You have the talent for cooking, an eye for business, and the passion to make your catering business work—now all you need is the right gear. You’ve probably already started a list of must-haves, but it’s easy to forget things here and there.
Here are a few items you’ll need at the start of your catering business.
Permits, Licenses, and Registrations
While this isn’t exactly gear, it’s an essential component of a catering business that you don’t want to skip. Failing to get the appropriate paperwork could result in you being shut down—perhaps in the middle of preparing for a huge event!
You’ll need to register your business with your state and then the IRS to get your federal tax identification number. Then, check with your city for any licenses and permits you’ll need to open your business.
The types of permits you’ll need vary, but it can be an extensive process to gather them all. Food safety is taken very seriously throughout the United States, and there are often many hoops to jump through before you can get started. Take care of this first thing to make sure everything else goes smoothly.
Van or SUV
All the food for a given event will be prepared in your pre-inspected cooking facilities, and then it must be transported to the event. Your responsibility is to transport the food in a sanitary container without incident.
You’ll need a specially retrofitted van or SUV to do the job. As you’re starting out, it’s often easier to install shelves, straps, and food stabilizer mechanisms in a vehicle of your own purchasing. With time, you can save up to buy a vehicle that’s pre-designed for catering purposes.
Many caterers also find it useful to add an additional hitch cargo box, such as this one, to the back of their vehicle. This enables you to store things like propane tanks or Bunsen burners away from the food for sanitary purposes.
Make sure you put the name of your company and your logo on the car. Not only does this signal professionalism to your clients when you deliver the food, but it also serves as useful advertising to attract future customers.
Mobile Refrigeration Units
One of the most important components of transferring food from your kitchen to an event is a mobile refrigeration unit. Even if you have a refrigerator installed in your vehicle, you may not have a place to put your cold items when you arrive.
For most events, a simple, two-door commercial refrigerator unit like this one will serve your purposes. It has wheels for easy transport as well as a stainless-steel countertop for additional workspace.
If you’re catering massive events or outdoor parties, you may need a much larger refrigeration unit, like this trailer. It provides ample space for any event, so you don’t have to worry about your hard work spoiling at any point.
You’re probably aware that you need warming pans or chafing dishes so that you can serve hot food to your clients, but you might be unsure about which pans to get.
The size is the first consideration. Half-size chafing dishes are typical for small to medium-size buffet-style parties because they’re easy for guests to serve themselves. Larger parties may require a large round, 7-quart chafer with an employee serving the meals.
You’ll also want to think about the type of heating you’ll use for the dishes. Traditionally, you have the choice of induction, electric, or traditional Bunsen burner. Consider the kinds of venues you’ll typically be serving—an outdoor party, for example, might make an electric warming pan obsolete.
It’s also important to remember that chafing pans are not designed to cook food. They are for warming purposes only, so if you need the ability to cook on the go, you’ll want to bring alternate arrangements.
There are many more items you’ll need to run a successful catering business, but these few will get you started without overwhelming you. After you’ve checked these items off your list, continue your research, gathering everything you’ll need for an effective catering company.