a buffet for a king’s court out of nothing.
- Communicate the terms properly with your clients . In doing so, ask them not to risk stretching their finances thin just because they want it to be perfect. Be honest. Let them know that they will still be able to have a wonderful printable menu with a package that is ideal for them and the number of guests they plan to have. You should be able to let them know what your options are or you can offer you something that will suit their needs while being realistic.
Importance of A Catering Business Plan
Top tips for catering business planning.
- Only Sell Dreams If You Can Make Them Real . Couples, especially brides have dream weddings, corporate leaders and guests on inviting company events have expectations, birthday celebrants have perfect birthday dreams and by all means, you can sell them dreams if you can live up to making it a reality on the day of the event. This is why your business plan format would matter. It’s something that will serve as your reference when the situation calls for it, and with weddings, that practically happens all the time. You’re selling dreams but you can still be realistic no matter how much you want to give them what they want. At the end of the day, you can really only give them what their simple budget allows, while you can still profit from it.
- Invest On Training And Experience . Before you start having a food catering business plan Word of your own, it is always better to learn the ropes by working with the area’s most reputable caterers. Firsthand exposure to this kind of business allows you to pay attention to small details, the challenges you’re likely to face, risks involved, bottlenecks, and a lot of grey areas without having to squander your hard-earned money at the first opportunity of opening your own. An experience like this will not only make you learn valuable tricks of the trade but will also be a good chance for you to assess your preparedness in embarking on this type of business venture. How badly do you really want this? Why do you want this? Is it to prove to others you can, or do you really see yourself thriving? Those are the important questions you need to ask yourself before making your investment templates .
- Write A Detailed description Of Your Catering Service . This would include the kind of food you want to prepare, especially the specialty of the house. Obviously, catering businesses are all about food, but it’s still important to define what your business goals are and how you plan to achieve them. In doing so, you’re giving investors a feeling of confidence that you’re serious about your business activity plan , no matter what it takes, and that you’re ready to take on the challenges of competition in such a tough market.
- Make A List of The Services You Provide . Some catering services have staff that serves guests at the table while others prefer to give meals buffet-style where guests are free to choose from a variety of food, depending on what they decided with the event coordinator or host. Usually, the menu planner would include beverages and desserts. Provide a list of specific types of food you can serve on specific occasions, celebrations with their specific themes. Be flexible. Tell them you can serve Asian, Italian, French, or Mexican cuisine and provide a modern menu to literally give them a taste of what you can cook.
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Top 10 Catering Service Business Plan Templates with Examples and Samples(Editable Word Doc, Excel, and PDF Included)
In the world of food and hospitality, catering is like putting on a special show of delicious meals for events. Whether it's a wedding, a big company meeting, or a small party, catering is about ensuring people have a great time eating your food. How amazing would it be if your food catering business served all of these purposes in the best way possible?
But here's the thing: to make your catering business start-up a hit, you need more than just tasty dishes. Of course, you can hire the best chef and team, but other parameters must be considered. You need a plan, like a map, to help you reach success. This plan is called a business plan, and it's like having a recipe for your business. However, creating this plan from scratch is definitely a lot of effort, but you don’t have to do this alone. We are here to help you!
In this blog, we'll show you how to create the perfect business plan for your catering service, through our template. Just like you have secret ingredients for your best recipes, a business plan has special parts that make your catering business good. If you're eager to start your catering adventure and want to ensure you're on the right track, let's get cooking and talk about how to make your catering business plan!
Best Catering Service Business Plan Templates
Table of contents.
- Executive Summary
- Company Overview
- Industry Analysis
- Customer Analysis
- Competitor Analysis
- SWOT Analysis
- Porter's Framework
- Operational Plan
- Financial Plan
Before delving into the details of each of these template pages, you must know that when you download business plan template , you will be greeted with 43 business pages. These aren’t just any pages; they are in-depth, thought-through pages that are excellent resources to outline your business plan for the right investors. The graphics and images utilized for designing these pages are top-notch to ensure the highest level of professionalism when you present the relevant information. This blog will focus on 10 pages within the entire deck.
