Are you thinking of running your own catering business?

If your passion in life is food, you must have wondered about the possibility of turning your hobby into a business. Estimated to be worth £1billion per year by Ibis World, running a food outlet could prove to be lucrative if you get it right. This infographic reveals that only 40% of independent restaurants make it to the end of their first year, so you need to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.
There’s a lot to consider though, so at Banksford, we’ve put together a summary of the key things you’ll need to know.

Before you start
There are a lot of food outlets out there, so you need to make sure yours is going to cater (excuse the pun) for a need which exists. Perhaps you’re thinking of a specific type of food, or you’re directing your business at a particular audience? Check out the competition, get a feel for their style, prices and market. It may even help you identify a gap in their market. This preparation will help you to move on to the next step.

Writing your business plan
Your business plan is particularly important if you’re seeking financial backing from the bank, or looking for investors. Even if you’re not looking for start-up finance, it will help keep you focused in the early days of running your service.

It should cover:
1. A description of your catering service
2. The type and amount of space you need
3. A list of the equipment you need to have
4. Additional costs, such as insurance, phone and broadband
6. Your marketing strategy

One of the prime causes of catering business failure is lack of marketing knowledge, so don’t underestimate it. There are some excellent suggestions on this page.

To see a very comprehensive business plan example from a specialist catering provider, click here.

Choose a venue
If you’re working from home, this bit is already done. Make sure your equipment is up to scratch (more on that later), and you’re ready to go.
If it’s a commercial premises you’re looking for, it’s up to you to make sure it’s suitable. Don’t be lured in by a low rent – you’ll need to factor in utility costs, rates and any service charges. Think about how it could work for you. Does the layout seem appropriate? Is there enough storage?
If you’re running a restaurant where customers will be coming in, consider how many tables you canfit in, any access for disabled customers, toilet facilities and fire exits.
Commercial food outlets will have a classification, which may or may not need to be altered to fit the business you’re operating.

Common choices for food businesses are:
• A1 – Retail, including packaged food
• A3 – Cafés – but check the exact wording as there are restrictions
• A4 – Pubs or bars which will serve alcohol
• A5 – Hot food takeaways

Get registered
Now it starts to get official. Your next step is to complete the Food Business Registration form online, which has to be done at least 28 days before you begin operating. Registration is free, but must be done for every address where you’ll be preparing food.

Once you’re registered, it’s time to tackle your employment status. If it’s just you on your own, you’re going to be a sole trader, so head over to the
and set up as a sole trader. If you’re starting a business with employees, it’s slightly different, and you may trade as a limited company. Register here and pay the £12 set up fee.

Play by the rules
Your local council’s Environmental Health department are needed now, so get in touch with them and let them know your intentions. You’re probably aware of their role, their first job is to come and inspect your kitchen to ensure it meets their standards. They’ll be looking at things like proof of well maintained food preparation surfaces, facilities to keep chilled food at the correct temperature, and washing amenities. Working from home? You can also expect to be asked about hygiene risks from pets and visitors, and how your lighting and ventilation will cope with the demands of a commercial kitchen.

It would be a good idea to go over some of the laws regarding food preparation at this stage – if you
haven’t done so already. Have a look at the Food Standards Agency website for their guide to what you should know, and make sure you’re aware of the Food Safety Regulations.

Get qualified
Now you’ve put the basics in place, it’s time to get the qualification you must have if you’re going to be granted permission to run a catering business. Expect to pay about £100 per course, and allow a full working day. Courses are run by the Chartered Institute of Environmental
and the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS). Without these qualifications, neither you nor your staff will be allowed to be involved in commercial food preparation, so make sure that everyone in your business is working within the law and has their certification.

Get stocked up
Obviously, you’ll be looking to purchase ingredients on a fairly regular basis, but don’t forget things like fire extinguishers, safety signs and stationery.
When you accept any delivery of food for commercial use, it’s not like signing for a parcel at home. Every delivery must be logged, with a note of the supplier, the date of the delivery and what was in the delivery. In the unfortunate event that someone is unwell as a result of your food, you will then have the means to trace back the ingredients or supplier that might have been at fault. It’s all about accountability.

With the legal requirements covered, you can shop for the equipment you identified in your business plan. If you’re working from home, you’ll probably have a lot of the equipment already. If not – or if you’re expanding your home setup – you’ll want the kit to cope with demand. Cookware, utensils and consumables should be on the list, along with the right chef wear. It’s really important to have the right uniform for your business, not only to keep you safe but to help you get into work mode.

In conclusion
The best businesses are those which come from the heart, so if your heart is set on entering the world of catering, why wait? Work through our printable checklist, and join Banksford’s existing customers in the world of catering and hospitality.

1) I’ve registered as a food business with my local council
2) I’ve decided whether I’m a limited company or sole trader
3) An environmental health officer has visited my premises and I have followed up their
4) I’ve studied the laws around commercial food businesses
5) Everyone working in my business has completed food safety qualifications to level two or above
6) I’m ready to record all information about my suppliers and deliveries
7) Required firefighting equipment has been installed
8) I’ve ordered my catering uniforms from Banksford