by Bruce Mattel and The Culinary Institute of America
According to the Princeton Review, over 70 percent of all catering services are owner run. Thus, a successful caterer usually marries the culinary talents of a chef with the business savvy of a CEO.
For anyone who wants to be a caterer, a passion for entertaining is a prerequisite, because without it, the long hours and hard work will seem tiring rather than exciting and rewarding. Many caterers start out as people who simply love to cook and entertain. Their guests are always complimenting them on their abilities and telling them that they should entertain for a living. There are some very successful caterers who have begun their career this way; however, the passion for cooking and entertaining alone is not a recipe for success.
Before starting a catering business, you should attend formal classes on catering and business management or work for one or more caterers until you have a high level of understanding and a sense of the business.
Some people try to turn their hobby into a small catering business from home, in kitchens that are not licensed by the local health department.
There is a big risk in operating this way. Home-based caterers may find themselves in trouble with the health department if their guests become ill from their food. In addition, home-based caterers usually do not understand the realities of running a for-profit catering business with many fixed expenses, such as business licenses, separate business phone and fax lines, and a Web site, all of which are necessary for continued business growth.
If you think that catering might be a great career option for you, check your skills against the qualities that a successful caterer ought to have. See how you fit in, or find those areas in which you'll need more education or help.
Read the full chapter in PDF format on the Wiley.com site.
This page created October 2008
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