Getting started

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by chefteldanielle, Dec 11, 2001.

  1. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

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    Being done with school Iam definately considering getting into the catering business. Iam actually doing my school externship with a large catering firm here in Portland and am noticing alot of mediocrecy. If this guy can do it anyone can.. ofcourse he is doing it on such a large scale.. I do not think that that is what AI will be doing. Iam attempting to possibly rent part of his kitchen and it will hopefully provide him with some steady income for some of his not so busy months. Iam trying to start extremely small, having done some small parties and a wedding ( food only) I think it would behoove me to do small parties.
    Now my question is how often do I change my menu and or do I make up a menu for each occassion.. Or do I just have a menu that has a selection that they can choose from.
    The stuff Iam hoping to prepare are ethnic varieties from my part of the world with some traditional specialities.
    Thank you
    Danielle
     
  2. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Hi, danielle,

    How about, instead of set menus, have set categories - aps, mains, sides, etc.? Then, do like the Chinese restaurants do, and have a selection of say, two items from each one for X amount, three items for XX amount, etc.? That way, folks would feel they have a more personalized menu; I love doing small jobs, I think you can be a lot more creative if you're not doing things on a huge, mass scale.

    will you be able to store staples, etc. at the space you're renting? Can save you big $$ if you don't have to buy fresh staples for each job. I worked for a woman who catered out of her townhouse - !!! - and used the garage as her pantry. Had two standard fridges for both pantry and prepared items. Was a REAL hassle, trying to juggle prepared foods ready for the party with stock items already in fridge! We ended up doing a lot of prepping and cooking on site,which presented its own unique problems! Size of oven, reliance of oven, no room in their fridge, etc.!

    Good luck!
     
  3. w.debord

    w.debord

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    As I understand in my area there are a serveral caterers that work like the lady you describe marmalady. Prepping is the loop whole here. Where you prep becomes your "base kitchen" open for health dept. inspection. But if you do your cooking "on site" which is off premise...the health dept. doesn't touch you. They can't follow you around to each job site, then who's juristriction are you under?

    So a well designed menu with limited skilled prep. becomes a caters way of evading establishing a residence for their business and limiting there set-up costs.

    There's lots of ways to design your business Danielle. That's why studing other caters businesses is so helpful. Find out what worked for them.....although different things work for different people you'll see similarities in business patterns in catering business that have lasted over the years.
     
  4. marmalady

    marmalady

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    You're absolutely right about the lady's motives for not having a base for her operation; she was proud of the fact that she was flying 'under the radar', and undercutting the other local caterers. I stayed with her for a spring/summer season, only because it gave me a fantastic opportunity to create my own style/dishes/presentations, etc. I basically did everything, while she made desserts and cakes. I just couldn't impress on her that if the Health Dept. came down on her, it would ruin her opportunities forever for starting/keeping a business. Oh, well; I look back on that experience as an A+ on the learning curve, but with a great deal of sadness for the lady; I'm a true believer in 'what goes around, comes around', and I fear that she's going to be standing in a whole pile of hot water some day.
     
  5. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

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    Sounds like a big hassle. You are right I would never not the things the legal way..
    I have a large house and very large garage and would not dare running a food business from home.. Too many risks top take.

    Thanks
    Danielle
     
  6. davewarne

    davewarne

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    HI,
    This might appeal to you.
    We started a Luncheon Club. It runs mainly on these lines.
    Members pay £10 p.a. to cover paperwork and admin (more later)
    We decide the menu, it's a secret. We 'give away' one glass of wine chosen by us to compliment the meal. The meal is 3 courses and coffee.
    Before the meal we talk a bit about the wine, it's grape variety, flavours and so on. After the meal, the chef ( that's me!) appears to answer awkward questions about the dishes. We print out the recipes and post copies to those unable to attend ( that's the paperwork)
    Members can bring guests ( space permitting )and guests pay a little extra .

    Much to my surprise the Luncheon Club here now spreads over 2 days a month. It's regular, interesting and since we are now in the 82nd month, a bit of a challenge to find new wines and dishes. For the restaurant it's quite profitable, filling tables that would otherwise be empty as there is no lunch trade where we are.

    Hope this helps

    David