Is the catering business right for me?

Joined Feb 6, 2016
Hey, I'm a "Home Cook" with no professional culinary experience.  If a good family life wasn't something I desired, I can totally picture myself in the restaurant business, however, all the horror stories about restaurant careers have kept me from going down that route, and left me in a weird place for several years where I've been trying to figure out what to do with my life, and I keep coming back to "Do what you like, do what you enjoy, what people tell you you're good at."    

Well I enjoy cooking, its the only thing I like besides music that makes sense for me to make a career out of, and people tell me I'm a good cook (I know I need to be a lot better.)

So I'm starting to brainstorm the other career possibilities in the culinary field.  I remember the guy that catered my wedding, and he seemed to love his job, and have more control over his schedule than I guess a restaurant chef would, plus, he's probably making a decent living considering how much we paid him.  

I'm not looking for the easy way out, I expect that it still takes a lot of work, but hopefully some of you can help answer these questions and let me know if theres anything I haven't considered yet... 

Is catering something to consider?  

Can catering by itself be a whole career?  

Is running a catering business more family friendly than cooking at a restaurant? 

Do I need a culinary education?  (if so, I think Id go to the Natural Gourmet in NY...) 

What else do I need to know?  

Thank you 
Joined Feb 25, 2005
Best advice you'll ever get - work at a catering company. It will take a while but eventually you will see what's involved.

Whenever you start your own business, if you are really interested in making it a success, you have to live and breathe it. You are not just cooking. You are hiring, marketing, meeting with clients, doing proposals and contracts, site visits, figuring out logistics, decor needed for each event, pricing out a job, inventory, finding a commercial kitchen, purchasing, licensing and so much more!

If you don't need to make a living out of it, sure, it's more family friendly then cooking at a restaurant. You can take the jobs that fit with your lifestyle. And no, you don't need a culinary education. There are plenty of great cooks who never went to school. It does give you more credibility though.

Sounds to me like a part time job in the industry might be more appealing to you right now. Then maybe when the kids are grown (assuming you have any) and you have more time and experience, that might be the time to launch your own catering business if you're still interested.

Good Luck!

Joined Feb 8, 2009
Welcome to Cheftalk! I've been in the food service business for a lot of years. I started as a catering steward in Hawaii and worked my way up in that company. After managing and Chefing in over 25 food services I started my own business. I worked in Fine dining, Casual dining, Private clubs, Hospitality, Healthcare, fast food and upscale employee cafes. Catering was what I did best and got the most enjoyment and satisfaction  from. The thing to remember is, all good caterer's make things look easy. They do this for a living everyday. People look at this business and think about how much fun and easy it looks. My clients have told me how nice it is to hire a company that all the people working the function are enjoying what their doing. These things don't just happen, there planned. The success of a catering is a lot of work and planning. Logistics are a key factor to the success of the function. I see a lot of people that think they could make good biscuits and country gravy and want to open a breakfast restaurant. The best advice I could give is, if the food business isn't a big part of your life then I wouldn't get into it. Most successful restaurant owners and chefs have a great passion for what they do. If you really have this kind of passion and drive then get a job working for a caterer on weekends. This isn't a business to get into unless you love it. The business is hard on you and your family. In the beginning the money is hard to accept. Working for low wages to meet the bills a growing family is difficult and stressful. This puts a lot of pressure on you and family life. The food service business is the most difficult business you can pick to be successful in. I would not recommend anyone venture into it unless your blood is boiling with passion........Good luck........Chef Bill 
Joined Feb 22, 2016
@wadeeichner  I know it can be scary to think about all of the responsibility of running your own business. But the rewards are so worth it. If you do your research up-front and have the right help you can be incredibly sucessful - and work for yourself! If you can find a career that couples doing what you love with the need to make a living - you've struck gold. When we got started we found this article really helpful - it got us to think about things that we hadn't thought up but are really important for your business. Maybe this helps make the decision easier!

Good Luck!
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