Perzen Patel runs a home catering service out of an old villa in Jogeshwari, Mumbai
When you peek into her kitchen, three things will catch your attention. An industrial freezer, a gas stove (bigger than yours, obviously) with huge vessels cooking away the day’s dishes, and a white board complete with shopping lists and notes like the gas refill date. Welcome to the Bawi Bride kitchen, started by Mumbai-based food blogger and entrepreneur, Perzen Patel in 2013. Quiz her on what is the maximum number of orders she can take on any given day, she exclaims, “We cater from four to 75!”
The challenge to kickstart a food business or catering service to be precise is big. For her, it is not just about cooking and feeding people. Budgets, space and building a loyal customer base are crucial too. Perzen lets in on some of her ace tips to stay on top of the game.
Work the social media
Big or small, most companies realise the need to be on social media for one reason – to connect with people. For a catering service, it is crucial to be on all the major social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to bring in revenue. So, get onto social media as early as possible to even create your customer base.
Budget your business carefully
It is okay to invest money in creating your brand, but avoid spending too much on logos, menu design or other pretty things. Instead, budget everything as per your priorities. For instance, use the money to buy better utensils or gadgets in the kitchen as that will make your life easier. If you are based in Mumbai, pick up all the packaging material you will need for the first six months at Crawford Market. That way you do not have to spend time customising.
Be consistent with your recipes
When you own a food business, always remember that your customers will come back to you for the delicious food you make. Therefore, to keep the taste of your dishes the same every time could be a big challenge. First, figure out the exact quantity of ingredients you would need for two portions only and then keep multiplying for larger orders. Never do anything by ‘andaz’ as consistency is key when you are churning out food for large groups.
Get friendly with food suppliers
A great way to strike good deals while shopping for your kitchen supplies is by developing a friendly rapport with the vendors. Don't look for the cheapest, but for the best quality products, Perzen quips in. “If regular mutton costs Rs. 400, I pay Rs. 600 because it is cleaned and deboned, which then saves me the time and effort in the kitchen,” she says.
Invest some time to write
Spend time on content as it will help you not only to reach out to more people, but also multiply your business. Either start a blog or write for other publications or pen a cook book. All of this helps to establish your brand and in turn bring in revenue.
Keep improvising with feedback
Always welcome customer feedback because it gives you ample scope to improvise. So, talk to each and every person that you serve. Ask them what they enjoyed eating the most as well as what did they not like. Hear everybody, but listen to only a few of them. Food is very subjective and you must remain true to your niche.
Get structured, yet flexible
It is normal to go out of your way to please customers, but remember to account for your time performing them. Chalk out some basic rules like the minimum time required for delivering an order, cancellation charges if any et al. Try and put them to good use from day 1 so that you do not set any sky-high expectations from your customers.