How To Set Up Your Own Food Business

If you love food and engaging with people catering could be your opportunity

Catering in its many forms is big business; from restaurants to gastro pubs, to specialist street food and cupcake shops and sushi bars there’s a food related opportunity that just might be right for you. There are various steps to consider of course, so let’s take a look at some:

Why food?

You need to ask yourself some soul searching questions as preparing and selling food is a full on, energy sapping business enterprise that will almost certainly require a big commitment of time, effort and maybe money.

Maybe you’re seeking a business opening and have identified a food related one as an ideal opportunity? Maybe you already work in catering and want to spread your wings in the context of starting your own business?

If you decide a food business is preferable to other types of enterprise, or you simply love the industry and want to be part of it, then it’s a matter of what sort.

Your type of food business

Maybe you’ve identified a gap in your local market for something you could offer. For example, perhaps many businesses and organisations operate in a closely defined geographical area with no real supplier of lunch time fare, or there’s no pleasant cafe in your local town’s busy centre for people to take a time out and grab a bite and a coffee?

Maybe you’ve seen the growth of street food and feel there’s a way in for you? Or perhaps an opportunity to take over the catering concession at a certain workplace or club has arisen and you’re interested?

Be careful of trying to be a pioneer; the fact there’s no sushi bar or cupcake shop in your local town may be for a good reason in that there’s no sustainable demand for it.

Be honest and realistic when contemplating what type of direction to take unless you’re already certain. For example, if you’re interested in starting a mobile catering type of business there are pros and cons.

What to consider when setting up

Legalities – there’s a lot of environmental and food safety legislation to adhere to so you’ll need to ensure you comply with your local authority’s regulations in this regard. This applies whether you’re running from a premises, preparing food in your own kitchen, or operating out of a stall or van.

You’ll need to register your premises with your authority’s environmental health service about a month before starting up.

Licensing – check what licenses you may need as these vary according to the type of food business you’re going to run. Preparing and serving food from a van or stall or selling alcohol will require specific licences – again check with your local authority or with this ‘licence finder’ tool on the Gov.UK website.

Premises – having decided on your premises type whether a sandwich bar, a van, or taking over existing kitchen premises as in providing catering at a club or work place you’ll need to ensure at least the following:

  • Keep the premises clean and in good repair according to current food standards and health and safety regulations
  • Protect against contamination and pests
  • Maintain records of all suppliers

In terms of keeping a premises clean to the latest environmental standards if it’s a commercial premises such as a works kitchen or similar, then it may be worth engaging the services of specialist food production cleaning companies.

Insurance – a key element of your food business planning; you’ll require insurance to protect against any possible theft or damage to your equipment or premises and any compensation claims from customers.

Don’t forget employee’s liability insurance if you employ any staff.

Marketing and branding – a key step and worth investing in so don’t be tempted to compromise or cut corners.

Your brand – you want to be appealing to your market so the right branding is key; are you looking to cultivate a funky image to appeal to a younger clientele? Is something upmarket more your desire? The effect you seek can be provided in your logo, colour scheme and promotional materials such as flyers, cards, advertising and website.

Online marketing – with so much possible online at reasonable costs you can reach your target market effectively without necessarily spending fortunes. Running a blog on your website is a good way of promoting you and your brand and ‘speaking’ directly to potential and actual customers, and local online marketing can help your potential customers find you and get in touch.

While it’s hard work and takes a major commitment, there’s something very satisfying about providing a useful service and interacting with many different people during the course of your work time – not to mention the look enjoyment on their faces as they tuck into your delicious food.

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