How to Start a Soul Food Catering Business

by Eric Ervin; Updated September 26, 2017
A soul food catering business should have fried chicken on the menu.

A catering business that specializes in soul food will not only fill a niche market, but also provide a history lesson to its customers. Soul food is a type of southern-styled cuisine that is popular with African Americans. However, other races eat a fair share of soul food because of the popularity of soul food restaurants. According to the African-American Registry, a nonprofit organization, the origins of soul food dates back to slavery. During the time, slaves had to prepare dishes with lower-quality meats and leftovers from the slave owner's family.

Items you will need

  • Money
  • Location
  • Licenses
  • Permits
  • Ingredients
  • Menu
  • Advertisements
  • Website
Step 1

Identify the catering type. Decide if the catering business will be in-home service catering, corporate catering where food is provided for company meetings or events, or large-scale catering for private weddings and other ceremonies. A home catering business cannot occupy an existing kitchen. It has to be separate. Catering businesses that occupy commercial and at-home spaces will need stoves, ovens, baking racks, plates, glasses, cooking utensils, eating utensils, table clothes and linens that can be purchased from restaurant supply stores.

Step 2

Obtain the required licenses, certifications, permits and insurance. Apply for and receive a business license, food service permit and food handler's license. Contact the local city government and county health department for information about other business licenses, permits and fees that will be required, as regulations vary in different states. Contact an insurance broker to obtain personal liability insurance, product liability insurance, fire and flood protection, car insurance, worker's compensation insurance, and insurance on the business space and the equipment inside.

Step 3

Plan your menu. Visit local soul food restaurants to see what dishes are being served. Choose dishes to serve that are soul food staples, such as fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fried fish, collard greens, black-eyed peas and candied yams. Purchase food for the catering business through wholesale food distributors and suppliers for discounts.

Step 4

Throw a party. Invite guests to sample the soul food dishes. Tell the guests to rate each dish for taste, quality and value. Make a complete menu based off the most popular dishes that includes prices per person. Catering prices should be determined by the competition and cost of overhead.

Tips

  • Apply for the business permits, business licenses and food-handler licenses early. The process could take months to complete, which can postpone the opening of your business.

    Offer discounts and coupons to attract customers.

    Create healthier alternates to soul food dishes, since the foods are traditionally high in fat, fried, covered in rich gravies and sauces and include large amounts of sugar.

Warnings

  • Foodborne illnesses can occur when raw foods are cross-contaminated with cooked foods and when cooks prepare foods without washing their hands.

    Financing a business without adequate capital could proof to be a disaster. It could also ruin the business owner's reputation, making it difficult to open future businesses.

    Not obtaining the proper permits and licenses can immediately shut down the catering business and result in fines from local city and county governments.

About the Author

Eric Ervin has more than 10 years of experience as a print journalist, having worked at newspapers and magazines in Alabama, Texas and Georgia. His work has been published in the "Houston Press," "Houston Chronicle" and "Mobile Press Register." Ervin received a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of South Alabama.

Photo Credits

  • golden brown battered fried chicken thigh image by James Insogna from Fotolia.com