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Ways To Make Money From: Catering And Cooking

Catering And Cooking

EVERYONE HAS TO eat, so there’s always a gap in the market for a new catering business or food product. Catering and cooking don’t necessarily require great skills, nor do you need to invest in expensive cooking apparatus. There are plenty of catering businesses that people run successfully from the comfort of their homes, using basic kitchen utensils. When equipment is required there are ways to minimize the cost, such as buying secondhand or reconditioned goods.

Here are 20 catering and cooking opportunities guaranteed to whet the appetite of any aspiring entrepreneur.

  1. Sandwich making

One of the simplest and the most lucrative catering opportunities is sandwich making. Setting up a stall or shop near local businesses will guarantee substantial passing lunchtime trade. Workers snatching a bite to eat during their lunch break represent a virtually captive market, so the closer your premises to large firms and the less competition there is nearby, the higher the prices you can charge.

Offer a basic range of items initially, preparing the fillings and buttering the rolls in readiness for the lunchtime rush. You can offer drinks and other snacks too, such as crisps and fruit, or even hot pies and pasties if you have a microwave oven handy.

Try to gauge the tastes of your customers – you may want to provide more exotic and / or health oriented sandwiches if your customers are affluent office workers. Since the main bulk of your trade is around lunchtime you need only open for a few hours a day, so this is an ideal part-time operation. The great thing about sandwich making is that you don’t need much in the way of catering equipment and the basic ingredients are easy and inexpensive to buy in bulk. Don’t forget that – as with any other catering business – you must keep your kitchen spotlessly clean.

  1. Delivery service

A profitable add-on to making sandwiches is to deliver to local businesses. Start by producing a menu / price list and distribute this to nearby firms. Customers can then phone in their requirements. Add a percentage to the price of each item to cover delivery costs – you’ll find that you can add a fairly large mark-up since you are offering convenience.

If you don’t have your own vehicle employ a driver who does, while you take the orders over the phone and prepare the sandwiches.

  1. Mobile catering

Instead of preparing food in your kitchen, why not take kitchen with you? Things like fish and chip vans, hot dog and kebab stalls, and coffee and tea stands all make money because they are able to set up close to their customers. Outside shopping centres and markets, close to crowds at sports  events and concerts, next to pubs and clubs at closing time, at the beach or park, at a car boot sale… you can set up anywhere with a good flow of people.

You’ll need some form of mobile stall or van, kitted out with the necessary food preparation equipment. This might include an oven, griddle or deep fat fryer, or simply a sink and kettle. Vehicles are often advertised in publications such as Exchange and Mart, the Trader, and Market Trader, or you could buy a franchise. Alternatively you could purchase an old van, caravan or small bus and convert it into a mobile kitchen yourself. Once armed with a vehicle, plus the necessary licenses, you can seek out your customers. Where you go is up to you, but if you’re there on the same days and times you’ll build up regular custom.

  1. Food on foot

Another option is to do without a vehicle and carry your food or drinks on foot. If you seek out crowds people waiting in queues, or spectators at a concert or football match for example – you have a captive market to sell to.

If it’s the middle of summer you can sell cold drinks, and if it’s winter you can sell warm pies and pasties. Snacks, sweets and sandwiches will sell well anytime.

The advantage of being on foot is that you can move around the crowds easily, to places a van couldn’t get to, selling to customers who may be hungry or thirsty but can’t make it to a shop. You can charge high prices for this reason.

To hold your goods you’ll need some form of insulated bag that you can carry on your back comfortably for long periods. A bike may be useful for getting from place to place, or to fetch more stock.

  1. Pub cooking

Pubs are getting increasingly involved in selling food, as it helps to attract punters and is highly profitable. But not all landlords have the time, experience, inclination or staff to be able to offer an enticing range of meals and bar snacks. So there are opportunities for enterprising caterers to take on the catering on behalf of local pubs.

Whether you are paid by the brewery or run it as your own separate business (with you taking the profits and paying the pub a commission) is up to you, but the pub will benefit from being able to offer food, and so will you.

  1. Vegetarian catering

Vegetarianism becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Although most restaurants realize this and provide a non-meat option there are still gaps in the market for vegetarian and vegan food.

Setting up a vegetarian café or restaurant could be hugely popular in the right area, attracting meat eaters who want to sample something different as well as vegetarians who aren’t catered for locally. To increase profitability it is worth providing a delivery service, or perhaps selling pre-cooked packaged meals via other outlets.

