Catering Business - Approach To Success
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As most catering business owners will tell you, providing on-site delivery and presentation of food and beverages is a highly complex task, one which pits the owner in a never-ending struggle between the art of the fare (which is the original motivation for most caterers) with the struggle for supply chain precision. While a full time chef can spend his or her day focusing mostly on the recipes, a caterer must integrate a whole new dimension of logistics into the menu preparation, all the while ensuring that the final result still matches the often demanding expectations of corporate customers as well as the bride’s mother, depending on the event.

There is, however, another dimension to the catering business that, after a bit of recounting and discussion about the choice of business professions tends to come to light. That is, being a successful catering business owner is many times as much about the food and logistics as it is the relationship and rapport with the client. While a cordon bleu chef may have little or no contact with the organizers of the corporate function for which the entrées are being prepared, a catering business owner will almost certainly have direct contact with at least most of the clients, and is often the first person the client dials up when there is a question or potential problem.

For those looking to enter into the catering business, there are a few key points that seasoned professionals would cite as being key to success. First of all, as mentioned already, the catering business is as much about the people as it is the food. While young, enterprising chefs often start out in the business motivated by the thrill of large numbers of guests and creative, mass-produced entrees, careers can be weeded out very quickly by the level of customer service that is provided. Caterers which are keen in listening and adept at managing (or guiding) client expectations tend to have the greatest amount of success in this area. Those who focus mainly on the food, seeing logistics as a distraction and customer service as secondary will set themselves up for failure very early on.

While it is assumed that for a successful catering business the food (and accompanying reputation earned during and after an event) must be top notch, too many talented young chefs neglect the importance of logistics. Logistics, in this case, refers to more than just keeping the food warm from the kitchen to the client’s patio. It is largely about setting up an investment into infrastructure that fits with the financial strength of the business owner, and is well-aligned to the initial (first six months) of business revenue that is expected. Almost as important is the ability to cost-effectively scale the operations when the once per quarter large event client knocks on your door. As the saying goes, nobody builds a church for Easter Sunday, and neither would you structure your equipment investment to meet the needs of an occasional large order. These needs are often – especially in the early years of business – best met by renting equipment as needed or relying on a trusted network of suppliers to help fill the operational gaps when needed.

Of course, many new businesses owners are attracted to the catering business because, according to the National Association of Catering Executives, overhead costs are typically lower, as compared to a restaurant. As well, service staff can be more flexibly hired, being used only when the size of an event requires a large team, thereby relieving a large amount of risk to be carried by a new business owner.

Regardless of the start-up expense and passion of the owner, for an up-start catering business, networking is everything. For catering companies in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney or wherever your business ambitions lie, remember that the most successful catering businesses start out with a few lucky clients at the beginning, but sustainment is a matter of building relationships with event and wedding planners, as well as getting on corporate and location venue lists as preferred suppliers. As a steady stream of clients start coming through the door, long-term success is then all about delivering the right product and keeping the clients coming back for seconds.


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