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Start a Food Catering Business by Finding Your Best Niche, Then Marketing Your Catering to Success

When you are just starting a catering business, there are different things that need to be reviewed and studied. Once you begin to understand the requirements needed for catering, you should study the market to figure out what niche you fit into best. By investigating various catering businesses in your area, and determining what needs are being filled, and what are not, you will be able to more easily target your own efforts.

First, is the area where you will be operating your business in a growing mode, and is the population constant, or are there times that see more visitors than others? Is there a young population, or is it older? Is there a healthy business community? Are there a lot of cultural groups like theater groups, orchestras, and museums?

Next, you should look at your competition. Are there many caterers in the area?What kind of food do they prepare? What kind of prices do they charge? If there are a lot of caterers in the area, what kind of common theme do many of them share? Do they share to the same groups of people (stiff competition)?

Researching the market is all well and good, but how should you go about it? Try asking friends and acquaintances for the names of caterers they use, or look in the phone book, call your Chamber of Commerce, look for newspaper ads, or call business and ask who they use. Call wholesale catering supply companies and ask who their clients are. Caterers are much more open about sharing information these days. And who knows, a caterer might pass on some business to you when you get started.

Once you know what the competition is, turn your thoughts to your skills and tastes. Is there something that you can provide that your competition does not already? Is there a light food trend that is not being taken advantage of? Is there a popularity in regional food that has not been tapped? There are successful companies that cater only narrow food groups, such as sushi, barbecue, or seafood dishes, for example. Other companies only cater weddings.

Try to create a market for services where one does not always exist, and you will find there is plenty of business in markets that you have determined are lacking. Catering marketing, like any other marketing, is providing a product or service that is not being fully tapped, then planting yourself into that vacant area.

Guide to Starting a Catering Business

When going into the food business, it is always best to start small. In this, one would better understand how it is run. This will also allow one to have more time to focus on the important aspects of the business, rather that worrying about managerial problems as in big businesses.

Catering is the cooking and serving of special dishes, preparation and decoration of venue for a special occasion, feast, meeting or other gatherings. Servers and waiters are hired and paid per function or occasion.

Kinds of Catering Services

Full Catering. In this type of service, the caterer serves the food, prepares and manages all details of the occasion. This includes the provision of equipment, utensils/wares that will be used, decoration of the venue, table setting, serving and clean up of the equipment used.

Partial Catering. This is almost the same as the full catering. The only difference is that a partial catering serves only part of the entire menu. Other dishes may be cooked or served by the client himself or by another caterer. The caterer only does the arrangement of the venue and food servicing.

Service Only. The client is the one who prepares the food. The caterer only takes care of arranging the venue and is in charge of the food service. This may include the provision of entertainment like song and dance numbers and games, giveaways or souvenirs for the guests.

Utensils, Wares and Equipment Used in Catering

Catering does not immediately require a big capital. One may start as a home-based venture for as long as the kitchen space is big and clean enough for cooking varied dishes. However, a complete set of utensils, wares and equipment are needed to start the business. Below are some of the basic utensils needed:

Chafing dish, used to keep the dishes clean and hot.

Flatware, table utensils such as knives, forks and spoons for ordinary occasions.

Silverware, high value and elegant table utensils for grand and special occasions.

Drinking glasses, ordinary glasses and goblets used to serve beverages.

Plates and serving dishes, separate sets for ordinary and special occasions.

Disposable cups, plastic or paper cups used for picnic and children’s party.

Tablecloth and napkin can be tailor-made to fit the style and size of your table.

Case, used to keep glasses, plates and other table utensils while in transit.

Table decorations like table centerpiece, flower vase and colored lights to make the venue more attractive.

Ashtrays, for smoking visitors and provided only upon request and if there is a designated smoking area in the venue. Tables and chairs that can be rented.

Points to Consider in Making A Catering Service Contract

Before entering into a contract, the following should first be settled and understood by both the caterer and client:

Occasion or gathering

Motif of the occasion to complement the decoration

Number of guests

Menu based on the choice and budget of the client

Cost of food to be served

Payment scheme

Serving system

A 50% down payment may be required upon signing of the contract to guarantee payment of cost of ingredients already bought should the client withdraw from the contract. In this way, losses are avoided.

Allowance for Food

In the occasion that the number of guests exceeds what is expected, a caterer must have food ready for them. Thus, a caterer usually makes a 10% allowance from the agreed number of guests to be served. The caterer will only have to charge the additional foods served.

Emergency

Be prepared for whatever accident or emergency that may arise in delivering or serving foods. Bring extra equipment/materials like tablecloths, tables, drinking glasses and plates as replacement in case these are soiled, broken or damaged. It is also important in the catering business to have a vehicle to be used for delivery and pick-up of food, equipment and utensils. If the budget is not enough to have your own vehicle, you may have to rent first for your marketing and delivery service needs

Principles of Quantity Cooking

It is important in the food service business to know how to cook for a big number of people. One should study this standard measure very well to be able to estimate contract price, purchase ingredients and avoid possible loss.

Suggested Portion Serving for Meat

In quantity cooking, one must consider the correct portion of main ingredients for every serving so that one can easily estimate the quantity of ingredients to be purchased and the profit. The following are the suggested serving size for beef, pork, chicken and seafoods. In a fine dining restaurant, all servings are weighed.

