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Catering, Vending and Cooking For The Masses. this forum is OnTopic. A resource to help with catering, vending and just cooking for large parties. Topics to include Getting Started, Ethics, Marketing, Catering resources, Formulas and recipes for cooking for large groups.


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Unread 02-14-2011, 08:53 PM   #1
nrok2118
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Default Newbie Questions, Is It Worth It?

Ive been entertaining the notion of spending a few grand on a trailered smoker to have the ability to do small events and other personal ventures. I take tons of pride in making food for any size get together. Ive always had a passion for cooking and have been thinking about the idea of eventually dabbling with catering.

Well what do ya know, someone put up their rig on CL yesterday. Its a Meadow Creek TS-250 w/ warming box on a large flat trailer along with a BBQ-42 Charcoal Chicken Cooker and a little 3 burner propane grill. It seems ideal as a great starter since you have a large smoker plus the ability to do other various foods like chicken, burgers, etc.

So is there a PROFIT to be made from casual catering? Can I justify this investment with the notion I can at least make my money back doing parties and small events? From there hopefully I get a name out and try to go full legit and be able to feed the general public (I might have an IN with the HD, or at least someone to help me out) Though as I say that, how much money roughly does it cost to go legal?

Basically its been a fun idea Ive been entertaining, but with the opportunity of someone selling a decent setup in my area Im really thinking about jumping in.

What do ya think?
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Unread 02-14-2011, 09:03 PM   #2
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I would assume that with your friend in the Hd, that you could tell him what your outfit has, and he could tell you what you need to make it legal then, you would be able to price out the deficiencies, and make a decision from there, as far as business licences and zoning for your spot would be up to, your local Gov.
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Unread 02-14-2011, 09:17 PM   #3
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I would not do it, if it was me, for reasons other than what you have pointed out. I think the cost of going legit is actually fairly reasonable if you get the rig for a good price. The real reason that I would not do it is that I do not have the passion for cooking for people. And the fact that you seem to be on the fence tells me you might not be willing to put the effort in. I really like cooking for people from time to time and love the accolades. But, do I really want to put in the hours or prep time for even a small event? Do I want the stress of having to hit a service time everytime? What about booking an event months in advance, then I have a bad week that week and really do not want to spend 8 hours Friday night prepping and cooking and 10 hours Saturday cooking, travelling, serving, cleaning, travelling home and cleaning some more. Do I want that?

I have done it, not sure I could do it again as the passion is just not quite there. If it was, would I have waited until a rig just came on sale? It could be just your thing, but, there is my reasoning. Cooking as a caterer or chef is hard hard work, for little return for most. You have to really want to do it.
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Unread 02-14-2011, 09:28 PM   #4
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My worst weekend was we did a naked Bungie jump, we were asked and questioned if we were up to the challenge of such a busy event, thinking this was gonna be nuts I bought 2000.00 worth of product, and didn't flinch when he asked for 10% kick back as we were the only vender for this huge event, we did 200.00 and he took his 20.00
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Unread 02-14-2011, 09:33 PM   #5
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We went "legal" for about $6,000 when we started. We are now in for about $100k in equipment and maybe $70k in building, oh yeah, and $35k in tow vehicles. The key is, we owe $0.00. Haven't pocketed much but have built equity and a client base.
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Unread 02-14-2011, 09:37 PM   #6
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PS - We've had VERY good weeks (profit with a digit and 4 zero's 0000.000). We've also been stiffed (recently for $3,000). Not sure i'd do it again.
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Unread 02-14-2011, 09:56 PM   #7
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yeah.. there's money in it. most of the books out there by the famous q-legends say that they all got started cooking for family and friends and................ we do a decent amout of catering.. what we do is mostly drop and go. what you really have to do is know your costs, for everything. pans, spices, fuel (wood/charcoal and for the car). we figured all that out and then looked at other folks in towns prices. i think that we have higher quality food for lower prices. is it "legal"... not in the slightest. for now its just for friends of the family etc.. done some on the side of the road and stuff. didn't care for that all in all. but the caterings fun. figure out what a "small party" is. for us its 20 people. like someone else said, its a lot of work/hours to do this "easy" food. $150 is my minimum. we do about 800-1000 a month maybe in sales.. not bad for a part time hobby. good luck.. and don't have to justify the expense of the rig to the wife by selling it as a business opportunity.. she knows you're talking out yoru arse!! hahahaha
Quote:
Originally Posted by nrok2118 View Post
Ive been entertaining the notion of spending a few grand on a trailered smoker to have the ability to do small events and other personal ventures. I take tons of pride in making food for any size get together. Ive always had a passion for cooking and have been thinking about the idea of eventually dabbling with catering.

