Start at the bottom by acquiring personal experience.
No matter how hard you study at school to learn the basic skills needed in food presentation and catering service, nothing beats having personal experience. This said, if you're really serious about being a caterer in the future, it's important to learn the know-how and basics of this industry by working for an established caterer first. This will also help you realize that this industry is not a glamorous job - the personal experience will help you acquire more realistic expectations about what is really involved in this business. All the glamorous food presentation aside, catering is mostly about doing physical labor and spending long hours working in the kitchen and outside of it.
Prepare your kitchen space.
Ready to start your own business? Well, apart from planning the catering menu, one of the things you should first focus on is your professional kitchen. For those who are just starting, you always have the option to transform and use your home kitchen. If you have the budget and you want to spend it more efficiently, renting a licensed commercial kitchen in your area is also highly recommended. Make sure to inquire about rental fees, as well as needed permits and license when organizing your professional kitchen.
Decide on your service fees and charges.
When setting up your prices for menu packages and inclusive catering services, you can consult current standard pricing of some established caterers in your area. Take note, however, that their service fees and catering charges may be higher, possibly because of their level of experience and expertise in the industry. Also consider current market prices of your catering supplies so you can set more suitable pricing for your menu. And of course, don't forget to analyze your profit and losses by making a tally of the hours you spent when you cater an event.
Apply for necessary permits and business insurance.
Catering, like any other business, needs license and necessary permit to start operations. Make sure to inquire about the requirements for application in your local district office before going full operations. Also remember to have business insurance - this will help you cover expenses and commercial liabilities to your clients or guests should there be negative consequences caused or resulting from your services in any way. Of course, don't forget to include insurance for your employees at the same time.
Invest in catering equipment.
If you don't have the money or you're planning to allot your budget to more urgent necessities, you can still invest in catering equipment without breaking the bank. Apart from buying brand new equipment, you have 2 other options when it comes to your catering needs: buy second-hand items or go for rental ones. Both of these are actually practical and reasonable, you simply have to find reputable suppliers and sellers to get the equipment from. Some of the things you'll likely need are dining ware and kitchen utensils, serving trays and table linens, as well as commercial refrigeration. You can take a look at various selections of fridges and other catering equipment available for rent to save time and money.
Spread word about your business.
Other than traditional advertising strategies (namely posting ads on bulletin boards, magazines, newspapers, etc.), the most cost-effective way of promoting small start-up businesses is through online media. Utilizing your social networking accounts online (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) can help you establish a target market for your business. You can also start spreading the word through your social circle. Getting good words and referrals from friends can definitely help boost and establish your business's credibility.
Continue the learning experience.
Every event you cater to will serve as a learning experience, but attending seminars and workshops can surely help you learn more about the secrets of this trade. Apart from training opportunities, it's also advisable to apply for memberships in some reputable catering organizations in your area. Aside from having the opportunity to learn from and get in touch with other caterers, these affiliations can also help you in establishing a good image in this industry.