You love to cook. You love to host elegant dinner parties with your friends. Everyone in your family asks you to be the holiday host. Sounds like starting a catering business might be a smart venture, especially if you have the entrepreneurial spirit. Keep in mind that starting a business means legal obligations and maybe even some obstacles along the way. However, nothing can beat doing something that you’re passionate about.
New York Registration of Your Catering Business
Determine what type of business entity your New York catering business needs. Available options include sole proprietorship, limited liability company, corporation, or partnership. Visit the IRS website for more information on types of business structure.
Decide on a name for your business. Then, search the New York State Division of Corporations Business Entity Database to make sure that name is available. New York law requires that business names be distinguishable from one another.
Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS website (IRS.gov). Having this number is useful when registering your business, opening a business checking account, or for business taxes, allowing you to use the EIN instead of your personal social security number.
Download the appropriate forms from the New York Division of Corporations, depending on the type of business entity you choose. Visit the Business Corporation Filings reference below for access to these forms. You can find the application fee and submission address on the form you choose.
Apply for a Certificate of Authority from the Department of Taxation and Finances, available through the resources below. You must pay state sales tax on the food and beverages you sell and can pass this cost on to the client, but must have a Certificate of Authority to do so.
Acquire a Permit to Operate a Food Service Establishment through the New York State Online Permit Assistance and Licensing (OPAL) program. A link to OPAL is available in the Resources section below.
Start Providing Catering Services to the Public
Put a business plan together. While it can be arduous, doing this will help you to establish the structure of your business and set goals for the future. Additionally, a business plan is necessary if you plan to apply for financial assistance from lenders or through grant programs. It should include elements like financial information, a description of your catering services and a mission statement, an analysis of the catering market (including your target and a comparison to competitors), a marketing plan, and how you organize your catering business.
Decide on a location for your New York catering business. You may be able to run your business out of your home, if local zoning laws allow (check with your city’s zoning commission for more information). You may soon find, however, that your personal kitchen doesn’t provide enough space. Consider leasing commercial kitchen space or asking local restaurants to give you use of their kitchens when closed.
Prepare your catering business menu. Break the menu down into sections such as entrees, side dishes, desserts, and specialty beverages. List the price for each item on the menu. Determine prices by calculating the expense for ingredients, how long it takes you to prepare it and what your time is worth, and the number of guests the dish must feed.
Apply for financial assistance if you need it. Entrepreneur Magazine states that catering business start-up expenses can range from $10,000 to $50,000. Financial assistance may be necessary in order to get the equipment you need and advertise your business. Consider small business grants, requesting a business loan, or meeting with potential investors. The Small Business Administration can help you get started.
Obtain your catering business equipment, such as dishes, linens, silverware, initial ingredients, pots and pans, and a delivery vehicle.
Spread the word. Advertise in local magazines, on billboards or by creating a business page on social media websites like Facebook. Sign up for a booth at local vendor events, such as wedding expos. Contact local venues, such as reception halls or hotels, and ask them to provide recommendations for your catering business for events booked there.
- Internal Revenue Service: Business Structures
- New York State Division of Corporations: Search the Corporation & Business Entity Database
- New York State Online Permit Assistance and Licensing (OPAL)
- Small Business Buzz: How to Write a Business Plan
- Small Business Administration: Local Resources -- New York
Michelle Cramer has been writing/editing freelance since 2007, including the Small Business Buzz Blog and articles for Work.com. Cramer's current writing projects include articles for informational websites and several blogs. She has a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Missouri.