Table 1. Serving Size for Fine Dining

Type of Meat Portion Serving
(in Grams)
Pork with bones (ex. Lechon kawali/spare ribs)Pork without bones (ex. Asadoladobo)

Beef with bones (ex. Boiled/ pochero)

Beef without bones (ex. Stew/asac/o)

Chicken with bones (ex. Chicken curry/ afritada)

Chicken without bones (ex. Chicken nuggets)

Seafood with bones (ex. Steamed lapu-lapu)

Seafood without bones (ex. Fish fillet)

200 – 250150 – 200

200 – 250

150 – 200

250 – 300

150 – 200

250 – 300

150 – 200

To determine the number of servings in a kilo of meat for a fast food/ eatery or turu-turo type of food business, the following may be used as guide:

Table 2. Quantity Per Kilo of Meat

Type of Meat Quantity/Kilo
Pork with bonesPork without bones

Beef with bones

Beef without bones

Chicken with bones

Chicken without bones

Seafood with bones

Seafood without bones

Ground Meat without extender

Ground Meat with extender like potatoes and other vegetables

8 pcs12 pcs

10 pcs

12 pcs

6 pcs

10 pcs

6 pcs

12 pcs

15-20 parts

32 parts

Additional Guides in Quantity Cooking

These are other things that a food business operator must know in quantity cooking:

1. The quantity of ingredients cannot just be multiplied from a standard recipe for 5 to 6 persons or a family according to the number of diners. If your recipe is good for about 6 persons and there are 24 persons that are to eat, you cannot increase the ingredients (especially the seasonings) four times. For example, if the recipe for 6 persons needs 2 teaspoonfuls of salt, it does not necessarily need 8 teaspoons of salt for a recipe good for 24 persons. Study the adjustment of recipe and the balancing of ingredients.

2. As much as possible, use a weighing scale and measuring utensils in measuring the ingredients. In this way, the measurements of ingredients or serving size are exact. It is cheaper this way than merely estimating the ingredients.

3. Have a proper storage system of ingredients purchased in bulk. Allocate an area to store canned goods and ingredients that are not perishable. Take extra care in cleaning and storing highly perishable ingredients like meat, vegetables, egg and fish.

4. Allot three to four months trial period. This is to determine which food or meals sell and which don’t. This will also guide you to determine the quantity of ingredients to purchase and the meals that are to be included as regular menu.

5. Take extra care in storing, handling and delivering cooked foods. Cooked foods need to be stored properly to avoid spoilage. These can be covered with plastic to avoid dirt.

6. Look for regular and trusted sources of ingredients. It is better to have regular and trusted sources of ingredients because aside from being cheap, you are assured of its freshness and quality.

7. Study how to make use of leftover or excess foods to make another dish. If there is leftover lechon, it can be re-cooked into lechon paksiw. Leftover fried fish can be cooked into sarsiyado or as ingredient for fried lumpia. Meat broth can be used in cooking noodles or soup.

Planning a Menu

The menu is the most important foundation and attraction of a restaurant. It presents the different dishes served by an eatery, catering or food delivery establishment.

The following are some practical guides in planning your menu:

1. Know what specialty foods you can cook that your customers will like. For example, if you are excellent in cooking kare-kare, make this the specialty of your restaurant. Just be sure that you have other dishes that complement the kare-kare like grilled meat, pancit, viand with broth, fruits and dessert like kalamay.

2. Plan the menu according to your target customer. For example, students prefer beef, pork and chicken to fish and vegetables. Manual laborers often ask for more rice and any viand with sauce. This is because they want more filling food that is cheaper. On the other hand, children prefer spaghetti, hotdog, hamburger and fried chicken.

4. You may use as basis, the cost of food and the expected profit in planning the food to be served. Use extenders like potatoes, tofu, veggie-meat and other vegetables to lower the cost of the meal.

5. Make sure that the ingredients are on-season to be able to serve foods that are cheaper but higher in profit. For example, if bangus is cheap, you may include in your menu different special dishes from bangus like relleno, sinigang na tiyan ng bangus and sarsiyadong bangus. Put a sign or poster outside your restaurant advertising your special menu.

5. Make sure that you can serve the foods that are in your menu. Also, make sure that you have the needed equipment. For example, you need a grill if you have barbeque or inihaw in your menu.

6. Use your imagination and creativity in preparing your menu even if these are simple, so as to make the food attractive to the customers. For example, a pancake may be ordinary but it becomes special when you put different flavors and garnishing. An ordinary galunggong will become special if served in banana leaf with side dishes like atsara or vegetable salad.

7. Match the menu to the weather. On cold days, it is best to include in the menu foods rich in energy like beef, pork, chicken, pasta and kakanin. Also include delicious food with broth like arroz caldo, nilaga and chicken soup. On hot days, prepare refreshing foods like halo-halo, mais con yelo, sago’t gulaman, ice cream and different salads.

8. Give importance to the health and nutrition aspects in planning the menu. Avoid serving oily foods. Balance the foods and know the right combination to make sure that the foods served have enough vitamins.

9. For breakfast, prepare simple and easy-to-cook foods like tapsilog (tapa-sinangag-itlog), longsilog (longanisa-sinangag-itlog) and tosilog (tosino-longanisa-itlog).

10. Consider the space of your kitchen and cooking area. If your kitchen space is small, serve food that can be cooked early so that these can be just heated when ordered. Consider using a microwave oven because this type of oven does not alter the taste, volume and texture of the food being heated.

source: www.trc.dost.gov

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