Your family begs you to host every holiday gathering, your friends rave about your fabulous dinner parties and you’ve won several cooking contests. These are all signs that you might be great at running your own North Carolina catering business. It may take some time and effort to attain success at such a venture, but if you love to cook for others and consider yourself a culinary success, it will be well worth the time and preparation.
Decide what business structure your catering business will have. Typical entity choices are partnerships, corporations, limited liability companies or sole proprietorships. You will also need to determine the name for your business, which needs to be something distinctive and memorable.
Visit the Register of Deeds Office in the county where you plan to do business and register your business name if your catering company will be a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Use the Resources link to find the website for the correct Register of Deeds office.
Register your catering business with the North Carolina Secretary of State office if it is a corporation, LLC, LLP or limited partnership. Access forms and further information on the Secretary of State’s website (see Resources).
Obtain the appropriate licensing and permits for your catering business. You will need a Culinary Permit, a Permit for Food Service Facility and a Mixed Beverages Catering Permit. Use the Resources link to access application information for each of these permits through the Department of Commerce.
Apply for tax certifications with the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Selling the foods your catering service provides requires you to charge a state sales tax to the customer, for which you need a Sales/Use Tax Account. If you have employees, you will need Withholding Tax certification. You can obtain more information from the Department of Commerce website (see Resources). Don't forget to obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you have employees.
Put together a business plan (see Resources) to help you structure your business and set goals. A business plan is also a necessary part of any request for financial assistance.
Request financial assistance from lenders, investors or by applying for small business grants. Entrepreneur Magazine states that start-up costs for a catering business range from $10,000 to $50,000. Visit the Small Business Administration website (sba.gov) for guidance on obtaining funding.
Consider hiring staff, especially if you intend to provide services for large events such as weddings and corporate functions.
Look for a location for your business. Perhaps you want to start in your home (be sure to check local zoning laws) until you build enough of a clientele to find a commercial location. If you have the funds, you may want to start in a commercial kitchen location right from the start.
Obtain the merchandise and equipment you’ll need to provide your catering service. In addition to a kitchen, you will need cooking utensils, places to store food (both perishable and non-perishable items), dishes, linens and silverware in large amounts, depending on how you plan to serve the food.
Put together a menu of the items you will offer customers. Organize those items in main entrees, side dishes and desserts. Determine the prices for each item on your menu by factoring the preparation time and costs, as well as other overhead costs for your business.
Contact local venue providers to request that they recommend your catering services when customers secure the venue location. Promote your business through other means, such as advertisements in local phone books and publications, or setting up a booth at local wedding planning events.
You may also need to obtain licensing and zoning permits for the city or county you choose for your catering business’ location. Contact the city and county agencies for more information.