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What Equipment Do You Need to Start a Catering Business?

Many people with a passion for food have considered starting a catering business. You’d get to make a living by cooking what you love and operating your own company. Consider purchasing this essential catering equipment if you’re ready to get started.

1. Seating Supplies

Some venues provide seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner parties, but others don’t. You’ll likely book more clients by including seating supplies with your fees. Invest in enough tables and chairs to seat the largest parties you can handle when your business launches. As long as they match each event’s formal or casual nature, they’ll look perfectly in place when the meal begins.

2. Table-Setting Supplies

You’ll have to choose which types of foods and events you’ll cater before your business opens. Your choices will affect how your staff will set the tables for each client. You won’t need white and red wine glasses if you cater pancakes for breakfast. Consider what you’ll serve and get the proper table-setting supplies for your clients, like tablecloths, placemats, linen napkins and silverware.

3. A Catering Van

Your cook and waitstaff won’t be able to reach your scheduled events without a company van. You’ll need to invest in a vehicle sizable enough to transport your essential kitchen supplies, dinnerware, seating and potential employees.

You could always get a used van and schedule upfitting appointments to find a more budget-friendly vehicle while your business is still getting off the ground. Some companies will perform custom fabrication and include warranties for repairs. You’ll want a plan that covers basics like painting and suspension work to protect your catering company’s mobility.

4. The Proper Glassware

People wouldn’t want to book a catering company that served juice in teacups or milk in martini glasses. Ensure you have the proper glassware to serve the beverages on your menu. Standard glassware will work if you’ll offer mainly water, juices and sodas. Liquors like bourbon require Glencairn or rocks glasses, depending on the drinks served.

Once you have a list of the proper glassware, multiply it by how many people will need those glasses at each event to order enough for everyone. It’s also wise to get extras in case some break during transport.

5. Dinnerware Sets

Every type of catering party requires dinnerware. Your clients will need plates and bowls to dine with their guests. Match your available dishes to your event’s formality. Fine china would look strange at a backyard barbecue. Get enough for one guest to order a full meal and some extra pieces in case the others break.

6. Robust Coolers

Even if you never serve at an outdoor event, your catering team will likely need large stand-alone coolers. They complement any refrigerators or freezers that come with a venue’s kitchen so you can always find room for ingredients or prepared dishes. They’ll also come in handy if you have to move things outdoors because the provided kitchen is too small to fit everything. 

7. Transport Supplies

Your company may find it more advantageous to prepare meals before arriving at venues. You might need more time to set everything up, and the facility may not even have a kitchen.

Transport supplies save the day when this occurs. Food pan carriers and glass racks ensure everything stays safe on the road. Coolers and insulated bags also keep things at optimum temperatures. You’ll only need kitchen equipment like coolers and freezers to maintain the quality of your food after unloading it.

8. Serving Equipment

The serving equipment your catering business will need also depends on the food you serve. Consider your menu items and invest in equipment such as:

  • Trays
  • Chafers and fuel
  • Tray stands
  • Food pans
  • Serving utensils 

You’ll quickly gain a positive professional reputation if you have everything prepared for your first client. Your staff will also appreciate that they’ll have everything they need to serve everyone. Stocking up on backup supplies for quickly used things like chafer fuel will also come in handy when your company calendar gets busy.

9. Staff Uniforms

People who sign with a catering business expect workers who show up for their event to look professional. Your team shouldn’t arrive in mismatched clothes that don’t match the formality of each party.

It’s best to assign staff uniforms, even if your employees don’t wear the same clothes. A dress code outlining the need for matching pants and button-down shirts goes a long way for your business reputation. 

Your staff will also need equipment like single-use gloves for each event, aprons for the kitchen staff and servers, and hair nets. They’re continual costs you can count in your long-term budget to maintain your catering company’s positive reviews.

10. Cleaning Supplies

Remember that it will be your team’s job to clean up after your events. You won’t have to restore the entire venue, but you’ll need to wash your supplies and pack everything for the road. Buy enough equipment like garbage bags, cleaning sprays, paper towels and sponges. You’ll need them in your van for each event, as it’s more professional than asking the facility to provide them.

Start Your Dream Catering Business

Make a list of the equipment you’ll need for your catering business based on your menu. Whether you serve five-star meals or backyard parties, you’ll always have what you need to please your clients and build your company’s reputation.

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