Starting a home-based catering business is an ideal way to begin a career in the food industry without investing a lot of money in a restaurant. Caterers can cook for as few as one or two people at a time or hundreds. Before you start your business, it's important to focus on what type of caterer you want to be and then adapt your menus to suit that goal. it can be a challenge to make your home kitchen meet the requirements of the state and in some cases, you may need to build a separate kitchen in another room or garage. But you can do it if you're determined.
Write up a business plan detailing your catering business. Include your expected expenses and income as well as a detailed marketing plan and goals for the short and long term.
Develop sample menus and perfect your signature dishes. While you will always need to develop recipes to suit the personal needs of your individual clients, it is important to have several dishes for which you become known. Indiana also likes to know some of the types of food you intend to prepare ahead of time.
Attend a certification class for food handlers through your local health department or at local community college or technical school. It is important that there be at least one certified food handler in the kitchen at all times, during operation.
Obtain a copy of the Retail Food Establishment Sanitation Requirements published by the Indiana State Department of Health. You can do this by going to the State of Indiana website and downloading a copy or by calling the state or county health department and asking them to send you a copy. Read through them to make sure you can meet the requirements before you apply for your retail food establishment license.
Adapt your kitchen to the regulations of the state or build a separate kitchen in your home that is dedicated to your catering business. If you are unsure of how to make your home kitchen more usable as a catering kitchen, call the county health department and ask for a pre-inspection. It can tell you what corrections to make before you submit for a formal inspection.
Apply for your retail food establishment license and pay the appropriate fees. Complete state form 50033, the Application for Plan Review, as well as state form 50004, the Plan Review Questionnaire. These forms detail any plans for zoning, plumbing, electricity, planned food vendors, frequency of deliveries, food preparation procedures and sanitation.
Complete state form 49677, the Registration Application for a Retail Food Establishment. You must complete this form at least 30 days before starting your business to allow the health department ample time to inspect and approve your business.
- Indiana State Department of Health: Person-in-Charge
- State of Indiana: Certification of Food Handler Requirements
- State of Indiana: Application for Plan Review
- State of Indiana: Plan Review Questionnaire
- State of Indiana: Instructions for the Plan Review Questionnaire Form
- Indiana State Department of Health: Retail Food Establishment Sanitation Requirements
Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.