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Catering Company Business Plans – Why You Need One for Your Catering Startup

Are you wondering if you really need a business plan for your catering business? Perhaps you are thinking that as you only plan on starting a relatively small business it won’t really be necessary. Many people think like this and, of course, many people end up failing in their first year of business.

We highly recommend that you avoid becoming yet another business that underestimated costs or found that the market wasn’t ready for what they had to offer. Below we have outlined ten reasons why you must prepare a catering company business plan. We explain how if you do take the time to prepare a plan you will be increasing your chances of being successful with your catering startup.

1) Start in the Right Direction

Many entrepreneurs think that they can start out without doing a lot of planning and research. They feel that they can always pick up a feel for the business as they go. However, some of the early decisions that you make in the life of your business can be difficult to reverse at a later date. You need to have a clear path set out ahead of you so that you can make the right decisions about how to set up the business right from the start.

2) Reinforce Your Ideas

As you slowly get ideas about the catering company that you want to start you will find that these thoughts start floating around in your head. What you imagine yourself doing is often very different from what you are able to do realistically. Nothing is impossible but you just need to work out how to get there.

By putting your ideas down on paper you will be clarifying them in your mind. As you write you will find that you do additional brainstorming. You may get new ideas about what you want to do with your business and you may decide that some of the ideas that you had initially are not really feasible.

3) Figure Out How to Do It

Every entrepreneur has a very idealistic image in their mind of the kind of business that they want. Getting to that point is a process though and you need to work out a path to get there.

One great way to figure out how you will proceed is to first write down what you want to do. Next, write down as many questions as you can about how you are actually going to do it. These will include questions like ‘Will I do on-site or off-site catering?’, ‘How will I get access to kitchen facilities?’ or ‘How many catering jobs will I need to land each month to break even?’. As you slowly work out the answers to the problems that you come across you can write them down in the appropriate sections of your business plan.

4) Know Your Startup Requirements

When you prepare a business plan you will get an accurate idea of exactly what is needed before you launch the company. You will need to consider all of the things that you will need to pay for prior to opening such as catering equipment, initial advertising and so on. When you have calculated the total cost you will then know exactly how much money you need and can look at where this funding will come from.

5) Increase Personal Productivity

You have to be organized when you start a business. Rather than writing things down on loose scraps of paper and hoping for the best you need to have somewhere to compile all of the important data that you collect. A business plan is ideal for this purpose. If you store the business plan as a document on your PC you can simply add new information as you come across it. If you have done your research and have all of you information stored in one convenient location you will be more organized throughout your business launch and you will avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches.

6) Prove the Viability of Your Idea to Others

A business plan is a great way to prove to yourself that your ideas are viable and that the catering company that you are proposing can thrive and make a profit. You will also need a plan in order to prove to other people that the business model that you have in mind is financially sound. Think of your business plan as being like a resume that you can hand out to people who need information about your business. You can always leave out sections that are not relevant to the reader in question.

There are many people who may wish to view your business plan and you should keep them in mind as you put it together. If you are seeking funding then you may have to show the plan to prospective lenders or equity investors. As a caterer you will certainly have to comply with local health and hygiene requirements and these local authorities may expect to see a section in your plan relating to these areas. You may even need to show your business plan to the owner of any kitchen premises that you hope to lease before they agree to sign an agreement with you.

7) Set Goals and Objectives

A business plan is like a road map to success. Your goals are the destinations that you are aiming to get to. They should be fairly realistic and achievable but should also push you to work hard to reach them. You may set financial goals that set out what kind of gross or net monthly income you intend to be earning after your first year. Other goals could also refer to other metrics such as average food cost percentages on catering jobs for example.

8) Identify Weaknesses and Strengths

It is important to assess your strengths and weaknesses and how they will affect you when it comes to competing with the established players in your local catering industry. You may bring competitive advantages to the business such as catering experience or local food and hospitality industry connections. You may also identify personal weaknesses that you can work on improving or weaknesses that your company will face when compared to your better established competitors.

9) Track Your Progress

A business plan should not be forgotten about once the catering business has launched. Refer to the plan regularly to see if you are on track to hit the goals that you set out. Make changes to the plan as you go so that you always have a plan in place for your business going forward at least two or three years.

10) Make Selling Out a Breeze

Many caterers end up selling their businesses if they retire or move on to other projects. A business plan that is up to date can really help when it comes to valuing your business for a potential sale. If your business offers a buyer a blueprint for managing the business and it offers solid proof that the business is making a profit then it could really help you to seal a deal at a favorable price.

Do I Really Need a Business Plan for My Business?

Most successful businesses have created a business plan at some point, usually before their start-up.

Why?

A business plan is needed to address all of the central components to starting a business. It is essential to make sure that you, as a new entrepreneur have carefully thought through many if not all, of the important components of your business. Ideally, you need to do this BEFORE starting your business.

