START A CATERING SERVICE
People with money seem to be on a binge to prove their status and flaunt their wealth by staging large, catered parties. As a matter of fact, in some circle of affluency, a party or social get-together isn’t considered an event of any significance unless it’s a catered affair.
With the same kind of reasoning, businesses of all sizes are using catered lunches, cocktail parties and dinner meetings to build their images and increase company sales. It’s a matter of keeping up with the competition in promoting a company and/or product.
On a smaller, but just as busy marketing scale, more and more working mothers are paying to have catered birthday and graduation parties, as well as wedding receptions handled by caterers. The reasons are simple to understand–if she’s working
outside the home, today’s mother just doesn’t have the time or the energy to do all the planning and staging of a memorable party.
Besides those reasons for turning everything over to a caterer, working mothers feel a little guilty about the time away from their children they lose because of their jobs. Thus, they’re ready and willing to make it all to them by paying for a lavish party the child will remember for years to come.
Caterers handle everything from birthday parties for children, to breakfast in bed and intimate candlelight dinners for two, to company dinner parties for 50 and wedding receptions involving a thousand or more guests. This kind of entreprenuerial business is
definitely growing and becoming more popular with people of all income levels.
An imaginative caterer in a large metropolitan area can easily gross $150,000 per year, while a small part-time caterer in a small town can count on at least $10,000 to $15,000 per year. One small, but very ambitious caterer is reported to have grossed
$250,000 after only 2-years in the business!
You don’t need special education or training to become a successful caterer. You do need a affinity for people and a kind of intuition as to what people enjoy in different environmental
A quick survey of successful caterers across the nation shows
that began with zero capital by working out of their homes. The
basic starting up investment would appear to be around $500, with
some big spenders capitalizing their idea with as much as $15,000
in order to get off to a fast start.
This seems to be an ideal business for an ambitious couple to
start and operate with very little capital investment required.
One person can spend his time hustling up business while the
other would do the planning, organizing and actual catering.
As with any business, your success will be directly related to
the soundness of planning and the working of that plan.
Understand exactly what your client wants, and give him what he
wants in the way of service that reflects upon the client in a
Basically, you can start with an advertisement in your local
newspapers. This advertisement need not be much more than a
simple announcement: Creative Catering-Specializing in personal
service- We can handle any party or special event from start to
finish-no idea to small or too large- Your satisfaction is always
guaranteed! We can handle everything for you.. Call us, and let
us make your parties worth remembering…
Naturally, the first thing you want from anyone calling to ask
about your services, is that anyone calling to ask about your
services, is that person’s name, address and phone number. Then
you want to know what kind of party or event they have in mind.
As soon as you have this information, relax a little bit and
inquire to find out about the person or the company–the
people–sponsoring the party and their ultimate goals or reasons
for the party.
If it’s to celebrate birthday, graduation, anniversary or a
wedding reception–finding out about the interests, background
and ambitious of the guest of honor will be of value to you in
your planning. Taking a few minutes to learn everything you can
about whoever the party is for, and the people giving the party,
will also make it much easire to close the sale than any sales
pitch or special persuasive tactics.
People like to talk about themselves, and they especially like to
tell everyone why they’re honoring someone, even when they
pretend to keep it a secret who initiated the idea. So, it’s
important that you be a good listener, that you have the ability
to get people to talk about themselves, and that you take notes
on the things they tell you.
This same principle applies to business people, regardless of
who’s talking to you or the purpose of the catered affair. The
more polished and adept you can become in getting your prospects
to talk about themselves, the more information relative to their
background you can elicit, and the more you listen; the better
your parties will be, and the greater success you’ll attain in
the catering business.
You take the information you glean from this first interview and
plan/organize the event on paper. This means you’re going to have
to have contacts or at least working relationships with
innumerable service businesses.
If your client wants to stage a birthday party for a 12-year
old—he or she greets the guests as they arrive, makes sure
everybody knows who he is—then what about party favors—a soft
drink and a conversation leader until all the guests arrive–the
opening of presents–icecream and cake–and games to play, a
thank you gift for coming, and a reason to end the party at a
Do you greet the guests, does the mother or father, or the little
boy or girl? Where do you come up with the party favors at less
than regular retail prices? Where are you going to get the soft
drinks-your cost and the glasses or paper cups to serve them in?
What about ice? What kind of games to play? Who’ll be the
conservation leader? Will there be a clown or someone special to
keep everything moving according to plan? Where do you get the
ice cream and cake? What games to play? How to get everyone
involved? And finally, a feasible and polite reason for ending
the party and sending everyone home…
All this takes planning, organization, and if you’re going to
make a profit, a definite awareness of cost control. Get it all
down on paper as a proposal to the people who want to pay you to
carry it off. Figure out your costs, the time involved in putting
it all together, and then get back to your prospect.