Well what do ya know, someone put up their rig on CL yesterday. Its a Meadow Creek TS-250 w/ warming box on a large flat trailer along with a BBQ-42 Charcoal Chicken Cooker and a little 3 burner propane grill. It seems ideal as a great starter since you have a large smoker plus the ability to do other various foods like chicken, burgers, etc.

So is there a PROFIT to be made from casual catering? Can I justify this investment with the notion I can at least make my money back doing parties and small events? From there hopefully I get a name out and try to go full legit and be able to feed the general public (I might have an IN with the HD, or at least someone to help me out) Though as I say that, how much money roughly does it cost to go legal?

Basically its been a fun idea Ive been entertaining, but with the opportunity of someone selling a decent setup in my area Im really thinking about jumping in.

What do ya think?
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Unread 02-15-2011, 07:48 AM   #8
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I'd start by trying to drum up some business. No matter what your equipment looks like, you always need to be drumming up business.

I would go the route Mad About Que did and start with some "drop off" cooking. As we all know, a backyard smoker can feed several dozen folks.
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Unread 02-15-2011, 07:55 AM   #9
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It's a labor of love, if you truly love to do it. A lot of hours, a lot of work. Somtimes after an event I ask myself, was it worth it, and to me it is. It isn't always about the money for me (yes, it makes a huge difference), but I truly love to cook for other people. But it is not my primary source of income.

I have spent an entire weekend cooking for other people. Then get up and go back to work Monday morning, worn slam out from the weekend before. I have done the drop and go to hiring people to be waiters/waitresses. Only you can make the final call. Just remember that the product you put out is a reflection of you. Also you can't control the weather. I have done catering in a pouring down rain, wind blowing and cold temps, to blazing hot summers.

I am a long way from where I started. The first few I did I lost money because I had no idea what I was doing, now I can actually make money from the events I do.
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Unread 02-15-2011, 12:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nrok2118 View Post
So is there a PROFIT to be made from casual catering? Can I justify this investment with the notion I can at least make my money back doing parties and small events? From there hopefully I get a name out and try to go full legit and be able to feed the general public (I might have an IN with the HD, or at least someone to help me out) Though as I say that, how much money roughly does it cost to go legal?
Not sure about PA but I can give you feedback from my experience in Upstate NY.

PROFIT from casual catering - depends on what you mean by casual but I would say no. Unless you are sourcing all the products you need from a very, very cheap source and charging high markup.

How much to go legal - We put together a business plan to get financing froma bank. We calculated our start up expenses and costs for Year 1 around $30,000 (based partly on feedback from others on this forum.) These costs, however, get us enough equipment to be a mobile kitchen so we can do impropmtu vending as needed in the event profits are lagging for any given week or month.

Our projections have that paid back at the end of Year 1 but not from doing "parties and small events." Our profits are based on large events like food and music festivals and weekend vending. Also, my partner and I are basically working for free in Year 1. We won't make squat but we will be out of debt.

Even if you plan on doing small events (at least in NY) you still have to be a Level 2 certified ServSafe, have the county permits, have insurance, have a DBA & Tax EIN, and worker's comp and unemployment insurance depending on the corporate make up of your organization.

Not sure about PA's legal requirements, but I doubt you will be buying a cooker off of Craig's List and up and vending next week.
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Unread 02-15-2011, 02:43 PM   #11
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Sounds like you want to have a good pit and cook good Q but need to offest the spouse's resistance with "we can pay back the investment by doing some catering". LOL, any excuse to buy a good pit is my motto. You won't get rich but you can get some investment back if you do catering, forget vending. Vending is a whole other issue with lots of risk. Catering gets you started, low investment and paid up front before you buy product.
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Unread 02-16-2011, 12:44 PM   #12
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I hear you guys, but isn't some sort of vending/festivals/special event type of food sales the way to build up the catering end? Word of mouth needs to get started somehow. For example a buddy of mine owns studio 21 Tattoo here in Vegas. They are having a big food truck showdown shortly sponsored by them and Sailor Jerry Rum. If I had been up and running, I could have definitely been a part of that, as he not only is a pal, but loves my barbecue. Would have got some good press too :/. Oh well...

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