You will get the 43-page Doc, PDF, and XLS files upon downloading.
1. Executive Summary
Welcome to the Executive Summary template—a savory introduction to your catering business plan! This page sets the stage for your culinary journey, offering a bite-sized taste of your vision, mission, and what makes your catering venture a delectable choice. Think of it as the appetizer that leaves your investors craving for more, and we've crafted it to ensure they're hooked from the first bite.
In our Executive Summary section, you will get templates for
1.1 The Quick Pitch: Provide a concise and compelling overview highlighting your catering service business's key features and offerings.
1.2 The Entity Profile: Furnish investor-friendly information that outlines your company's structure and profile, making it readily understandable and attractive to potential supporters of your catering venture.
Download this business plan
(Do you want to promote your catering service business but not make it very detailed? We get it, and we have something that fits the bill. Explore our one-pager business template and flaunt your business plans with ease!)
2. Company Overview
Spice up your catering business plan with our Company Overview template! Here, we stir together the essence of your culinary venture, its history, and your team's secret ingredients for success. From the heartwarming story of inception to your future aspirations, this page paints the portrait of your catering business that'll leave your readers hungry for more.
In our Company Overview section, you will get templates for
2.1 Vision and Mission: Establish the overarching mission and vision that serve as the driving force behind your catering service business.
2.2 Company Goals and Objectives: Highlight the specific targets and objectives that your catering business plan aims to achieve, offering a roadmap for success.
2.3 Start-up Summary: Deliver a brief overview of your catering business, including essential details about its origin, structure, and foundational elements.
2.4 Market Gap Analysis and Business Statement: Identify gaps within the catering market and solidify your business statement, positioning your brand uniquely within the industry.
2.5 Services Portfolio: Present a comprehensive list of the catering services your business will offer, showcasing your range of culinary expertise.
2.6 Key Success Factors: Outline the critical factors that will be used to gauge the effectiveness and achievements of your catering business plan, ensuring a clear path to success.
(Do you run a fast food joint that works well but needs some scaling? That’s an uphill task without a business plan, however, you can access our fast food business plan template and make your job easier!)
3. Industry Analysis
Satisfy your craving for market insights with our Industry Analysis template! This section is a culinary exploration of the catering industry's landscape. We've simmered down spaces to highlight the latest catering trends , customer preferences, and challenges to create a savory broth of knowledge. Dive in to understand the flavors of the catering world and uncover the ingredients for your business's success.
In our Industry Analysis section, you will get templates for
3.1 Market Analysis: Conduct an in-depth exploration of the catering service market, assessing its current status, uncovering potential opportunities, and identifying key industry players.
3.2 Market Trends Tracking: Stay at the forefront of industry developments by actively monitoring and capitalizing on the latest trends shaping the catering or food service sector.
3.3 Major Challenges and Solutions: Recognize and develop strategies to overcome the significant obstacles and challenges that may impede the progress of your catering business.
3.4 Growth Drivers Identification: Pinpoint the specific factors and strategic initiatives that will drive and enhance the growth and success of your catering brand .
3.5 Geographical Market Analysis: Analyze and tailor your approach to cater to different geographical regions within your target market, ensuring effective expansion and adaptation to regional preferences and demands.
4. Customer Analysis
Our Customer Analysis template serves up a feast of information! Here, the aim is to slice and dice the data to understand your target audience. Who are your hungry patrons? What tickles their taste buds? We've prepared this page to help you tailor your catering services to meet their unique cravings and ensure your business delights their palates.
In our Customer Analysis section, we offer comprehensive templates for:
4.1 Target Market Definition: Precisely delineate the particular consumer or business segments your catering service intends to serve.
4.2 Buyer Persona Development: Craft a comprehensive profile of your ideal customer, providing detailed insights into their demographics, preferences, and behaviors to understand their needs better.
4.3 Market Sizing Analysis: Calculate the total catering market size and assess the potential market share for your catering brand, enabling you to gauge the breadth of opportunities available within your business landscape.