Other than word of mouth, useful promotional methods involve advertising in health food shops, putting up small ads or posters in shop windows and on notice boards, and even direct mailing. Since more people now realize that vegetarian food can be imaginative and exciting as well as healthy and nutritious, this is a growing market.

  1. Tasty takeaways

A portion of chips, a pizza, a kebab… chances are you’ll have eaten at least one of these in the last week. This kind of takeaway food is big business, which is exactly why you see so many chippies, pizza parlors and kebab houses along the high street. But there’s always room for more.

By purchasing secondhand equipment – or even a franchise – and finding a good site you can soon set up a top takeaway that does a roaring trade with lunch time business people and passing pub customers.

  1. Party catering

People love to put on lavish parties to entertain and impress friends and family, which means they’ll spare no expense in providing their guests with top quality cuisine. There are opportunities for outgoing entrepreneurs to take on the catering for these events.

First you’ll need to liaise with clients to discuss their requirements: the number of guests; possible menu; drinks; seating, tables, cutlery, glasses, plates and so on; and the client’s budget. You may need to hire equipment and staff, and book entertainments.

On the day you must prepare and serve the food you might require assistance with cooking, waiting on tables and washing up – clear up afterwards, and ensure all goes to plan. This requires co-ordination as well as cooking skills, but you can charge premium prices for this all-inclusive service (of course, the client may just want you to supply and deliver the food ready-cooked). Word of mouth recommendations are the best way to get clients but it is worth advertising in shop windows and local papers initially.

  1. Themed banquets

Putting on parties with a special theme – a medieval banquet, a Roman orgy or a Wild West night for example – is a fun alternative to the usual party catering. You’ll need to produce an appropriate menu, and hire and organize the venue, entertainment, costumes, waiting staff, cutlery, and so on.

It’s a good idea to market this service to businesses, since they often have social events to entertain clients and customers, motivate the sales team, or reward loyal staff, and will pay highly to have a themed event organized for them.

  1. Confectionery making

Sweets will always sell, especially if they are home made. If you have the know-how, making confectionery – chocolates, toffee, fudge, mints and boiled sweets – is something you can do in your own kitchen.

It’s a good idea to personalize the sweets in some way. By using special packaging, using lettering made from fondant icing, or even shaping them in a particular way, you can link them to the village, town or city, or a local attraction or beauty spot.

The ‘home made’ and the ‘personalized’ elements will combine to make your products perfect for local gift shops and the like, selling at premium prices. Although the market will primarily be local retailers, if you’re sweet fill a certain niche you may be able to sell them nationally or even internationally, either through chain stores or by mail order. The alternative is to sell your wares yourself at markets, craft fairs fetes, exhibitions, boot sales, and so on.

  1. Baking cakes

Making cakes is a quintessential kitchen table business. There is a ready market for celebration cakes, for birthdays, christenings, anniversaries and – most profitably – weddings. Make (or buy) either sponge or fruit bases, then use fondant icing to produce innovative designs that relate to your client’s interests – a car shaped one for an auto enthusiast, or a football shaped one  for a football fan, for example.

There are plenty of books available that will teach you the art of cake making and decorating, and will feature designs you can copy. You can sell a typical sponge birthday cake for about $10, a fruit anniversary cake for $15, and a three-tier wedding cake for up to $50.

Advertise in local shop windows and persuade local bakers and grocers to act as your agent – create a brochure from photos of previous creations and have it placed on their counters.

  1. Cooking for kids and babies

Teatime can be traumatic for many parents when their offspring won’t eat what they’ve been given. Kids’ tastes are extremely fickle, but they tend to prefer sweet and unhealthy foods rather than vegetables or fruit. But any product that becomes popular among children is likely to be extremely lucrative.

The way to become a hit with tender taste buds is to create sweet and / or strong tasting items with a fun element, using brightly colored packaging, perhaps with drawings and cartoons. If you can make the products healthy as well as fun they’ll be a hit with mums and dads too.

If you have a food processor you could create a range of baby food – the ‘healthy, homemade’ image will make it a hit with concerned parents.

  1. Creating specialty sauces

Specialty cooking sauces have all the hallmarks of the ideal product: cheap to make and selling for a high profit mark-up.

