Becoming a caterer. Setting up a catering shop and business. You will need to set up a menu. This can cost you an absolute fortune if done according to the highest professional standards and services. Or you can do it all yourself.
To begin with – you probably have limited time and money if you are just starting out. If you are in position number 2 – then you most likely are well funded and have staff to do this task as well. That not being the case with start ups and start up catering operations the basic rule is – if someone has done the legwork and indeed the hard work and costs, then why not utilize their expertise and experience to your benefits. Its all comes down to market research and testing in the real world of food and hospitality services.
You can easily create a collection of menus from competitors from which to draw from. Many of these are either listed on the internet or double as place settings, so these invitations are fairly easy to obtain. If the menus are hard copy, then you can ask politely if you can have the copy. Being a service industry, many staff members- waiters and serving staff will often allow you to keep the hard copy of the menu. As well it never hurts to show appreciation to these food service staff via means of a healthy tip.
Examine these menus as models for size, shape, font, presentations etc. These restaurant owners who have prepared their menus would have done a fair amount of homework and testing in the real world in terms of these factors. In addition they would have had a real quick test of the costing factors in the printing industry – as to what is reasonably priced and what printing services and cost structures to stay away from. In addition there is the question of durability of the menu itself over time. If the menu is a hard copy, then by actual physical examination, you should quickly be able to judge which physical form of menu keeps an attractive presentation the longest.
Now that you have an idea of the physical form, appearance and presentation of your menu its time to fill in the dots with your own dishes. The whole purpose of the menu around your dishes and the type of clientele you wish to cater and serve your food to. What type of clientele do you attract of wish to attract? That is your current target.
Later on if you wish to change course – at that point your menu can be rehashed and revised.
Your menu is the map around which you will create your business and serve your customers. Everyday you will work with it. Not only will it work for you, you will be working for your menu. Keep your menu simple. For starters include old simple favorites – such as baked chicken, lasagna and meatloaf. Meat and potatoes so to speak.
Too many choices can overwhelm your potential customers and clients. Thus limit your menu to 10 -15 entrees. You can always add your favorite extra special dishes later on – either as daily specials or in later editions and upgrades to your menu as your catering business firms up and expands. In the beginning its just a struggle to do the simple things- attract customers , get bookings and your name and reputation out , and importantly pay all your bills.
Lastly remember that in the end, most customers seeking a caterer do not want any surprises. Consistency in food service, presentation and delivery can be among the most important factors. In fact consistency of service levels is perhaps the most important factor initially for your catering business.