5. Competitor Analysis
Get ready to spice up your strategy with our Competitor Analysis template! Analyse through a culinary showdown what your competitor has to offer, and dissect your competitors' recipes for success. Use this template to explore their strengths, weaknesses, and secret ingredients, helping you craft a winning recipe that stands out in catering.
In our Competitor Analysis section, we provide templates for:
5.1 Major Players: Examine the prominent competitors and key players operating within your catering service sector.
5.2 Attributes Comparison: Perform a thorough analysis comparing the essential attributes and features of various catering products or services available in the market. This assessment will help us position our offerings effectively.
6. SWOT Analysis
Dive into the flavors of strategy with our Catering SWOT Analysis template! This section is your secret sauce, where you can blend strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats into a rich, strategic concoction. It's the recipe for a resilient catering business prepared for any culinary challenge. Analyze what works for you and what can be enhanced as you move ahead in your business.
7. Porter's Framework
Stir the pot of competition with our Porter’s Framework template! Here, you can unravel the intricacies of your catering market, examining the bargaining power of vendors and customers, the threat of new brands, and the rivalry among competitors. This page helps you craft a recipe for success unique to your business. Use this framework to decide your future marketing strategy.
8. Marketing Plan
Spice up your catering business's growth with our Marketing Plan template! This page is where you can marinate your marketing strategy, combining digital, traditional, and creative flavors to attract and engage clients. From social media to mouthwatering campaigns, you have got to have the recipe for your marketing success. Outline all of the relevant details through this template page.
In our Marketing Plan section, we provide templates for:
8.1 Sales Strategy: Formulate a comprehensive plan articulating your approach to attaining your sales objectives and targets within the catering business.
8.2 Promotional Strategy: Clearly define your promotional and marketing tactics, outlining how you intend to generate excitement and awareness for your catering brand.
8.3 Pricing Strategy: Elaborate on your pricing strategy, demonstrating how you will balance profitability and attracting consumers in the competitive catering market.
8.4 Sales Funnel Optimization: Chart the customer journey, from the initial point of awareness to the final purchase, to optimize and streamline the sales process for your catering products.
9. Operational Plan
Set the table for operational excellence with our Operational Plan template! This section is a master recipe detailing kitchen operations, staffing, logistics, and event execution. It ensures your catering business runs like a Michelin-star restaurant, delighting clients with every dish. This must act as a priority for any new business because strong operations define the success of a business venture.
In our Operational Plan section, we provide templates for:
9.1 Retail Selling Strategy: Outline your comprehensive plan for selling catering products in retail settings, elucidating your sales approach and specific tactics.
9.2 E-commerce Sales Strategy: Delve into your digital commerce strategy, highlighting your spending plan and detailing how you'll navigate the online marketplace to drive sales.
9.3 Milestones and Achievements: Illuminate the significant operational milestones and key achievements that mark your journey in the catering service business, providing a clear picture of your progress.
10. Financial Plan
Savor the taste of financial success with our Financial Plan template! Here, you can craft a financial recipe, outlining revenue projections, cost analysis, and budgeting. It's the secret sauce that ensures your catering venture not only tantalizes taste buds but also brings prosperity to your doorstep. Keeping your customers happy is the priority; however, getting in the profits matters the most!
You will find the following templates in the Financial Plan section of this business plan:
10.1 Financial Assumptions: In this section, translate your financial assumptions into actionable strategies for your catering service business.
10.2 Revenue Model and Sales Forecast: Illuminate the origins of your catering service's revenue and outline a comprehensive plan for its growth in this detailed blueprint.
10.3 Break-Even Analysis: Examine the critical factors propelling your catering business towards the break-even point, allowing you to gauge your profitability milestones.
10.4 Projected Profit and Loss Account: Gain a financial snapshot of your catering business by estimating revenues, tracking expenses, and forecasting overall profitability.
10.5 Projected Cash Flow Statement: Take control of your catering business's liquid finances by presenting a projection of expected cash inflows and outflows.
