The Caterers Corner
Catering Newbie Caterers Corner: Catering Newbie
By Cans47 (Cans47) on Tuesday, June 01, 2004 - 11:23 pm: Edit

My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a mobile catering/concession trailer and would appreciate any input from the professionals.
Still researching some aspects-licensing, ins., etc.
There is a lot of talk in this forum of business failure, but I don't see too much about off- premise catering, with mobile unit.
We live in suburban Detroit, and have accesss to clientele from all walks. Large family of 9 consists of 5 different business owners, one of which is a foodservice sales and marketing firm. Great connection to have, I believe.
Like many, I have done catering out of my home, professionally decorate cakes, make incredible cannolis and have a pretty good business sense.What I don't have, my brother's probably do!! They would be the other business owners.
Our business would entail a full spectrum service.
Event planning, catering, equipment rental, specialty cakes, cannolis, edible centerpieces, and more.
What are the drawbacks to what we are proposing?
This would be set up as a family business.
Any advice greatly appreciated.

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Tuesday, June 01, 2004 - 11:45 pm: Edit

I can't help but marve at your third to the last line and the second to the last line. It looks like you answered your own question....

you said...

"what are the drawbacks to what we are proposing?"

then you said...
"This would be set up as a family business."

So I will agree with you.. a family business is the first drawback. It sounds like you are supporting too many people with such a small business.

but sometimes in rare cases, family is a good thing....

you are purchasing a mobile kitchen. you do realize you must have a licensed and inspected facility which is fixed to store your products? you cannot cater out of the mobile with your home as the base. but if you have checked into the licensing, you know that....

I see you will offer full spectrum service.... it sounds like you have the catering and foodservice knowledge... hopefully so.

where do you have your event planning experience? it took me several years of doing events where I was to the point of being able to offer event planning.... just thinking...

In any business you need these three...

the entrepreneur, (the visionary, the planner, the thinker, the one working ON the business, not working in the business.)

the manager, the person(s) responsible for implimenting and supervising the operational systems and procedures.

the technician(s), responsible for clearly defined duties and responsibilities. the person who works the operational systems and procedures.

without these three AND more importantly, without the clear, well written, user friendly SYSTEMS in place before you open, expect success to take 4 to 5 times as long. (if it ever comes) I don't think I have to reiterate the failure statistics, you seem to be aware of them....

if you want to guarantee your success, you must have procedures, systems for every thing that goes on in your business and for ever task in catering....

What specific systems do you have written so far?

I wish you the best of luck. many peope have succeeded in this business. they are the ones who planned well and executed well.

if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

carl jones

By Jonesg (Jonesg) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 04:32 am: Edit

I think its a great idea.
Go for it, theres always room for new ideas and fresh ambition.
I personally know of 2 very successful caterers nearby, one grossed $16M last yr and they started out like you, they were not professional cooks and I believe thats a major part of why they worked out so well. As they discovered, cooks are easy to hire.
Many fail because of a lack of experience too, but you'll never know if you don't try.
As you grow , you will learn how to manage it all. Stay positive.!

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 09:33 am: Edit

There you have it. Two sides of the same coin. Seeming to come from completely opposit directions but both equally valid.

Use Carl's guidance especially concerning setting up a legitimate business, licenses, insurance and so on but as Gerard suggests, don't let the facts get in the way of your ambition.

By Cans47 (Cans47) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 10:16 am: Edit

Thanks for your responses,
Somehow this site seems to provide some direction.
As for the family issue, I was referring to my children, who would become invloved enough to, hopefully, someday continue the business. They are in the sales business now.
The licensing issue, actually, allows me to be licensed without a commisary to return to, as the trailer is fully self contained, and would be a Special Transitory Food Unit license.
The experience that I have comes from that family of 9 plus the 24 nieces and nephews. I've done countless showers, wedding and baby, weddings, anniversaries, graduations and more birthdays that I can count- 50 to 300 guests.
I've had people approach me to cater for them, do cakes,plan showers, make cookie centepieces, etc. I want to do it and make real money--can I????
I also do ceramics and teach developmentally disabled adult, so have done alot of school events.
I believe that I have WHAT IT TAKES, BUT TIME WILL TELL!!!!!

You'll be hearing from me

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 12:26 pm: Edit

actually, cheftim, I completely with gerald's advice as well. There are usually two sides to every coin and savvy biz people are aware of both, (plus all the "hidden files" that make the system run) :)

Encouragement can come from many directions as well as discouragement, I have had my share of both.

I would not be where I am today without believing in myself and making my own decision. It is important to always way the pros and cons, look at the facts. I agree that they should not stand in your way of ambition.

cindy, time will tell. Just arm yourself with all the education you can (not formal education) and get ready to do battle. for some reason it is more fun than not...


By Jonesg (Jonesg) on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 03:03 am: Edit

" want to do it and make real money--can I??? "

You may or may not be able to do it, only you know your capability, but theres a ton of money to be made out there.
I watched a couple open a place next to where I was working yrs ago, they had no food experience, common wisdom said they'd fail. They carved turkey's for lunch sandwiches in the store window of a small 1500 sq ft place and within 2 yrs they moved across the street to a bigger spot. They were in a good location for sure but they succeeded in part because they didn't listen to the experienced food pro's like me.
I had looked at their space before they bought it, I didn't think it was worth bothering with.

The biggest difference will be putting prices on your efforts, family is one thing, customers are from a different planet. Do you have experience pricing out catering jobs, can you price a 150p event with full service? Do you know how to get into venues which rent to caterers, are you on any preferred caterers lists with area venues?

By Cvincolorado (Cvincolorado) on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit

I think it is a great idea. One huge advantage you have is not having to start from scratch to generate business. Word of mouth is by far the best advertising in catering. If you pull off a few great events, word of your triumphs spreads quickly. However, word of your failures spreads quickly as well.You mentioned equipment rental. Here is a suggestion for you to think about. I worked for a very successful caterer in Aspen for years. Instead of just providing equipment rental for thier clients, they started a separate party rental company. They would then rent the equiptment from this company. This allowed them to get a better price for the rental and I believe it had some tax advantages as well. Good luck

Add a Message

This is a private posting area. A valid username and password combination is required to post messages to this discussion.