Catering companies are hired by businesses and private parties to prepare foods for special events. The catering service may prepare the food in the catering kitchen and then transport the food to the required venue or the food may be prepared on-site in the kitchen of a function hall or private home. Depending on the state and other applicable laws, the catering service may be required to meet certain requirements.
If you plan to conduct a catering service as a legal business entity, you will need to verify the licensing and permit requirements for the state in which you plan to offer catering services. You may need to register as a business and you may need special permits to prepare or transport food items. If you plan to provide alcohol as part of your catering menu, you will also need to apply for a liquor license. Throughout your catering operation, you will need to maintain all active permits and licenses.
As a business involved in the handling and preparing of food, a catering service is often subjected to the same health department rules and regulations as a restaurant. Depending on the state, a catering service may be required to submit to a health department inspection and certification. A representative from the health department would examine the catering kitchen, food preparation equipment and food transportation vehicles to determine how well the operations meet health department standards and considerations. Some states require a kitchen to be separated from the living quarters for a home catering business in addition to certain other requirements such as vehicle refrigeration for food transport.
A catering service must have access to adequate food storage at all times. To maintain public health and safety in handling food, refrigeration systems must be large enough to accommodate all food waiting to be prepared or served. Storage containers must be airtight and keep the food well preserved and free of any contamination.
Once the legal issues have been tended to, you will need the right training and marketing to make a catering service successful. The owner of a catering service must know how to handle food and prepare dishes that are enticing and delicious to a variety of guests. Catering services must also be properly marketed to event planners and various venues where the opportunity for exposure is high enough to attract a sufficient clientele.