10.6 Projected Balance Sheet: Offer a thorough insight into the anticipated assets, liabilities, and shareholders' equity for your catering brand, ensuring financial transparency.
10.7 Scenario Analysis: Explore various scenarios to evaluate how different business conditions and potential risks may impact the financial health of your catering venture.
10.8 DCF Valuation: Employ discounted cash flow analysis to determine the present value of your catering business, providing a quantitative assessment of its worth in the market.
There’s more to it!
No matter whether you want to start a catering business for your love of food or because you consider it to be a profitable venture, a plan needs to be in action. Why work on stringing multiple pages together when you can get access to an incredible all-inclusive business plan right here? You can access this entire template in an easy-to-edit PowerPoint format or a PDF/Word Document . So, without a second thought, download this presentation template and ace your catering business plan.
FAQs on Catering Services Business Plan
1. what is a catering business plan.
A catering business plan is a document that details the objectives, activities to be performed, and strategies for a new or existing catering business. An effective catering business plan should clearly describe the business's functioning. It should also include information on the target market, services, company size, employee catering management , and pricing strategy. The business plan should also cover expenses, sales strategy, market analysis, and an extensive financial plan. It should be made keeping in mind the salaries and everyday expenses of the business.
2. How can I start a catering business?
To start a catering business, you must follow these steps:
- Decide on the catering concept and the business name.
- Create a business plan for the catering business outlining the budget, pricing, and financing.
- Obtain all the necessary license documents, permits, and insurance for the catering business.
- Find a suitable place for the kitchen.
- Set up the kitchen with the necessary equipment and supplies.
- Design a menu that showcases the services and the brand of the business.
- Hire the required staff and train them.
- Outline a marketing strategy and advertise the catering business.
3. How profitable is a catering business?
A catering business can start from anywhere – even your own home. This implies that you can get started with a low cost of investment. Over the years, the demand for catering has increased considerably. If the business manages its expenses carefully by offering high-quality and consistent services to the client, it can garner a profit margin of 10%-15%. Additionally, operational efficiency and the pricing strategy play a crucial role in determining the profitability of a catering business.
4. What are the types of catering services?
Catering services provide food at hotels, parks, festivals, film locations, etc. There are different types of catering services, including:
- Wedding catering , which is one of the largest forms of catering.
- Corporate catering, the profitability of which depends on the size and level of the event.
- Social event catering , including birthdays, baby showers, bridal showers, retirement parties, etc.
- Concession catering for sporting events, music festivals, public events, etc., catering to large crowds.
- Food truck catering for small outdoor functions and only requires a limited staff.
- Restaurant catering for people looking for a different menu than what the restaurant offers.
- Tiffin or meal-subscription catering to provide homecooked food for families and individuals.
5. What is a good profit margin for catering?
Profit margin is the financial ratio that helps measure the percentage of profit a business earns. The average profit margin of catering businesses varies widely. It also depends on many factors, including the type of catering, services offered, location of the business, pricing, US catering market demand, etc. Additional factors like client relationships, food quality, and operational costs also impact the profit margin.
The number of factors affecting the profit margin makes it difficult to provide a concrete number. Nevertheless, the average profit margin for caterers is 7% to 8%.
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How to Start a Catering Business in 9 Steps
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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.
On a similar note...
Catering Business Plan Template
Catering marketing plan.
Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For a catering business plan, your marketing planning should include the following:
Product: in the product section you should reiterate the type of catering business that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific food items you will be offering.
Price: Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the menu items you offer and their prices. Since these items might vary from client to client, include your core items in your plan.
Place: Place refers to the location of your catering business. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your catering business located next to a heavily populated office building, or gym, etc. Discuss how your location might provide a steady stream of customers.
Promotions: the final part of your catering business marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
- Flyers given to office managers at local businesses
- Partnerships with local organizations
- Local radio advertising
- Maintaining a community presence by joining local charity organizations and networking groups. This could give you a huge competitive edge and help spread the word about your business.
- Banner ads at local venues
- Blogging and social media marketing
- Email marketing
Finally, in your marketing plan, talk about your brand and what you would like it to symbolize.
