How to Start a Catering Business in Pennsylvania

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If you love having parties and cooking all the goodies for guest to enjoy and your guests rave about what you make, then owning a catering business may be just right for you. Regardless of the state of the economy, there is always a need for catering at celebratory events such as weddings, anniversaries, graduation receptions, fundraisers or banquets. If you have a product that clients love and competitive prices, then pursuing a catering business in Pennsylvania isn’t a bad idea.

Registering a Pennsylvania Catering Business

Determine the name of your business and the type of business entity (such as partnership, sole proprietorship, corporation or limited liability company). The Pennsylvania Center for Entrepreneurial Assistance (see Resources) can help you with these decisions.

Obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service. Even if you don’t have employees, this number is often necessary for registration forms, business checking accounts and tax purposes.

Take the Pennsylvania Open For Business Online Business Registration Interview (OBRI), via the Resources link below. This process, while not intended to substitute for legal advice, will help you to determine the correct forms you need to register your catering business in Pennsylvania.

Comply with the submission requirements established by the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. These regulations include that you must submit documents on the forms provided or 8.5 x 11 inch white paper, that you type responses or write them legibly in blue or black ink, and that the address is a physical Pennsylvania address rather than a post office box.

Register for taxes and additional filings through the Online PA-100 system. This applies to businesses that provide products or services subject to state sales tax and that need an Employer Withholding account or Unemployment Compensation tax account.

Getting Your Catering Business Up and Running

Pennsylvania Open for Business recommends putting together a business plan first. It is a time consuming process, but will help you to plan your business, set goals and work toward them. See the Resources section below for assistance in preparing a business plan.

Contact lenders and apply for small business start-up grants if you need financial assistance to get your business off the ground. The Small Business Administration can point you in the right direction.

Determine if you will provide services for a select target market (such as corporations or individuals) or will have a full-service catering business available to everyone for various events. Determine what types of events you can cater, such as buffets, formal dinners or cocktail parties.

Plan your menu. Include a list of all of your available foods, broken down by main dishes, side dishes and desserts. Price each option according to the cost of ingredients, number of guests and a markup to cover other overhead costs and generate a profit.

Obtain the necessary equipment and supplies for your business, such as cooking ware, dishes, silverware, linens, a kitchen facility (in-home or commercial), a business phone line and a delivery vehicle. Other items may be necessary as your business grows and you expand your menu. For organizational and contact purposes, a computer and printer are also important.

Promote your business. Word of mouth is always very effective, but you still need to spread the word in other ways, such as advertisements and obtaining recommendations from venue owners. Even fliers can be effective.