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Advice Corner: Can I make a living cooking from home?

If you are a passionate cook and want to start your own business cooking from home, then here are 5 useful tips to get your business off the ground.

1. Choosing your market

The catering market is fairly saturated so finding your niche and a gap in the market is the key to success. The type of food you make will affect who your core customer will be which will shape your branding and marketing plan.

Catering can either be corporate or private. The former will give you the opportunity for repeat business as corporate clients prefer to have a regular supplier so if you provide a good and reliable service, you’ll become an asset to them and they will call you whenever they need you, however, your food will need to be of a high quality and freshly prepared. You’ll also be preparing food for large numbers of clients at short notice so it is essential to be organised especially having your ingredients ordered in time. Competition is fierce in this market so you’ll have to work hard to win the trust of clients.

Alternatively, you may wish to take your service to the private market where you’ll be serving at family occasions as opposed to launches and conferences. Client Expectations would be much lower but you’ll still be expected to provide a good quality service and you need to be able to cater for individuals with specific needs such as vegetarians and lactose intolerant. Your scope for services aren’t restricted to special occasions such as weddings as you may also wish to host themed events such as Indian nights or gourmet cuisine for dinner parties.

2. Obtaining Equipment 

Starting a business requires a lot of equipment. You will need to detail this out well in your business plan as you need to have a good balance of capital as well as specific equipment for individual events. This will also depend on the type of food you’re working with and basic operation would require fridge freezers, cooking equipment such as ovens & hobs and preparation equipment such as timers, scales, cutlery, thermometers and can openers as well as other consumables such as washing up liquid & sponges, Clingfilm and food containers.  It’s essential you cost this all out to understand what finance you will need to access in order to get started.

3. Legal requirements 

Catering Services are highly regulated under legislation governing food safety. Caterers are legally obliged to submit their registration application 28 days in advance before commencing trading.

The FSA (Food Standards Agency) is the main governing body to food hygiene alongside the Food Safety Act 1990 being the main law ensuring food is safe for consumption as well as ensuring that there are no harmful substances used in food prep.  You’ll also be obliged to comply with other legal requirements such as keeping records of direct suppliers as well as information of food products regarding presentation and traceability in the event of product withdrawal or recall.

Arranging insurance is also essential as failure to do so can result in severe financial consequences.  You can find more information on getting the right form of cover here.

4. Marketing your company 

While competitive, the food industry is a thriving market providing plenty of opportunities for you to generate much needed publicity.

You may wish to attend catering exhibitions with plenty of events happening up and down the country – take time to prepare samples and take your contact details with you as you could add a range of suppliers and consumers to your portfolio to make your brand more memorable and not only obtain useful contacts, but also get your brand into an online catering directory that’ll help users discover you via search engines.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media, Instagram is the perfect place to promote your recipes as food photography is a very in-demand and exciting art form. All you need is a smartphone, good lighting and a decluttered background which can make your brand more attractive and get people talking about you.

5. Obtaining appropriate I.T equipment 

Catering businesses rely heavily on temporary workers so you don’t want to be wasting your financial resources paying every single member of staff. You should contact agencies across the country to help you find temporary event staff for the necessary amount of time you need them.

Investing in time & attendance and payroll software is essential to avoid the hassle of producing copious amounts of admin and red tape involved with paying employees, this is inconvenience you don’t need especially in such a stressful and high demand profession. You can find more about relevant payroll software that can fulfil your needs here.

Click here to take inspiration from Anthony and Hannah’s story on how they set up their own catering business. We wish you a successful venture into catering!

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