Whether you are running a café or providing food for events, running your own catering business can be an incredible rewarding way to use your talent for catering. Having a well-managed, fully controlled business will ensure you make a career out of your skills.
There several regulations and procedures food and catering businesses should put in place to protect customers and secure their business. Find out about the key steps you should take to manage your small catering business effectively.
Register your premises
The place where you prepare, serve and deliver food needs to be registered with your local authority at least 28 days before opening. Your premises could be your home, a business building or a mobile unit, whatever suits your business best.
If you have multiple premises, for example a prep kitchen and a street food van, you should declare them all.
After you have registered your business you may receive an inspection from a local enforcement officer, usually without advance notice. They may also drop in at any time for an inspection, whether you are a new business or not, so it is important to keep to regulations at all times.
When you are looking for premises or making changes to your home, you need to consider what you will need to run a catering business. You should be able to prepare food hygienically and safely. Your premises should be able to be kept clean easily. Appliances and equipment must be stored safely and regularly cleaned, and fixed or removed if broken.
Food hygiene training
All food handlers must complete food hygiene training to ensure they understand the risks associated with food production and how to safely serve and prepare food. In the UK, a food hygiene certificate does not need to be held, but skills must be taught on the job or via self-study. Your local authority can provide a formal training course, either in person or online, if you wish.
Find out more on the Food Standards Agency training page.
As a business owner it is recommended you undertake a formal course, and you can use this knowledge to train new staff as they join. Food hygiene courses help you understand the importance of stock control, storing food, preparing food and how to prevent cross-contamination.
The core of food hygiene is the 4 Cs – cleaning, cooking, chilling and cross-contamination. Read more about them on the Food Standards Agency website.
Managing food safety
Control over records and processes will ensure the food you produce is safe to eat. It starts with your suppliers; you should thoroughly check any deliveries and ensure food delivered is stored correctly once it is on your premises.
You must also keep written records of your suppliers and the food and ingredients you order from them. Recording use-by dates can also help you keep track of stock and ensure you only prepare food which is safe. An enforcement officer may want to check receipts and invoices related to your business if they come for an inspection.
In 2014 the Food Standards Agency implemented new rules regarding allergens and descriptions of food. The Food Information for Consumers Regulation was introduced, stipulating that non-prepacked food should now highlight allergen information. This affects restaurants, cafes and mass caterers in particular.
Food safety also concerns transport – how food is protected from contamination during delivery to customer or between premises. It should be well-packaged to prevent cross-contamination and clear instructions given on storage in transit.
Managing pricing, VAT and accounts
Pricing: If you are running a café or a restaurant, where someone may people will eat or drink on your premises, you must clearly label prices for food and drink. Service charges must also be highlighted to customers on the menu, or another prominent place.
VAT: whether you are VAT registered or not depends on level of your turnover. If you are below the current threshold you do not need to register, although you may wish to do so. If your customers eat or drink your food on the premises or takeaway hot food, you should charge the standard rate of VAT. You don’t need to charge VAT on cold takeaway food but some restrictions apply such as bottled water and confectionary. Visit the GOV.UK site for more details.
Accounting: Like any business you need to record your incomings and outgoings and submit your tax return. Depending on your type of business you may wish to be self-employed or set up as a limited company.
If you are a self-employed sole trader, for example making jam, you may wish to self-assess for your tax and complete a tax return. If you are running a restaurant or a catering company it is likely you will want to set up as a company in order to manage income, VAT and staff.
Accounting with Sage One
Sage One Cashbook, Accounts and Payroll can help you whether you’re a self-employed cake maker or a local café or catering business. You can manage all the financial aspects of your business including suppliers, staff and VAT. Sage One has some particularly useful features for catering businesses:
- Record cash-based deposits and manage payments
If you’re running a café or restaurant Sage One lets you easily record daily cash deposits to your bank. You don’t need to match up income; you can just record the amounts as an when you make them.
Managing payments with Sage One is simple and you can produce professional quotes and invoices. In built payment links make invoicing particularly easy for catering businesses to receive and record payments. Alerts and reports also allow you to highlight overdue payments.
- Manage suppliers and contacts
Sage One allows you to store the contact details of all your suppliers, and record the costs associated with them – very useful if you need to record your purchases.
You are able to add notes to their records too, useful if you need to remember who supplies what or need to keep track of food safety regulations.
- Add Sage Payroll to manage staff
Quickly bolt on Sage One Payroll to manage salaries and taxes for up to 15 employees. Everything you need to pay their wages or salaries can be done with Sage Payroll’s automatic calculations.
It is also simple to manage employees on temporary or flexible contracts too.
- Available anywhere, any time
Sage One is cloud based, so you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection and from your phone, tablet or desktop computer. Sage customer support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week too.