Starting a catering
business from home
(in Ireland): step-by-step
The fact that you're reading this article probably means that you would like to start your own catering business (in Ireland).
Free ordering system for your food business from homeLearn more
Whether you bake cookies or deep-fry chicken like nobody else, your cakes are fit for The Great Irish Bake Off, or maybe you are considering a complete career switch. Starting your own catering business is less difficult than it seems.
Food safety and hygiene
It can certainly be beneficial to take an (online) course on this subject if it is entirely new to you. If you are already familiar with it, then you can also create your own HACCP food safety plan.
You can also use an officially recognized hygiene code developed by the industry.
In all cases, you must make an appointment with your local HSE office, to see if your home is suitable for your home chef business. This is also the organisation that you register your business with. Nowadays, this can also be done online via their website.
To give you an idea, online courses and exams are offered for a fee ranging from 50-85 euros to about 200-285 euros. The lowest rates are only available online, but higher amounts sometimes include a half-day on location.
Fortunately, you do not need a complete second kitchen to run your home catering business. However, it is important to keep your business and personal products well separated. In this regard, a second refrigerator or freezer may not be a bad investment.
Marketing and promotion
Today, Instagram, but also TikTok and Facebook, are essential to promote your catering business. Especially if you are savvy and can create fun content (photos and videos) around your business and products, this can significantly boost your sales.
Many home cooks say that in the beginning, it helps to follow many other home cooks on Instagram. This gives you a good idea of the community; others may also follow you back.
It is also recommended to ask family and friends to like, follow, and share your page.
What you need to focus on especially, is how people will place orders with you. You don't need to build a whole website; a simple order page is more than enough in combination with your Instagram.
You can create such a free page with free delivery software Vev. You can easily indicate which products you sell, offer pickup or self-delivery (and indicate whether delivery is free, what you charge, and set your delivery area), and also accept online payments.
A good example is sushi entrepreneur Kai: He uses both his feed and stories cleverly to tell his customers about his offerings. You can go directly to his order page from the link in his bio.
This way, you avoid a lot of confusion, and the customer knows immediately when they can place an order.
Customer service and communication
Okay, you don't need to set up a customer service department. But good communication for your customers is important. Timely and professional responses to questions about allergies and other questions that customers have are essential to building trust with your customers.
We advise being easily reachable via DMs (on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok). This way, you can quickly and easily communicate with customers on the platform where they are likely already seeing your content. It lets you respond in real-time and address customer problems or concerns immediately.
Building informal relationships via DMs can also work in your favor later. It is a smart and easy way to share special offers or promotions with loyal customers.
By providing excellent customer service and effective communication through channels such as Instagram DMs, you build a strong relationship with your customers and increase the chance of success for your home catering business.
Product offering and pricing
Choosing an attractive product offering and determining the right pricing is essential when setting up a successful home catering business.
Choosing your specialties
Focusing on your culinary strengths and specialties is important when creating your product offering. This can range from homemade cakes and cookies to exotic dishes and healthy meals.
Make sure you have a varied selection that fits the needs and tastes of your target audience. Listen to your instincts, but avoid having too large of a menu.
Ask yourself with everything: what do I want to be known for? And deliver that! The more specific, the better.
Determining prices and possible offers
When determining prices for your products, it is important to consider the costs of ingredients, your time, packaging, and any delivery/purchasing costs. Ensure your prices are competitive but also offer sufficient profit margins to keep your business profitable.
Consider offering special promotions or deals to attract new customers or reward existing customers for their loyalty. This can come in the form of discounts, loyalty programs, or temporary deals.
Ensure these offers are clearly communicated through your marketing channels, such as your Instagram account and order page.
By carefully determining your product offering and pricing, you can lay a solid foundation for the success of your home catering business.
Make sure to regularly evaluate and adjust your offering based on customer feedback and changing market conditions to help your business grow and thrive."
Orders and delivery
Efficient and reliable handling of orders and delivery is crucial for the success of your home catering business. Here are some important aspects to consider:
Pick-up and delivery options
Offer your customers different options for receiving their orders. You can choose to have customers only pick up their orders at a specific time slot (or time frame). Or you can also offer delivery of orders to customers.
You can also offer a mix of both, even if you are the only one running your business.
For example, a sushi chef who works with Vev offers the option to pick up the order between 4:30 pm and 5:00 pm. From 5:30 pm, he jumps on his bike and delivers his last order by 6:30 pm at the latest.
Independent delivery of orders is possible through the smart and free software of Vev. You provide your own address, then indicate what mode of transport you use and how many minutes you want to travel at most.
Based on that, your delivery area is set up. Customers then enter their own address to see if you deliver to their location.
For setting up delivery costs, you have four options, which you can also mix and match. You can charge a standard price for your delivery (such as 2 euros). You can charge a price per kilometer, calculated from your home address - for example, 35 cents.
You can also specify that a minimum amount must be ordered to place a delivery order. Finally, you can offer free delivery from a certain amount.
Planning and organization
Ensure a streamlined planning and organization of your orders to ensure that you can meet your customers' expectations.
This includes keeping track of orders, planning preparation time, and coordinating delivery times. If you do not use free order software such as Vev, it is important to keep good manual administration with hand or other tools.
Payments and administration
It's important to have a reliable and user-friendly system for processing payments and keeping records. With Vev, it is possible to link to the payment partner Stripe. This is a free service that allows you to receive online payments.
The advantage of this is that all orders in your Vev system are immediately labeled as 'paid' and 'not paid'. This way, you can see exactly who still needs to pay.
Even if you receive the money through a bank transfer or other channel (such as cash), you can still mark the payment as 'paid'. This way, you never lose track.
An ordering system also prevents problems with your tax return because you can easily go back and forth in time. You can see exactly what you delivered, to which customer, and on which day. The Vev system is completely (!) free to use.
Tips for successful entrepreneurship
Running a successful home-based catering business requires more than just preparing delicious dishes and providing excellent service. Here are some tips to help you succeed as an entrepreneur:
Networking and collaborations: Build relationships with other entrepreneurs, suppliers, and potential customers in your industry and the local community. You can also do this digitally through Instagram or Facebook groups. Networking can help you expand your reach, discover new opportunities, and enter valuable collaborations. You can also consider participating in local events or attending entrepreneurship meetings. Since everyone needs to eat, it's a perfect way to promote your business.
Continuous improvement and growth: Strive for continuous improvement and growth of your catering business. This may mean learning new skills, expanding your offerings, improving your marketing strategy, or implementing new technologies. Always listen to customer feedback and be willing to adapt and change to meet the needs of your target audience.
Manage your work-life balance One of the challenges of running a home-based catering business is finding the right balance between work and personal life. Make sure to spend enough time on your personal life and self-care to avoid burning out. Set boundaries and clearly agree with yourself and your family about work hours and personal time. This helps you stay focused and motivated and allows you to succeed in your business and personal life.
By implementing these tips, you are well on your way to building and growing a successful home-based catering business. Stay curious, resilient, and willing to work hard, and you will reap the rewards of your efforts.