Starting a home cooking business is a great idea if you really, really like to cook. Because, trust me, if your food is good and priced fairly, your business will grow. All you need is a good knowledge of food preparation and safety, some great recipes and the drive to be successful. If I can do it, so can you!
Learn the basics of food safety, and comply with all local and state regulations. In many states it is illegal to make food for sale in your home. A quick way to get shut down and fined is to break the law. You may want to consider renting a health department approved kitchen. Many churches, clubs and organizations offer their kitchens for rental on an as needed basis. Another option is to cook in your clients' homes. A food handlers license or food safety management certificate may be required as well. Check with your local health department for information on education and certification requirements.
Create a menu. This is more than a simple list of foods you will be offering. A menu should inform your customers about the ingredients, cooking method, and even the origins of the dish. Because many of the families you'll be serving have young children, include dishes that will appeal to them, as well. You should be prepared to provide a complete list of ingredients for each dish you offer, so clients can avoid dishes containing foods that cause allergic reactions.
Price your menu items: the cost of the food; shopping, preparation and transportation time; food containers; transportation and travel expenses; rent; insurance; and utilities. All of these factors should be considered when deciding how much to charge for the food you make. A 30 percent profit is standard in the catering business.
Standardize your recipes. You want to be sure that your food is consistent. Customers will have favorite meals that you've prepared for them. Don't disappoint.
Find your customers. This was easier than I thought it would be. Start with contacting friends and family. Chances are you know someone who needs some help in the kitchen, or could just use a night off once in a while. Don't be shy about offering your services.
Be professional. Pay attention to your appearance, the cleanliness of your equipment, the freshness of your food, and being on time. Good business practices, as well as good food, means happy customers.
Stay out of the kitchen at least one day a week. Go out to eat, let someone else serve you.
As with any business start up, there are some initial expenses to consider: business licensing, insurance, phone, business cards, menu printing, etc. Get business insurance. It's worth the peace of mind. Be passionate about cooking, and have fun. You can work as much or as little as you want, the choice is yours.
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