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Sarah Ward

Catering Business Plan: 10 Elements of a Complete Plan

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A catering business plan will take your catering business from a great idea to a profitable business. Writing a catering business plan is similar to writing a restaurant business plan. It’s a combination of what you need, what you have, and what you plan to do. 

Of course, the specifics are more in-depth when you consider your catering business ideas. In this BinWise blog post, we walk you through those specifics. 

We cover your executive summary, your need for a comprehensive equipment list for types of catering events, and your budget and financial plans. A catering business plan is your starting point for how to start a catering business

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How to Write a Catering Business Plan

The process of how to write a catering business plan includes general business plan needs like the executive summary, market analysis, and financial projections. It also includes catering-specific sections like the equipment list and liability insurance. It might even have a type of restaurant risk assessment.

These 10 elements of a complete catering business plan will give you the structure to craft a well-rounded plan. They’ll also give you a jumping-off point once you take your business from a plan into the actionable stages.

10. Executive Summary

Your executive summary is the part of your business plan that grabs your reader and gets them invested. The summary includes a brief overview of your business plan, the problem you're solving, your target audience, and the key financial information. In other words, the executive summary includes the highlights of the rest of your business plan.

9. Market Analysis

The market analysis section of your catering business plan is an in-depth analysis of the market of the catering industry. It needs to be thorough for your sake and investors or business advisors.

 A thorough analysis tells you where your business will fit, and how much market room there is. It should include buying patterns, market dynamics, and your competition.

8. Service Specifics

The service specifics for your business plan are all about the unique structure of your catering business. This is where you dive into the particulars of whether you operate on-site, off-site, or a mix of both. 

It’s also the place to define what your business can do. Will you teach cooking classes? Do you host tastings? This is the place to make those decisions in your plan.

7. Actionable Steps

The Actionable steps, or next steps, are the concrete steps you will take in the time following the writing and refining of your business plan. These may include buying the right equipment or starting up your marketing campaign. These are the tangible business plans that will get you started. 

6. Equipment List

The equipment list on your catering business plan can be as extensive or as minimal as you like. It’s okay if it’s a general list of tools and equipment you should have. 

This is also a good place to make a fully fleshed-out list. That list includes specific restaurant equipment, kitchen gadgets, and even things like wait staff uniforms

5. Management and Investors

It’s possible that you’ll share your business plan with investors and potential managers. This section may look different depending on who you have already brought on board.

It can be a place where you outline who will be in management and who has already invested. If, however, you’re currently recruiting and searching, it’s a place to show the financial and business information those people would be interested in.

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4. Budget and Finances

The budget and finances section of your business plan are crucial. This is where you lay out your existing finances, what you need, and where your money will be spent. It’s also the place to include what kind of profit you need to make in order to have a successful business. 

3. Marketing Plans

The marketing plans in your catering business plan are more fun to write, but equally important. In your marketing plan, start with an overview of your chosen marketing tactics–email marketing, content marketing, business branding, or small business marketing. Then, dive into your first few marketing campaigns to show how your marketing initiatives will work. 

2. Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is important for any business that is selling food. Problems can arise from allergic reactions to food spoilage in the kitchen. Liability insurance helps you rest assured that you won’t be held solely responsible. It can help to be a backup to keep your business running even when issues show up.

1. Permits and Licensing

Permits and licensing for a catering business are of the utmost importance. As a business owner, you’ll need everything from a food handler’s permit to a liquor license. You’ll also need to work these permits and licenses into your budget and keep them up to date. An expired permit is a liability.

"Key Takeaway: The process of how to write a catering business plan includes general business plan needs like the executive summary, market analysis, and financial projections. It also includes catering-specific sections like the equipment list and liability insurance."

Frequently Asked Questions About Catering Business Plans

A catering business plan is a crucial part of building a successful catering business. If you’re nervous about starting a catering business, our answers to these frequently asked questions will help you craft your business plan and prepare to open for business. 

How Do You Write a Catering Business Plan?

To write a catering business plan you start with the 10 elements of a catering business plan outlined in this blog post. For your plan, in particular, you’ll need to consider your business structure, menu types, staffing–including wait staff, and available services. There are so many moving parts of a catering business, and your plan needs to account for all of them.

How Do I Start a Successful Catering Business?

When it comes to starting a successful catering business, there are several steps you can take to set your business up for success. Those steps are:

  • Making delicious and unique food
  • Putting customer service first in your business
  • Practicing your organizational skills to keep events running smoothly
  • Having business attire guidelines, to keep you and your staff looking uniform
  • Putting health and cleanliness at the top of your priority list–with the best cleaning supplies
  • Balancing your budget for high profits with great service

All that said, there is no guarantee that a business will be successful. We put this disclaimer here to remind you that you can do everything right and still run into roadblocks. However, even with that possibility, you should still plan for success, believing it is a large part of the battle.

What Is the Weakness of Catering?

The main weakness of catering is the need for restaurant-quality equipment in small and often off-site spaces. Even if your business structure involves preparing food and transporting it to the events, you’ll still have some prep to do at the event. 

There’s no guarantee that you’ll have the best equipment at an event, and this can lead to mishaps if you aren’t prepared for it. The best way to prepare is to have as much portable kitchen equipment as possible. That way you can bring what you need. 

How Do I Attract Catering Customers?

There are several ways you can attract catering customers, including:

  • Creative marketing practices and initiatives
  • Tasting events to draw people in
  • Top quality service to build trust
  • Menu and pricing flexibility
  • Referral rewards

A catering business is based on tasty food, but your clients need to meet you in order to enjoy the culinary experience. Having a creative marketing plan, being dependable, and working with customers to ensure satisfaction will help you build your client base.

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Catering Business Plans: Plan Ahead, Cater Later

Writing your catering business plan will get you started on a solid foundation for your business. When you have a clear plan of what you want, what you need, and what you already have, you’re well set up for success. Come back to BinWise once your plan is actionable. BinWise Pro and the BinScan mobile app can help you manage your inventory program.

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