What is a business plan?

They are generally prepared for two reasons:

1. To obtain financing for the business

2. To help determine if essential components of starting a business have been considered.

Often times with new entrepreneur’s (and sometimes even with the more experienced!) they overlook certain aspects of starting a business. So the business plan helps to ensure that most, if not all reasonable questions have been answered and strategies thought about.

Although business plans are often considered optional – they serve a vital importance to entrepreneurs.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs and even experienced entrepreneurs fail to recognize their importance. It is often considered an “optional” component of their business and should only be prepared when absolutely necessary.

Not so!

It is needed to address all of the central components to starting your business. It is essential to make sure that you, as an entrepreneur of quality, have carefully considered what you are offering, how you are offering it and whom you are offering it to.

Although it may be tempting to say “I have everything in my head about my business” – could lead to a lack of clarity.

Why?

The idea of keeping everything in your mind makes it possible for you to:

  • forget certain things
  • remember things incorrectly or too modified to later be useful
  • misconstrue thought combinations that you had at one point but later revised
  • revisit ideas that you already have thought of and since dismissed…

Preparing a business plan will allow you to document what you know and have the permanent impact of writing it down.

But this is complicated – Right?

In the context of the larger corporate world a business plan is not only essential but required. Many formats of business plans are modelled after the layouts and inclusions used for larger public companies. The time frame and level of detail is much greater for large corporate entities as they are required for various interested parties (stakeholders). However, it is not necessary for smaller businesses, especially start-ups to prepare overly lengthy and complex documents.

Your business plan need not be a time consuming, uncontrollable and over-the-top difficult process!

How Can I, As an Entrepreneur Achieve This?

Through the simple process of preparing a Preliminary Business Plan you will:

  1. Engage in a key strategy that will help you to organize your thoughts
  2. Help you to focus on your business intentions.
  3. Apply a straightforward, step-by-step process to prepare one.
  4. Obtain clarity about your business.

Why is it called a Preliminary Business Plan?

Traditional business plans, like those used for large public corporations can be very complex and have the level of detail that is not required for most smaller, private businesses.

A Preliminary Business Plan is shorter, designed more for the start-up of the business and it is easier to understand and prepare.

Here are just some of the questions that it should answer:

  • Describe in detail exactly what your business is to be.
  • Describe whom your products and/or services are for.
  • How do you plan to deliver your products/services to your customers/clients.
  • What pricing do you plan to use.
  • If you have a product, list the major suppliers
  • Indicate whom your major customers/clients are likely to be.
  • What are the risk factors that you see for your business.
  • What current businesses pose as competition to your business?
  • How many employees do you plan to have in the company and at what point will they become active?
  • Have you completed one?

It will address all of the central components to starting your business. It is essential to make sure that you, as a new entrepreneur have thought carefully through and considered all that you need to BEFORE starting your business.

A Preliminary Business Plan is a step-by-step method that allows you to organize your thoughts and WRITE DOWN your intentions through documenting them in a meaningful way. It also provides you with a document to provide to interested parties (for example, banks, investors, etc.) if the need arises.

You need to prepare one, if you are:

  • An aspiring entrepreneur who is serious about properly planning a business and would like to discover if you need one for their new business.
  • An experienced entrepreneur who never has prepared one, but would like to learn how.
  • An aspiring entrepreneur who is skeptical, but would like to explore the process and know more.
  • Any entrepreneur who has heard about them, but are confused and would like some clear DIRECTION of what to do.

Woo Hoo! Time For Business Planning!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..”

Ah yes…..the annual business planning cycle is upon us.

The time of the year to huddle all of your business colleagues in a room to hash out the key initiatives for the upcoming year. The time to throw everything up on the wall and try to get everything done in the first quarter. “This will be the year that all plans will be met” is the battle cry! Every vision, idea and strategy gets bantered about – shouts of “there are no bad ideas!” fill the air. The room is electric with visionaries exchanging ideas on how their idea solves all issues, yet year after year, it seems that plans never actually come to fruition.

Why is that? The intent was there; the energy was present; and ideas were flowing. That’s the easy part – coming up with the ideas. The success of your planning doesn’t rest on the ideas, but rather, implementing those ideas. It’s true, companies need to foster innovation in their business planning, but more importantly, they need to create a business environment that enables team members to execute these ideas with an “on-time, on-budget” mindset. That is where the work begins.

I have been putting together business plans for over 25 years and it is clear to me that the strength of its core rests solely on being able to execute the plan. Each year I approach business planning as an opportunity, rather than a burden. I would rather invest the time up front in mapping out the upcoming year, than leaving it to chance to dictate my strategy. While this may force me to think strategically as well as tactically, preparing a detailed business plan in advance enables me to identify the challenges in advance of actually facing them.

