How to Start a Cooking and Catering Business at Home

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If you are an experienced chef and love spending time cooking for others, starting your own catering business at home might be a rewarding venture for you. A catering business may be one of the easier home businesses to start, because it doesn't require the start-up costs to purchase commercial space, new equipment and extensive inventory. Like any business, however, catering from home takes planning and organization to be successful.

Draft a business plan that outlines in detail how you plan to finance and run your catering business from your home. Include in your plan the types of events you will cater, the area and market you will cater to, how you will set yourself apart from the competition and how you will price your services. In addition, include any equipment you need to purchase for your home, what foods you will prepare and how much, what type of serving equipment you'll use, if you need to purchase additional utensils, cups and plates and how you will transport your food.

Research the business and food laws in your state. You need to follow strict guidelines to become fully licensed. Many laws, however, require food to be prepared in a special commercial kitchen that has been certified by the Board of Health. To overcome this challenge, consider cooking your food in your customers' kitchens and only doing a small amount of prep work at home. If you go to a client's house to cook for their party, you are selling your service rather than your food.

Dedicate a space in your kitchen and home to start your catering business. Include space for filing, for your computer and telephone and for storing food in bulk.

Determine whether you want to work alone or hire additional help. If you hire employees to help you cook or serve at events, you'll need to register as an official business with your Secretary of State. Consult with an accountant to assist you in setting up payroll and insurance benefits for your staff.

Create promotional materials such as business cards, flyers with a sample menu, a website and advertisements in local magazines and newspapers.

Cater a few free parties to get some exposure for your new business. Invite guests over to your home or host an event for a client.

Create a contract detailing the services your home business provides. Each contract should be specific to the event you're catering. For example, list the time you'll arrive at the event, who will clean up, expressed permission to use their cooking space and equipment and how you will be paid.

Keep records for all contracts and expenses. Save receipts for food and equipment purchases. Update your bookkeeping system with new invoices and payments you receive.


  • Show up on time to your catering events and dress appropriately. If you want to expand your catering business, hire culinary students as interns. Consider hiring independent contractors as employees to avoid payroll and tax liabilities.



About the Author

Lucy Bowles is an avid freelance writer from Indianapolis. She has written for various websites since 2009. As a certified paralegal Bowles has worked in the areas of business, intellectual property and entertainment law. She has a bachelor's degree in history and a minor in legal studies from Indiana University.

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