Sometimes, the best way to get a catering business of the ground is to start it from the comfort of your own home. This reduces overhead and allows you a familiar space from which to work. However, an at-home catering business also requires certain permits as well as a creative approach to marketing, since you don't necessarily have a storefront to which people can come.
Despite the fact that you are starting a catering business in your home, you still need the proper permitting for operating as a food business entity. In most states, this permitting will come through your state's Department of Health, which will make it legal for you to prepare and sell food for "public consumption," states the Seattle & King County Public Health Department.
In order to mass produce food as a catering company, you need the proper commercial-grade equipment to prepare and serve the food. This might include commercial-grade ovens and stove-tops; warmers; fine china in which to serve the catered dishes; utensils of all types, including serving silverware and eating utensils; glassware; linens and any other items you may need depending on the services that you offer.
As with any other food-related business, you -- and anyone that works with you for your home-based catering business -- may also need to attend a food safety class. This class covers the basics of food safety, from proper storage of food products, handling and cutting meat safely, preventing illness related to improper handling of food and rules of cultivating and maintaining a sanitary food environment.
Varying Start-Up Costs
The start-up costs for a home-based catering business may vary, depending on how big you want your business to be from the outset. The Power Home Biz website states that you could spend as little as $1,000 on start-up costs for a home-based catering operation to more than $80,000 if you want to stock up with fancy kitchen equipment and other professional-grade appliances.
In addition to the aforementioned requirements to start a home-based catering operation, you may need to consider a few other things as well. Depending on the size and type of catering business, you may need to contact the city in which you live to determine the guidelines for handling sewage. Also, contact the state department that handles licensing for food businesses; you can also utilize this department to inquire about liquor permits. The fire and building departments in your city may also have requirements for food-related businesses like yours related to safety. Most of these departments have customer service agents that can answer questions on what you need to do based on your particular business.
Lynda Moultry Belcher is a writer, editor and public relations professional. She worked for a daily newspaper for 10 years and has been a freelance writer for more than 15 years. She has contributed to Divorce360 and Revolution Health Group, among other publications. She is also the author of "101 Plus-Size Women's Clothing Tips" and writes "Style At Any Size," a bi-weekly newspaper column.