Catering Private parties only
Wondering if some folks can chime in here, particularly those in the NE Illinois area.
We have been doing some small parties for folks, largest so far was about 80-90 people (A wedding reception in WI for freinds, cooked all onsite). Private parties, on private property.
We're getting some more inquiries, so I'm thinking we should be looking at an umbrella policy for liability protection, but do we need to form an LLC or do anything else to protect ourselves? Seems like a lot of money to spend if it's only a few (10-12) parties per year? Hate to lose our profits just covering our arses!
Up till now, we've had no issues, but I don't want to lose everything to someone blaming a virus or something on our food!
Thanks in advance for the suggestions
12 parties should more than cover the expense of froming an llc. It is very cheap to do so. Insurance should be in the $500 range. Factor all the startup costs into your parties so you know you are covered. The last thing you want is to get sued personally for some bad food.
What I am hearing you wanting to do is right along my business model as a personal chef.
I would refer you to this thread:
If you read through the entire thread, you may see some similarities to your goals and those of Phil. If I'm right, I can help answer your questions even though I don't live in N.E. IL. (However,I was born on the North Shore. If that counts.) :-D
I do NOT do the traditional work of a Personal Chef. My business specializes in small events. (30-70 guests) Most of my jobs fall below the level that a full catering company will do. Around here, most caterers won't touch an event of fewer that 100 people. Though SOME of them will "reach down" to jobs of 75 guests at times. As such,for the most part, I don't compete with catering companies. In fact, some of them refer opportunities to me, and I return the favor.
Forming an LLC is well worth it, given the presumption that you have assets to protect. The cost is pretty limited. Most of the costs associated with an LLC are related to the accounting requirements, and those are mostly things you should be doing for your business anyway.
As for insurance costs, OC Pig Assassins is right on target. $500 per year should cover you well. Be VERY CAREFUL in selecting your insurance, though. Catering is a very different business from being a personal chef. Catering is mostly done off site in a commercial kitchen environment, with only the service taking place 'on site'. As a personal chef, I do most of my work "on site", with some limited prep work taking place in a commercial kitchen environment. Different business models. Different insurance needs.
If you are going to do this, I would STRONGLY encourage you to write up a formal business plan to outline what you really wish to do. Identify your target markets and goals. This will keep you from drifting outside of your 'sweet spot' by very much, and helps to keep your business on track.
We are Inc and carry insurance
You have to who would risk it all on a bad chicken?
We are a partnership that is set up as "contract cooks" per our county health code. We have a $1 million liability policy that runs us around $300 a year.
If your going to be a caterer you need to be legal and legitimate. I am not in your area and I say this with much respect but, I get a little peaved at the weekend catering warriors that want to take the money but not pay their dues!
Catering is my only living and I have to work legitimetely & legally for me and my clients., why shouldn't you or the many others that wing it and keep their fingers crossed?
Let me say this for the sake of your future clients, do it properly and do it right. Know what your doing and you better have some experience beyond a few parties that will save your a$$ when the unexpected happens. If you are not a full time food service professional there is a lot to be learned.
You will need:
Servesafe if you don't already have it
Special events permits
The financial means to make the contracted event happen should you have a major breakdown of equipment or vehicle
And most importantly the passion, the talent & the desire to do it right!
Like i said, not trying to ruffle any feathers just adding my 2 cents
ASUBBQ, I think that he's trying to 'do it right'. Go easy.
I would also point out that, depending on his state and local laws, he may NOT need everything you've outlined:
Many jurisdictions do not require SERVSafe. In CA, as a personal chef, I am NOT required to be SERVSafe certified. I have it, but it is NOT required. I do suggest that anyone who operates a food service company get SERVSave certified; required or not.
Depending on the situation, he may be able to rent time in a certified commercial kitchen. (Some jurisdictions even allow people to build a separate kitchen in their home and have that certified by the state.) Owning a commercial kitchen is not required for this business. Most of my professional peers start by renting time in a commercial kitchen before ever thinking about buying or building one. I personally get access to one by donating services to the local schools. They grant me access to their kitchens pretty much as I need it. (Yes, my ServSafe certification allows this to happen, and without it, I could NOT use their facilities.)
Private functions do not always require a 'special events permit' in CA, and many other states. In CA, if you are not using a public facility or public lands for the private event, there is no need for a special events permits. Other states may be different.
In CA, Workers Comp is only needed IF you have employees. All of the people who I hire to assist with my events are 'contract workers', and viewed as independent contractors. They are thus NOT employees of my company, so no WC requirement. Again, this works in CA, and may not be the case in every state.
Each state and each business is different. Being a part of a nation wide professional organization has enlightened me to some of the differences in how this industry is regulated across the US. I STRONGLY recommend that everyone thinking about becoming a caterer or personal chef join one of these professional groups. IME they provide value well beyond the limited annual membership fee.
I'm more than willing to share my own experiences. That said, I KNOW that the rules I have to operate under do NOT apply to everyone, and make every effort NOT to portray these as default guidelines. Always check with your state and local regulatory agencies.
While I may not have the opportunity to do catering full time does not make my operation any less important.
Yes, I do it legally, not only to protect my clients, but also myself and family.
