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Am I cut out to be an entrepeneur(sp?)?

DeadfallDeadfall I don't think you realize just how rich he is.In fact, I should put on a monocle.Registered User regular
edited December 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
Before I continue, just know that I'm not trying to become a self-made millionaire or something like that.

Now, I'm a physical education teacher. I love my job. Most of the time. Before I went to school for teaching, I was going to sign up for culinary school, because well, I love cooking. And I'm pretty damned good at it. I have a talent for throwing things together to make new flavors. Experimentation and all that.

Most of my jobs through high school involved customer service, and I was a shift manager at a small pizza restaurant for a few months. Through college, I was a cook at a high volume Italian restaurant. It was perfect, except for the pay and it stopped being fun when corporate started cracking down and really pushing new policies. They were trying to be the Italian restaurant everybody thought of in America when they thought, "I'd like some Italian food."

My best friend just graduted from culinary school. We make a fantastic pair of cooks/chefs.

Here's my idea: I'd like to start catering, just on the side for awhile. I can make the best paninis you've ever had, and we've got some great recipes we've come up with just by playing around the kitchen. I'd like to start small, maybe a corporate lunch for my father's company here and there, charging for the cost of ingredients, spreading by word of mouth. Just catering for small parties and such. You know, passing out my card and whatnot.

My fiancee is an amateur photographer. She's done a few weddings, and the pictures and albums turn out fantastic. Phase two of my plan would be to incorporate a photography option into our catering. She was also the catering manager for a well-known deli chain, so she knows the ropes of setting up orders, working with corporate clients, etc.

Is it plausible to move up from part-time-just-for-fun catering to full-time-buying-a-delivery van-welcome-to-our-store business? This is something I've been mulling in my head for months now, and I'm genuinely enthused about it. My college rommate is a business major and works for his cousin as an appliance delivery driver/installer, so he is pretty knowledgable about working in a small business.

I know, I know, ideas are worth very little. But I do have contacts in several venues.

TLDR: Can two cooks with no business-management experience (but good contacts) become successful in the glamorous world of catering?

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    brandotheninjamasterbrandotheninjamaster Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    My culinary arts teacher said something to me that may be applicable to you should you decide to start this up.
    Most restaurants fail because they don't keep adequate notes on how much they spend on supplies. Keeping notes on all spending is critical for the restaurant to stay in the green and not fall in the red.

    Before she taught my class she was a director for one of the more popular culinary schools in Maryland, so she knew what she was talking about. I hope this helps.

    brandotheninjamaster on
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    oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Well, I don't know, but you seem to believe in yourself so that's a good sign.

    You're starting as a small "on the side" operation so it's not like you'll have to sink a huge investment into this or be counting on it taking off from the start. True you may not be gaining momentum as quickly as if you were trying to do this full time, but it seems like a hard business to establish yourself in so I think you've got the right notion in going small. I say give it a go and see how it plays out. My best friend makes good money catering on the side (he's a sous chef so he's not really looking to do it full time).

    I'd also suggest making friends with people who are servers who would be interested in working events for you (should you need servers), but wouldn't really depend on you for a steady income.

    oldsak on
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    SkyGheNeSkyGheNe Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    It could work, but a family member of mine started a restaurant. Here are some things I learned:

    1. You better love the business, because you will be there for about 14 hours a day.
    2. You will want to put in those long hours because it'll make it easier in the long run and because you should genuinely enjoy the challenge.
    3. It is not easy, there will be a lot of failure, but if you really want it, you will bust your ass for it.

    I sincerely hope you have a passion for this, because it's the only way you will make it.

    Also, if you do eventually decide to open up as a full time place, you will want a sound health care plan through your local chamber or if you can afford, through yourself so that you can hire competent help. Also realize that you will be taking out lots of loans to pay for the initial cost - I recommend a business plan to get things figured out.

    Also...numbers, as the above poster said, knowing the in-out of your cash flow is integral to your success.

    But to be honest, I've never seen a new company start part time and be overtly successful. You really need to go all out and find other people with the same mindset. How invested are you and others to the cause? Only you can answer that.

    SkyGheNe on
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    starmanbrandstarmanbrand Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    This kind of thing is pretty hard. It doesn't sound like you know very much about it.

    You would need to rent a corporate kitchen to comply with health regulations. It is illegal to cook something at your house and then transport it somewhere to serve.

    So you have to rent a professional kitchen, for at least part time work. Some mom and pop places will let you rent part time.

    Then you have to have all the serving stuff. Chafing dishes and nice looking bowls and platters. Will you be renting the chairs, place settings, and food serving junk, or will you purchase second hand?

    It is possible to move up to fulltime catering work from part time ,but it is going to be a very tough change and you will need a lot of money in savings for the slow times and emergencies.

    Also, Hospitality Business is much different than a typical small business.

    You do not seem to have enough education for this, honestly. I would advise against it.

    Perhaps you should just have dinner parties for friends to get your cooking jones out.

    starmanbrand on
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    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Deadfall wrote: »
    I love my job. Most of the time.

    That's pretty lucky for you, a lot of people don't.
    Deadfall wrote: »
    My fiancee is an amateur photographer. She's done a few weddings, and the pictures and albums turn out fantastic. Phase two of my plan would be to incorporate a photography option into our catering. She was also the catering manager for a well-known deli chain, so she knows the ropes of setting up orders, working with corporate clients, etc.

    She really ought to be your best resource and sounding board, she's been through it. You ought to bring her on board as a manager/administrator while you and your friend focus on delivering on the cooking and finding out how to economize and develop efficient workflows in preparing your dishes.

    Why not give it a shot, you can always go back to teaching if it doesn't work out (right?), and if you truly want to be an independent business owner you're just going to have to commit and do it. Maybe you'll fail a few times before you get it right, that's not uncommon in small business.

    Djeet on
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