CATERING BUSINESS PLAN OUTLINE
- Catering Business Plan Home
- 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
- Catering Business Plan Summary
Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates
Catering Business Plan Template
Catering Business Plan Outline
- Catering Business Plan Home
- 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
Start Your Catering Plan Here
Fine Foods Catering is a newly established company that will provide catering services for a variety of events and clients in the Seattle, Washington area. Fine Foods Catering will provide catering for all types of corporate and social events, non-profit fundraiser events, business meetings, luncheons, and weddings. Our services will include menu creation designed for every clients’ tastes and requirements, bar services, food preparation, delivery, service, and cleanup. Fine Foods Catering is a full-service catering company who will deliver exceptional service at an unbeatable cost. Clients will receive ultimate value when choosing Fine Foods Catering for their next event.
Fine Foods Catering will be owned and managed by local Chef Dominic Gardea. Chef Dominic has over 20 years of culinary and hospitality experience and is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy. After apprenticing under some of the most world-renowned chefs in Paris, Dominic made his way back to Seattle and led the kitchen and catering departments of a large hospitality company as an Executive Chef. Chef Dominic’s attention to detail, creativity, and passion make him a popular and often-referred Chef for local catering events of all types and sizes.
The following are the list of services that Fine Foods Catering will offer:
- Corporate & social event catering
- Bar catering
- Corporate catering for meetings and luncheons
Fine Foods Catering’starget customers are businesses of all sizes, government entities, local non-profits, and individuals in search of catering services for their wedding, birthday, reunion, etc. Businesses are the main client of a catering company as they require catering services that range from small meetings and luncheons to large corporate gatherings, galas, and holiday parties.
Fine Foods Catering will be led by Owner and Head Chef Dominic Gardea. Chef Dominic will manage client communication, pricing, menu creation, staffing, marketing, inventory, and personnel. Chef Daniel has recruited an employee that has worked under him at the hospitality company for the past seven years, Matthew Knowles. Matthew is a certified Sommelier and Lead Bartender. Matthew is exceptionally skilled at mixing fresh and exotic cocktails and cultivating an elegant wine menu that includes selections to satisfy all wine palates. Matthew will be in charge of leading the bar program for Fine Foods Catering.
Fine Foods Catering will be able to offer the following advantages over the competition:
- Professional and friendly catering service at affordable pricing.
- Owner who will meet one-on-one with each client to have them taste sample menu items and be able to create a unique menu based on their event.
- Uniquely tailored bar program. Find Foods Catering will employ a certified sommelier who also has bar experience that can recommend and provide wine options upon request. He is also able to create professionally crafted cocktails for every type of event.
- A training program for each employee to ensure they are fully qualified and capable to deliver the highest standard of customer service while paying attention to detail.
Fine Foods Catering is seeking $136,500 in debt financing to open the catering business. The funding will be dedicated to secure the commercial kitchen lease, professional insurance for bonding, working capital to cover supplies and personnel, marketing costs, van, inventory, and supplies. The breakout of the funding is below:
- Commercial kitchen lease (3 months): $4,500
- Kitchen Equipment, Supplies, and Inventory: $50,000
- Utility van with Fine Foods Catering logo: $50,000
- Bonding Insurance: $10,000
- Working capital (3 months to cover hourly wages of staff, food, and supplies): $12,000
- Marketing (includes print ads and website design): $10,000
The following graph below outlines the pro forma financial projections for Fine Foods Catering.
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Catering Business Plan
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Bright Future Youth and Family Services
Executive summary executive summary is a brief introduction to your business plan. it describes your business, the problem that it solves, your target market, and financial highlights.">, opportunity.
Society lacks resources for the less privileged or homeless youth population. Eugene, like all the other cities, has a migration of homeless teenagers who have run away from home. They are here for a few months of the year and then they hitch down to California during the winter for warmer weather. These are young adults who have no idea how to be part of society. They can’t provide for themselves and eventually they have children and the cycle continues.