Please remember that this site is all about helping each other, not trying to rip them down for asking questions. I'm sure that when you started you NEVER made a mistake, NEVER had to ask questions, and NEVER helped out a friend by cooking for him before you had every thing in place.
I'm sorry, but your post hit me wrong and yes, it ruffled my feathers.
I echo Jeff's sentiments. This section or no section on this site is for ripping someone a new one for asking questions. Bretheren and sisteren need to be able to think out loud here without negative repercussions. Folks are welcome to post here as long as it is respectful and helpful to all.
Guys (and Gals),
Let's lighten up a bit. I believe ASU when he says that he's not tying to ruffle feathers. I also can understand how he may well have a bit of a frustration level with un-professional caterers poaching business from time to time. This would be especially true if he's recently lost a business opportunity in this way.
Even part time professional chefs and caterers feel the affect of non-professionals mucking up the market place. As a someone who makes a living in this business (or someone who derives extra income from it) I can tell you first hand of 'low ball' bids, poor service and food quality and customers who are leery of hiring anyone in this business. And, worst of all, it hurts EVERYONE.
As you get into doing events, the realization comes as to just how much time, effort and money is involved in doing it right. I know that my prices are fair, but what is a prospective client supposed to do when someone else comes in with a lower number? (sometimes much lower.) Do they know WHY it's lower? Probably not. Do they even ask why it's lower? Almost never. And, when the event has problems, it's too late. At the end of the day, was everything a success? Did everyone have fun? Or, god forbid, were there terminal troubles that just killed the good time for everyone?
I know that I'm going to loose out on some opportunities. It's the nature of the business. But, NOTHING frustrates me more than loosing an opportunity only to hear right after the event that it was a disaster for the customer. And, let me tell you, I have heard some horror stories. Sure, I lost business, but the client lost what is often times a once in a lifetime opportunity to host a special event. Graduations, mile stone birthdays, anniversary and the like just do not come around again. Making these events special for my clients is a HUGE part of why I do what I do. For ME, it is about FAR MORE than just the money.
While I may disagree with some of the comments made above, I can empathize with ASUBBQ's point of view. The difference is that I believe that most people take up this profession in an honorable way.
I suppose what I would offer is that we all try to be Constructive and Assisting with our posts and comments. The reality is that there is MORE than enough business out there for everyone who wants to follow this dream. When I started, MANY people passed on to me their experience and education to help me be the best I could be, and give me more of a running start. Those people not only helped me, and kept me from having to make their same mistakes on my own. They saved me time, money and allowed me keep what little sanity I have left. I firmly believe in mentoring others to the best of my ability, and giving back in that way. Reality is that, inevitably, I learn from the experience as well. Plus, it keeps me engaged and gives me the continued chance to learn from the experience of other people in this profession. In the end, we ALL get to be better and WE ALL WIN!
Thanks for your comments Strike Eagle. However, I am tasked with making sure this place stays amicable and that all can share what's on their mind without receiving harsh responses.
Clarification of my response and perhaps Jeff's:
This was the only time I can rememeber Stoke and Smoke posted here and I simply do not want it to be his last. There are other BBQ catering forums that thrive on harsh criticisms and we just will not stand for it here.
So, yes ASUBBQ said something that ruffled feathers, but it ain't the death sentence just an awareness by which we all should operate.
So let's all let by gones be by gones and have a virtual beer!:cool:
Based on how you run your business from your comments, you Sir are not who my comment was directed at. If you are paying your dues as you say then you are at risk for loss the same as I.
I did offer due respect to stoke & smoke and I hope the list I included will help him or at least give some more insight into what he faces and what some of the challenges are that might lie ahead for a new catering business.
I think when profit was mentioned as a prioroty over legitimecy is when I perked up, I really meant no harm and welcome further questions from him. There is another forum where folks have a tendency to jump all over any poster that might slightly criticize, I'm really hoping this forum is different!
Regarding mistakes, I learn everyday from mistakes & experiences, I don't consider myself better than anyone else but I will speak out on what I believe is right and if you can show me I'm wrong I will learn from you!
No harm meant S & S
Thanks everyone for the great feedback!~Lot's of good info and suggestions.
I asked especially those in Illinois because I figured they would be most aquainted with what our laws are. And yes, of course I will be doing whatever I can to follow the rules.
I did not mean to suggest that profit was a priority over legitimacy. We've been asked to do some cooking for some folks who offered to pay us for our time, which, IMO, is only fair.
But the suggestions on the way to get there are all good, and of great value to me!
If any "feathers" were ruffled, I assure you that was farthest from my intent! Just that there is a tremendous pool of knowledge here and trying to tap it to get some informed opinions!
FWIW, we have cooked for freinds and family for several years, at cost, and always had nothing but compliments. Given the economy, we think, as StrikeEagle suggested, that there is room in the market for folks that cater to smaller crowds, those that caterers don't always want to be bothered with.
Of course we want to (and do) follow safe food practices, and I guarantee that our primary concern beyond safe and sanitary service is our customers' satisfaction. To suggest otherwise ....well, if I can't do it well, I don't want to bother.
I do recall seeing folks like Bigmista going from joining the local Moose and using their commercial kitchen, to having his own business (and it's been very cool watching his progress!)
I don't think there are too many folks on this site that aren't concerned with putting out the best food that they possibly can. If they weren't, most wouldn't be here.
That said, good weekend to all!
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