Always leave room for changes in your proposal. In fact, expect
them–invite input and suggestions from the client–and always
have an alternate idea in your mind for each of those on your
written proposals. Discuss your proposal with the client just as
you would a script for a television show, make the suggested
changes and ask for a 50-percent advance deposit. From there,
it’s just a matter of following your plan.
Regardless of size or type of party–whether your client is a
working mother or a giant corporation–the format is always the
same: initial inquiry, interview, your proposal, 2nd interview
for any changes, agreement, deposit, staging the party itself,
and your final payment. As mentioned earlier, success in this
business comes from your planning–having a lot of contacts–and
working your plan.
An important word of caution: Try not to get “boxed in” to
setting or even revealing a tentative price until you’ve had a
chance to listen to what the prospect wants, to study your own
capabilities, and to make a formal written proposal. If a
customer wants to know how much you charge–and if you feel it
necessary in order to eventually close the sale–you can tell him
50 to 100 dollars per hour, plus expenses, and of course,
depending on the type of event the customer wants.
As for how much the average party costs, again tell him that it
varies anywhere from 50 to 5,000 dollars.
Always keep in mind that you are a professional, and that if the
ordinary person had your knowledge, contacts and ambition to do
it himself, he wouldn’t be calling you on the phone. He needs
your help for any number of reasons. You specialize in this kind
of work or service just as a doctor specializes in medicine and a
lawyer in legal matters. Therefore, you should, and do expect to
be paid accordingly.
Something else–this business thrives on word-of-mouth
advertising–referrals–and thus, is direct “freeway’ to the kind
of customers where money is of no concern. However, on order to
gain access to this market, your business emphasis has to be on
This means the capability of handling everything for the
customer, from having the invitations printed and sent out to
cleaning up after the last guest has left. Businesses and people
in the upper income brackets, like to pick up the phone–tell
someone they want a party on a certain date–and then forget
about it, knowing everything will be taken care of without
further worry or time involvement from them. Once you’ve
developed your expertise and clientele to this level, you’ll have
a business in the $200,000 to $250,00 per year range.
Definitely arrange for a display ad in the yellow pages of your
telephone directory. You’ll probably get 40% of your inquires
from this source alone. Generally speaking, radio and/or
television advertising will be too expensive when compared with
the immediate results. However, it is recommended that you
consider these media prior to special holidays.
Working with restaurants, supper clubs, bridal shops and
entertainment business in general. can bring in hundreds of
referrals for you. Rubbing shoulders with, and circulating as a
part of your area’s civic and service clubs, should also result
in more business for you.
Keep your eyes and ears on the alert. Where ever you go, and with
whomever you associate, always be ready to promote and sell your
services, if not on the spot, at least make a note to follow up
when conditions are more in your favor. Promoting and selling
your services will require at least half your time, and that’s
why two people operating catering services are so successful from
The actual selling is quite simple so long as you emphasize the
service and time-saving aspects. The more time-consuming work you
can handle for the client, the easier it’s going to be for you to
close the sale.
Handing out business cards is one of the least expensive ways to
advertise, promote and sell your services. One enterprising
caterer makes arrangements with the sponsors of all his parties,
to see that each of the guests gets one of his business cards.
Another gives each of his clients a stack of his business cards,
and tells them he’ll pay them $25 for each prospect they refer to
him. He tells them to write their name on the backs of the cards,
and to hand them out to their friends. And then, whenever a
person tells him that John or Jane suggested he call, and he
presents the card with John or Jane’s name on the back, this very
successful caterer sends John or Jane a $25 check.
Another very successful caterer pays commissions to a group of
housewives and college students who solicit–via their home
phones–interviews for him with brides-to-be. They get their
leads from announcements, and pictures of brides-to-be in the
Many caterers pay sales people a commission for letting them know
when they hear about a party or special event being planned by
one of their business customers.
The possibilities go on and on, and are seemingly un limited.
Time is becoming more valuable to a lot more people every day,
which means there are more and more opportunities for great
wealth and personal independence as a professional caterer. In
reality the success for just about any person entering this
field, will be limited only by his or her own imagination and
There is definite opportunity for great wealth within the
catering field. Anyone with a sense of service to others can
succeed. Very little “readycash” is needed to begin. Therefore,
the only thing standing between you and the realization of your
dreams, is the action it takes on your part to get started…