How to start a catering business in South Africa
Food buffet catering on the table

How to start a catering business in South Africa

Do you want to start a catering business? We need catering for a lot of events, from birthday parties to corporate meetings. This can be a very fulfilling business if you know how and love to cook. South Africa has unique challenges that are facing catering companies, this is a guide on how to start a catering business in South Africa.

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1. Pick a niche

You have to decide on which catering niche you are going to focus on, will you do cocktail parties, weddings, corporate events? It’s okay to serve all these niches but most caterers find it easier to start off with a few. This will allow you to focus your efforts and excel in your chosen niche.

2. Market research

Catering companies; like most businesses, provide services mostly in their geographical area. It’s unlikely that you will start a catering company in Johannesburg and service clients that are in Cape Town.


It’s important to do a thorough research of your competitors, check out their menu, prices, service offering and customers. This will make it easier to see where your competitors are under-serving and excel in that area. A lot of people prefer to use caterers they have used before, especially if those caterers provided exceptional services.

This can make it a bit hard for you to break into this market, doing market research will give allow you focus areas that will make your business successful. You can also conduct a market research by conducting surveys and calling potential clients; ask them what they generally look for from a catering company.

3. Register the business

Registering a busines in South Africa only costs R175, all that’s needed is the name of the company and your ID. You will also need a health certificate to operate your business.

Your operating premises will have to meet some requirements in order for you to obtain a health certificate. Things like sinks and tables, ventilation and lighting, storage facilities, clothing and equipment will all have to be in a good condition. It’s difficult to meet these requirements if you are operating out of your home kitchen. It’s often best to rent a commercial kitchen.

4. Catering equipment

Some of the equipment that you will need may include knives, spatulas, roasting pans, saucepans, crock-pots.

You will also need to have cutlery, crockery, glasses and serviettes, that’s if you are going to do full-service catering. Meaning you are not only going to cook the food, but you will serve it too. You will also need storage, something to store your glasses, cutlery and serving trays. You will also need to invest in commercial refrigerators, ovens, dish washers, plate stackers, blenders and a coffee machine.

5. Marketing

You will need marketing after setting up your business. This is perhaps the most difficult part. Getting clients won’t be easy, you might get a few clients initially, likely people who know you, after that it’s an uphill battle.

At this point it’s difficult to get clients from word of mouth because you don’t have any recommendations. However, make sure that you give every client an unforgettable experience. Convenience and being professional is also part of the experience. Happy clients are likely to recommend your services to other people. A lot of caterers get their clients through word of mouth.

Try by all means to improve your online visibility, you can do this by getting a website and working on SEO. A website is relatively cheap, you can get it from as little as R1 200 from Promta Web Services. It will work as a portfolio and you can also use as a powerful tool for generating sales. That can be achieved through search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO optimizes your website to appear on Google for relevant searches. Example, if you are offering catering services in Vanderbijlpark then you will appear for all relevant searches like “catering companies in Vanderbijlpark”. SEO is not as cheap as web design. You should be prepared to pay more than R5 000 for SEO but you will likely make it all back because of the number of clients you will be getting.

6. Partnerships

Partnerships will be crucial to your company’s success. They will be a good source of getting clients. You can partner up with event planners, wedding venues etc. These partnerships often ensure that you will be the first inline should a catering gig come up.

Event planners will use your catering services each time they have a gig, wedding venues might offer catering and outsource your services. These partnerships can range from being built on trust to being built on top of financial rewards.

7. Event organising

Organising events is often a good way to spread awareness about your services. Organize an event, it doesn’t have to be big, something small and intimate, an event that requires catering. This will give you a perfect opportunity to showcase your skills. Everyone in attendance will know where to go to if and when they need a cater.


Starting a catering business is not easy, especially in South Africa. This was a brief guide on how to start a catering business in South Africa. Do you have any thoughts or questions? Comment below.

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