Outside Catering Business

Making Events Worthwhile

Eating places keep mushrooming;  wherever there are people there is often a need to provide something to eat and drink that is hygienic. It’s difficult to think of a place where there are people but no need for food or drink (not even in the middle of a fast! Given this, the differentiator in this business is often the taste/ quality, ambience, business model and ease of access. A standard that can not be compromised is ensuring that the food and drink are prepared in hygienic conditions so it is good for human consumption (human grade). As with any cultural business, trends in restaurants are dependent on cultural changes and the target market.

While the catering business is huge most of the money is  made  through events / outside catering, as opposed to eating out and other restaurant sales. Even in hotels, sales from training and wedding events will generate more sales than from clients staying in the hotel for no particular event. However this is a business that requires a lot of hard work and is not a get rich quick project. From being properly licensed to maintaining a steady flow of customers, starting a catering business is a more serious endeavour—and a lot more work—than most newcomers expect. However, it is also the most cost-effective  way to get into the food business  as costs are predictable and capacity can be made flexible through the hiring of equipment unlike in a restaurant business.


One needs to understand that each event is a marketing opportunity to all the attendees of the event so giving your best at each event is crucial. From the food to the service and customer service, your A-game is required. Below are some key areas you must  compromise for you to be successful as an outside caterer:

Experience; in the industry is crucial to be successful in it. As indicated in the section on start-up stash, getting into a business that you have a good understanding in is an important key to success and this is more so in a personalised service as there is no room for correction and memories are made as you offer the service. If you have no experience and have no option of doing so, your next best option is to invest in someone who has the relevant experience that you can trust. You will still have to take time understanding the process so you know where to put checks and balances in the system. A consultant who is an expert in this area can help you with that alongside the experienced Chef that you hire.

Punctuality; Events and outside catering are influenced a lot by time. Breaks are given at specific slots and parties are scheduled to begin at certain time. If you are not punctual then you are likely to compromise the event and as a result the possibility of ever being hired again let alone being referred to others by every one at the event.

Cuisine and menu items; be clear on the cuisine that you want to offer. This should be a cuisine you are good at.   Having decided on the cuisine (Tanzanian, Chinese, Nigerian, Italian, Indian  etc)   pick menu items that you are known to be excellent for but which are also in demand with most of your target clients.  In most of Africa, traditional African foods tend to be the norm with snacks ranging from Asian to European.

However if you are catering for specialised groups e.g. If in he country you are living in there is a significant population from your home country, e.g. Ghanaians in Kenya or Kenyans in Nigeria, it may be necessary to go into specific cuisines from those countries.

Business Concept; basic business model  categories could be as below ;

  • Gourmet catering
  • Comfort foods
  • Barbecue catering
  • Wedding catering
  • Sandwich and lunch

This is especially important in the beginning because it will be difficult to offer your best when offering different catering services. As you improve your skills and capacity you can then venture into other types of catering. Remember if you are not offering the best, chances are that you will not be able to get future opportunities and you really get only one shot.

Chef; you are not likely to be the person preparing each item even though you may be the best at it. The person  preparing each item should be good at it and understand the food well. In the situation you have a special mix or blend this should be done aside to make it possible for the recipe to be prepared by someone else. Excellence  in preparation of your recipes will be supported by  having standard menus and training of the team continually, and practise before  the actual event.

Capacity to cook on site; not all food transports well and ability to cook food on site is important. As you grow ensure you invest in building this capacity.

Master the logistics; the logistics in outside catering can be tricky. Mastering the logistics and having a check sheet to ensure everything is done and nothing forgotten is crucial in each event. You do not want to get t the venue and find the tooth picks were forgotten or all other beverages available except the coffee. Such a mall mistake can create a dent in an otherwise perfect event.

The team; Getting the right people on board is crucial for your business. Just as the cook / chef should be good at what they do, also get the right service and bar staff. Getting experienced staff initially is good as it requires little training to get them on board. However having established a routine, put this into standard procedures that will then be used to train new staff who may not have the required relevant experience.

Nail the marketing; you will eventually need to grow your business aside from your family and friends and also need to acquire some corporate client. While referrals are crucial in the beginning and allow you to grow organically without being overwhelmed by the work load, eventually you will need to do some to acquire new business aside from your circle of friends and family. You can do this by

  • Having a blog; with pictures of your activities
  • Having social media pages
  • Posting in forums targeted to your target clientele e.g. wedding websites  if you are catering for these
  • Advertise in magazines targeted to your clientele e.g. African business
  • Establish a relationship with businesses your target clients visit e.g. For weddings with local wedding-oriented vendors–florists
  • Leave brochures at partner business venues

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