So, why is business planning so crucial? In a word, it provides “clarity”. Investing time to develop a plan provides precise clarification of the company vision to both employees and customers. In addition, it provides a mechanism to gauge the results of the business and provides the foundation for future growth plans. In the long haul, it enhances the company valuation through fiscal responsibility, which provides the story of opportunity to any future investor or employee. In short, the benefits of planning allow the company to articulate a common vision to align resources and make an efficient use of investment dollars. A company that is perceived to be a “well-oiled machine” is attractive on many fronts – both externally with investors and internally with employees through job satisfaction and increased tenure.

Strategic Planning & Goals: The first step is to identify the key company goals which will be the over-arching direction of the plan. These goals should be focused on three areas: financial, growth initiatives and alignment to the company’s vision/mission. This provides the overall direction of the company by establishing high-level goals that will be achieved by tactical initiatives. The overall plan should be 1 to 3 years with measurement mileposts monthly, quarterly and annually. While the plan is put in place at the onset of the year, it should be constantly re-forecast with actual results throughout the year.

Developing Planning Modules: Compartmentalizing your plan by developing planning modules or “chunks” allows you to attack the plan in parts, yet still maintain a cohesive plan. I have found that developing an annual plan made up of quarterly targets – thus becoming a rolling quarterly forecast financial model – allows for a cohesive structure along with the nimbleness to react to market conditions. At the end of each quarter, a true-up process to align results to annual targets needs to be re-forecast and adjustments made.

Develop Non-Capital Initiatives: Each project initiative should have a corresponding project plan that monitors whether it will be completed on-time and on-budget. The importance of the detailed project plan is to accomplish the following: a) identify all the steps to be completed; b) establish a realistic timeline for each step; c) identify and allocate the necessary resources for accomplishing the initiative; d) ensure that the initiative has been vetted for departmental inter-dependencies and potential conflicts; and e) ensure that the initiative is in alignment with the overall strategic plan.

Create A Capital Plan: Next, I would develop a capital plan identifying dollars to be spent on the business to increase its overall value. While all capital dollars may not entirely be discretionary – i.e., investing dollars for anticipated return from growth – it is necessary to determine how capital dollars will be allocated whether for discretionary purposes or general maintenance. Projects that require capital are critical for the company growth and must be managed to their desired return, avoiding shortfalls in ROI or issues involving “capital creep”. If you haven’t already, setting up a capital committee to review expenditures in advance of the start of the project provides some assurance that the projects have been vetted against return on investment. Lastly, developing a post-audit process enables the team to review and monitor the progress of ongoing investments.

Business Plan Analytics Through Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s): Identifying key performance indicators for your business to use as benchmarks throughout the year is perhaps the most critical step you can make with regard to business analytics. Not only will KPI’s help identify key shortfalls in the plan, but will help narrow your focus in addressing the shortfalls. For instance, recognizing that you have an issue in labor isn’t merely enough when you consider the following possibilities: a) labor rates may be too high; b) overtime has exceeded its budget; c) the issue is regionally-based, not across the board; d) man hours may have exceeded its allocated budget, etc. It could be a myriad of triggers that caused labor to exceed its budget and KPI’s enable you to drill down to the cause. KPI management requires a disciplined review process established monthly that fosters a blended analysis throughout the year that compares actual results against both budgets and forecasts.

Fundamentals, Cycles & Trends (FC & T’s): Your plan, if done in advance and thoroughly, should provide and excellent foundation from which to work. Even the best plan still has to react to outside forces that will influence your best intentions. Identifying certain fundamentals, cycles and trends that may impact your company is a prudent way to being able to develop a contingency “plan B” in the event an outside force rears its head. A series of key FC & T’s should be monitored throughout the year so that if required, your plan can react. Certain FC & T’s may include wholesale pricing, weather, commodity markets or labor market impacts that are out of your control. In my opinion, developing contingency plans in advance for these outside forces at least gives you a fighting chance to react favorably.

Strategic Review of Plans/Goals at Year-End: At the end of the year, a thorough review of the plan and its process should be discussed with the team in order to make the next planning cycle more effective and efficient. Take a look at all of the successful initiatives and the ones that fell short in order to identify where the “broken pipes” occurred in the process. Remember not to double-dip on the capital projects EBIDTA contribution for the upcoming year – your budgetary baselines should move in concert with these investments. All projects that straddle the budgetary year, should be rolled over into the new plan. Business planning is the road map that identifies where you are headed in advance. As importantly, it also identifies road blocks – in advance. Your business plan should provide a common vision supported by tactical initiatives that, ultimately, creates greater value for your company. It may seem daunting, but by knowing your vision and its corresponding financial targets, you will have a better chance at executing how to get there and avoiding traps in advance.