We provide at-risk youth alternative education and career assistance in Lane County. We want to make this experience valuable for our clients. We do this through a series of curricula funded by the Lane Workforce Partnership, Oregon Youth Conservation Corps, Oregon Department of Human Resources, and the local school districts.
Our most recent program is a culinary arts program in which students learn about food preparation and safe handling and then put this knowledge to use by preparing lunches for their peers at the Chambers School. After completing the 9-week curriculum, students are placed with a local food service business for a 60-hour practical training where they can continue to develop their skills. Currently, the culinary arts program is available to five students per 9-week school term, or approximately 25 students per year. Students enrolled in the program are selected because of their sincere interest in the culinary field and their excellent attendance.
According to the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, “[a]t the heart of the Eugene economy are the homegrown small and medium-sized businesses. Most of Eugene’s businesses employ fewer than 20 workers. From specialty retail shops to financial service firms, from management consultancies to ethnic groceries, Eugene’s small business community is diverse, active, thriving and well-supported. Including sole proprietorships and limited partnerships, there are more than 10,000 businesses in and around Eugene.” Eugene/Springfield’s population has grown 3.95% on average since 1998 and this new growth has meant new businesses and expanding opportunities for catering companies who can serve these businesses’ needs.
Catering For Kids anticipates that Eugene/Springfield businesses have unmet demand for catered lunch meetings and other events. And unlike other restaurant and food-related businesses, business to business catering is not as cyclical as business to consumer catering. Businesses continue to have lunch meetings and employees who wish to purchase their lunches year round. In order to gain some insight into the market size and demand, we undertook some limited market research. An email survey was sent to 144 Lane County nonprofit organizations that requested their current or future demand for catering services and their interest in patronizing a nonprofit catering business. We received many responses like the ones that follow.
“I think that this is a great idea and could be a good resource for the community. Springfield/Eugene Habitat for Humanity does not host many lunchtime meetings, however there is a group of about 13 or 14 Executive Directors of Habitat affiliates that meet here about every three months that might use your service.” – Susan Brown, Volunteer Coordinator, Eugene/Springfield Habitat for Humanity
“…if we do have an event that we need catering we will call your program first. We have a policy of using nonprofit organizations for services first.” – Bob Smith, Exec Dir, Pacific Youth Corps of Oregon
“Our needs for catering are not very large, maybe a few times a year. However, you may contact me to discuss the program. My son attends Chambers School and I would welcome hearing more details.” – Mark West, Lane County Agricultural Museum
“We do have General Membership Meetings where we require a venue for 50 to 100 people. I’m not involved with arranging the meetings but do know that our organization is in need of a place to meet where food and beer can be served. Perhaps you will hear from Dave – I think the first meeting is usually in October.” – Emily, Graduate Teaching Federation Office
A number of other caterers offer boxed lunches for business clients. However, none of these businesses specialize in serving the nonprofit sector, nor are they themselves a nonprofit that benefits the local community. Catering For Kids will specialize in developing excellent relationships with its nonprofit clientele. We believe that this unique position, combined with competitively priced, fresh, high-quality meals will set Catering For Kids apart as the premier caterer for the Lane County nonprofit sector.
Catering For Kids is dedicated to providing at-risk youth with an opportunity to gain work experience and transferable skills by providing our customers with healthy, homemade foods and excellent service at reasonable prices. Employees of Catering For Kids will be students who are enrolled in the culinary arts program at the Chambers School and Career Center and are interested in gaining work experience in the restaurant and food services industry. The experiences the students have while participating in this program will assist them in making the transition from school to work and will allow them to develop entrepreneurial skills that will be transferable to any job in the future.
The following benchmark chart indicates our key financial indicators for the first three years. We foresee slow but steady growth in demand for our services and consequent increase in operating expenses. During year one, Catering For Kids will serve its internal market only, as we ramp up to serving the external market in year two.
Financial Highlights by Year
One of our revenue lines is grant funding, $15,000 annually. And we need and anticipate donations of $2,000 per month, plus some revenue from fees for lunches and event catering.
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