Six Steps To Starting Your Own Catering Business

by Travis Pizel · 6 comments

I’ve been working on 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.

Commercial Kitchen

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 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 set up to rent or find a church with 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.

Catering Equipment

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.

Catering License

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.

Expenses Of Starting Business:

  • 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?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Mr. Ging says:

    I’ve recently been looking into the requirements for something similar in California. Here, you can’t even store the materials in your home, you must rent cabinet space in the commercial kitchen, or somewhere; or just buy exactly what you need immediately prior to going to the kitchen. I’ve found that regulations vary from county to county as well. Some states have a cottage law that allows small operations to make food in the home, but not CA.

    Have you looked at the checklist the inspector will use for the inspection before granting the catering license? The one I saw for setting up a booth (at a fair, farmers market, etc.) required a handwashing station (no, instant hand sanitizer does not qualify), and other things you might not realize they’re looking for. It helps inform your equipment needs and budget.
    Have fun and best of luck 🙂

    • Travis says:

      I did see the checklist, and I remember seeing the handwashing station for my state as well. There’s also water disposal requirements and a whole other host of things that sounds bad, but it’s just a matter of pounding through them. There’s a lot to think about, but it can be done!

      • David @ says:

        I like the can-do attitude you have there Travis. Keep us updated on this and one day I may have to come over to have some BBQ!

  • Tamar says:

    Starting a business can be daunting if one thinks of all the costs involved…I am doing great but I can’t yet afford to buy catering equipment so we rent out every time we have an even to cater for. This way it saves us a lot of costs and with every even we get to make extra to save for our own catering equipment one day.

  • MrRicket says:

    I’m hungry now 😛 Good luck with your business!


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