I really like your idea of starting small. You can invest in a setup to do 100 folks, get licensed and insured for a reasonable price.
Most importantly, talk with your Health Department. See what you need to become a caterer. One of the things they may say you need is a licensed kitchen. That can immediately change the game. Look for kitchens to rent or incubator kitchens.
We have two incubator kitchens neat Minneapolis. It's simply a kitchen that different businesses cook out of. Rent per use, or minimum use fee of $120 monthly.
The HD may also require you to have a food safety license. Thats an easy one day class in the US.
Another thing to consider since you are talking about making or purchasing additional smokers. Some states require an NSF(may be different in UK) certified smoker. That will increase your startup cost again. NSF smokers are generally more expensive than pits out there. In MN, there is a work-around I use which allows me to cook on a trailered Pitmaker Vault(non-NSF).
In terms of equipment for , here are a few starters:
- 4 chafing dishes(think 1 for your protein, 2 for sides, and one for misc.)
- 8 pans(for chafing dishes)
- 1 thermo box
- 1 large cooler
- large cutting board(HD's regulate what material can be used)
- 2 boning knives, 1 French knife, 1 stone
- 4 sauce bottles
- 2 - 6' or 8' tables
- biz cards
- start telling people you cater
- make samples for buinesses
- I am starting to target staffing agencies, because they are constantly buying lunches for their clients and potential clients.
I am on my second year of catering. Started very small with farmers markets. Got one wedding, one graduation, and a couple corporate vending dates.
This year we already have one wedding, one graduation, two consistent corporate vending gigs, and a few festivals and beer events.
Still going slow and steady.
2 - WSM 18.5, 1 - WSM 22.5, and 1 - ECB Smoke n Pit.