I’ve been working at my BBQ skills for several years now, using my friends and family as taste testers. They’re always impressed with how the food turns out, and frequently tells me to start a BBQ catering business. Making great BBQ is something I enjoy doing, and I could make money doing it. Through a bit of investigation, and talking to someone that has gone through the process, I compiled the key steps I would need to follow to start my own BBQ catering business.
Become A Certified Food Manager
First, I will need to take a class to learn how to safely handle food and become a certified food manager (CFM). Classes are offered around the state throughout the year. The cost varies by the service offering the class, but they are about $150 on average. Upon completion of the full day class, I will submit an application to the state for my CFM certificate along with another $45.
When starting a business, it’s wise to separate the business from your personal life. By registering the business as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), I would limit my personal liability in case someone gets sick eating my food and decides to sue. Registering my business online as an LLC would carry a $45 annual fee.
Buy Liability Insurance
To protect my business against lawsuits, I’ll want to purchase liability insurance. A ballpark figure for a small business with myself as the only employee is between $500 and $900 annually.
All food served as part of a catering business must be prepared in a commercial kitchen in the state of Minnesota. This is the largest stumbling block for most people looking to start their own food industry business. The kitchen must comply with all state commercial building codes, and must be inspected and certified as a commercial kitchen. It cannot be the kitchen in my home. It can be in part of the same physical structure, but the space cannot be in the same living space (room). Most people look for a kitchen already setup to rent, or they find a church that has a certified commercial kitchen and work out a deal for use of their facilities. Whether I’m renting an existing facility, or building my own, acquiring use of a commercial kitchen is likely the most expensive part of this venture.
I will also need all the equipment to transport and serve food at the right temperatures, hot or cold. I talked to someone that has aspirations of being a licensed BBQ caterer who spent nearly $1,500 to buy everything needed to do buffet parties of 200-300 people.
Once I believe I have everything in place, it’s time to get my caterer’s license. Who issues this license depends upon your state and local laws. In Minnesota, I would get my license from my county and year round operation will cost me about $700. This is also where my state health department will get involved to inspect the kitchen I’m using as well as my catering equipment.
- Certified Food Manager Certification (class + certificate): $195
- LLC Registration: $45
- Insurance (low end): $500
- Equipment: $1,500
- Catering License: $700
Total : $2,940
I would need close to $3,000, and that’s not including the variable cost of finding a commercial kitchen to rent.
There are a lot of things that need to be done to start a food catering business. It’s not as easy as just packaging the delicious BBQ I make in my backyard for sale. My state is known for having some of the most stringent requirements, but the process is likely very similar in other states. But if you believe in your product, you can use this as an outline, research and follow your state’s requirements and you’ll be on your way to building a successful food catering business!
Have you started your own food industry business? What was your experience?