How to Start a Catering Business in California

6 min read

how to start a catering business in california
how to start a catering business in california
how to start a catering business in california

When we hear the word catering we can only think of the yummy foods and snacks that’ll be going around, the treats and sweet smell of different cuisines in the air. Of course, that is true but at Milvestor today, I will be showing you how to start a catering business in California.

To start a catering business in California is quite easy and needless to say lucrative. If you want to begin a catering business these are important steps you must take:

  1. Learn how catering works
  2. Choose your business name
  3. Draft your business plan
  4. Register your catering business and complete necessary paperwork
  5. Determine your pricing strategy
  6. Hire and train competent hands
  7. Engage marketing

I know there are a few persons who know how lucrative a catering business is. For most persons, they are concerned with food which is an essential part of human existence. It creates an avenue for people to share in joy and happiness and enjoy themselves.

In this article, I would be taking you through the steps involved in starting your catering business in California. It is not the easiest of jobs but once you put your mind into it and follow the steps I would be outlining in a short while, everything is bound to progress smoothly.

Let’s begin!

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Start a Catering Business in California

A catering business is one of the many businesses you can start from the comfort of your home. You would not need to subject yourself to the stringent processes of establishing a business. However, if you want to make it big with catering, there are steps you must follow. The business model requires more than just your ability to cook.

Aside from being able to cook well, you will be needing permits from relevant authorities in the state, good staff, location, and management. Except you do not want to make it big. And at Milvestor, we are about making it big or going home.

If you want to start a catering business in California and ensure it is more than just a hobby, these are the steps you should follow.

Learn How Catering Works

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Catering is essentially the business of providing food. It cuts across making food available in a remote site or placing such as hotels, restaurants, filming locations, events, and much more. Starting a catering business would involve understanding how the business of food works and this is important because you will not be providing food for two or three persons but for people in their tens.

You will have to be exceptionally good to be successful at catering. One of the best ways to learn how catering works is to go to college. Studying courses like catering, hospitality management, food and nutrition etc. will give you an idea as to how catering works.

After you get your first degree, you can push for more learning. Most importantly, you would need to gain hands-on experience as a caterer. This will include working with other caterers or working in a restaurant’s kitchen.

You can forgo this step if you want to establish an absentee owner business. Probably, you are only starting a catering business in California to broaden your income sources and do not want to run this business yourself.

Choose Your Business Name

Getting a name for your business can be quite tricky. A good business name is something that incites emotions in people and can be easily remembered. When you are choosing a business name, it has to be something that relates to your business and provokes a good impression about your business to potential customers.

For instance, you would not add words like cryptocurrency or automobile or space education to your catering business name. These words, despite their relevance, are not relevant to your catering business. In choosing a name for your business, requesting suggestions from your family and friends is an ideal approach.

Your business name should have words like chef, sweet, cravings, yummy, tummy, delicious, etc. these words spark up food-related emotions in people and if properly tweaked can be recalled by anyone.

Draft Your Business Plan

According to Investopedia, a business plan is a written document that details the core activities of a business, its objectives, and how the business plans to achieve its goals. A business plan typically includes an executive summary, products and services, financial planning and budget, marketing strategies, and so on.

Having a business plan is a great way to attract investors as the success of a business can be discerned from its business plan. If you are looking at building a big catering business, you should have a plan for it. You should not dash out into the niche and expect to scale. There must be a definite goal and procedures highlighting how the goal will be achieved.

You can create a business plan from the hundreds of business plan templates available online or employ the services of a professional to get a well-crafted business plan.

Register Your Catering Business and Complete Necessary Paperwork

Every business in the United States must be registered before it can be allowed to operate and scale. The government has strict law towards ensuring business owners comply with business registration laws and guidelines.

Some documents that you should have as you take steps to start your catering business include (but are not limited to the following):

  1. Food license
  2. Trade license/Eating house license
  3. Liquor license
  4. Fire department NOC
  5. Shop and establishment registration.
  6. Pollution clearance
  7. License for playing music or videos
  8. Tax Registration.
  9. Income tax.
  10. GST (Goods and Service Tax) professional tax

When considering the business structure, you could think of registering your catering business as a Corporation or an LLC. Let’s say you opt to start an LLC in California, you would require a California Registered Agent to handle all the legal paperwork on the behalf of your company.

Determine Your Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy is important to the growth of your business. You will be putting in a lot of resources into your catering business and if you do not get the requisite ROI, you may be forced to close your business. This is why you must determine a pricing strategy for all your products and services.

Another reason why you should determine your pricing strategy is because it gives your business a transparent overview which allows customers to enjoy patronizing you. Additionally, a definite pricing strategy will help you scale efficiently.

Hire and Train Competent Hands

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Working with competent hands is key to your success as a catering business owner. This step on how to start a catering business in California is quintessential if you are looking at operating the business in an absentee owner model.

Look for skilled caterers and chefs to work with. They must be persons who are teachable and have a good understanding of how catering works. Your employees have a direct impact on the sustainable of your business and you must strive to employ only the best hands.

Engage Marketing

Lastly on how to start a catering business in California, you must engage marketing. When all has been put in place, making people know about your business and what you have to offer is an important step to take.

With good marketing, you can get the word out about your business to the right audience. Fingerprint Marketing explains that to run a business successfully today, small business owners must execute marketing strategically and intelligently.  Marketing is very important and the businesses taking large portions of the business world are those that engage marketing with intensity.

Digital marketing can help with effective marketing. Your catering business, even though it could be domiciled in California, can reach out to clients and customers in all the other states of the US. And that is with proper marketing.


Before I wrap up this article, I will be answering questions that relate to the article topic – how to start a catering business in California.

What Licenses Are Needed To Start a Catering Business in California?

The licenses needed to start a catering business in California include:

  1. Food license
  2. Trade license/Eating house license
  3. Liquor license
  4. Fire department NOC
  5. Shop and establishment registration.
  6. Pollution clearance
  7. License for playing music or videos
  8. Tax Registration.
  9. Income tax.
  10. GST (Goods and Service Tax) professional tax

Every catering business owner must own these permits before they will be allowed to operate in the United States. California, for example, has made it compulsory for owners and employees of catering businesses to own the state food safety certification.

How to get Catering License in California?

To get a catering license in California, a business owner must go to the health authorities in the city or county where the catering business will be located. Without the necessary permits, the catering business will not be allowed to operate.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Catering License in California?

The cost of a catering license in California is between $140 and $980. A business owner will have to pay to the ABC Board to secure a permit for their business’s operations.

How to Start a Catering Business from Home?

You can start a catering business from home. To do that, you will have:

  1. Get a hygiene certificate
  2. Secure a business permit to use your home as a business base
  3. Get your property inspected by health inspectors
  4. Market your business

There is not much to do when starting a catering business from home. The above presents a template of steps which cuts across getting permits for your business’s operations, home inspection, and marketing.

Editors Recommendation

You should contact the services of a professional business consultant when starting your business. The steps I have outlined on how to start a catering business in California can guide you but you may be limited without the guidance of a business consultant.


Starting a business is one of the best things you can do for yourself. You will be amazed how better your life would become when you set out to start your business.  If you are in California, have a passion for cooking, and would like to own your catering business, the steps I have outlined on how to start a catering business in California will guide and inform your decisions.

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