All sorts of varieties could be made using either home-grown or locally-bought produce (even if this means your local wholesaler!) – Salad dressings, spicy ethnic sauces, tomato and basil-based pasta sauces, wild herb-based sauces for meat, fish and salads, for example. Great recipes turn up all over the place, although if you have your own special once so much the better.

Get your sauces stocked in delicatessens and supermarkets, or sell by mail order to boost profits.

  1. Specialty snacks

Another thriving sector is specialty snacks. The advent of kettle chips and gourmet crisps has breathed life into the snack sector, and shows how adding and innovative slant to and already established item can create a massively successful product.

Start small if you wish, perhaps producing potato, corn, nut, dried fruit or muesli-based snacks in your kitchen and selling them through local retailers or by yourself on a market stall. If you can personalize them in some way, or find a particular demand niche, you will do well. Low fat and healthy items are becoming very popular.

  1. Organic foods

The increase in healthy eating, the GM food scare and the environmental damage caused by man-made fertilizers and insecticides has led to a growth in demand for organic produce.

A range of foods, drinks or cooking ingredients made from organically – grown produce is likely to be a high earner. Health food shops are an obvious market, although if you are more ambitious you could get your products stocked in supermarket chains, or sell them by mail order.

  1. Cheese

Traditionally-made cheese is the kind of product that goes down a storm with food lovers, who’ll pay highly for it delicatessens, cheese shops and the more upmarket supermarket counters.

Cheese made locally in small amounts has far more character than the mass-produced factory-made brands, and hence sells at higher prices. You might want to buy or make wooden churns and use old fashioned techniques to make your products.

This is a rewarding part-time operation that has the potential to become your main income earner.

  1. Sausages

Sausages are another popular food you can make yourself at home. The average customer would rather eat a tasty sausage made from local products using traditional methods than a bland mass-produced variety. Of course, you can sell your product at a higher price, giving you a healthy profit margin, and still convince your customers they are getting value for money.

As well as getting them stocked in butcher’s shops and deli’s try getting local restaurants to put them on their menu – it’ll be good publicity.

  1. Pickled foods

Top quality gourmet pickles hand-made from the finest ingredients – chilies, oranges, ginger, figs and beer – are likely to be a big hit with discerning customers.

Pickling foods, putting them in jars and adding your own brand sticker is something you could easily do from home. Obtain a book or two on the subject from your library and start practicing. Practically anything can be pickled, so if you pick the right product and the right recipe this could prove profitable!

  1. Pet foodstuffs

If you culinary efforts prove unfit for human consumption, why not sell it as pet food?

Seriously, there are possibilities for using cheaply made / purchased ingredients and repacking it for pets. Nuts can be places in net bags and sold as bird feeders, or you could bake cakes made from the bird seed. Meat offcuts could be recycled as quality dog and cat food, and bones, ears and tails used as dog chews. Pet shops and hardware stores are the obvious sales options.

  1. Devising recipes and cookery books

Like most things, if you are particularly good at something you can make money from teaching others how to do it. Cookery books are no exception. Why not gather together some recipes you have devised yourself and publish them as a book?

A simple 20-page photocopied booklet sold for a few pounds will suffice, if you use photographs and get the book professionally printed you can charge more and earn more money on each book.

If you’re a real culinary expert you could film an instruction video. Your books / videos could be sold on a mail order basis and / or sold in bookshops, food stores and gift shops.

Catering: Legal requirements

There are various legal requirements for anyone operating a catering-related business:

  • You must register all food premises with your local council Environmental Health department at least 28 days before you start trading, according to the 1991 Food Premises Regulations. These details are held for public inspection by your local authority.
  • You may need a catering license – the requirements vary from place to place, but your council Environmental Health, Commercial Services and / or Trading standards department will inform you of the local regulations.

If you intend to employ anyone else in your business there are further considerations:

  • Anyone who handles food must receive appropriate training, according to the 1995 Food Safety Regulations.
  • You will also need Employer’s Liability Insurance – you must display the certificate on your premises at all times.

Further Information

  • Mobile and Outside Caterers Association: 0121 693 7000
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: 0171 270 8080
  • Department of Agriculture (Northern Ireland): 01232 524392
  • HMSO (have a range of booklets covering food laws): 0171 233 0011
  • Food From Britain (deals with food exports and the development of speciality food and drink businesses in the UK): 0171 233 5111
  • Welsh Food Promotion: 01222 640456
  • Scottish Enterprise: 0141 24802700

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