How to Turn Your Passion for Cooking Into a Business


Like anyone who is truly passionate about cooking, there’s a good chance you’ve given some thought to running your own restaurant. Of course, following your dreams is a highly recommended course of action, but it must not be forgotten that running a business is a major commitment.

There are generally three ways to make this culinary dream  come true:

  • If you are already supremely confident in your cooking skills, and you have access to sufficient financial capital, you should be able to simply plunge right in. Of course, there are some regulations governing the process, but nothing overly burdensome.
  • If you’re either not completely confident in your skills or you lack capital, you can remedy both situations by working for a period of time as an employee in somebody else’s restaurant. This can work, provided it’s not McDonald’s or something similar. It’d valuable to gain expertise in the kind of restaurant you would want to own one day. If you’re saving to amass capital, it’s important to always remember to budget your personal spending accordingly.
  • The third way is the most difficult. It involves starting a food business with next to no capital.  This is risky, but it can work if you have extraordinary skills and can attract customers through nothing more than your reputation. There’s no way to do it with zero capital, but you can cut costs by working from a mobile location and dropping key expenses like marketing and accounting.

The satisfaction of achieving your culinary dreams

While the path to being a restaurateur is not an easy one, no matter which option you decide to follow, the rewards once you achieve success make it well worth the ordeal. Running a successful restaurant provides financial rewards, good community standing, and better opportunities. Most importantly, you’ll be doing something you love, and will enjoy a high level of job satisfaction.

How do you get started?

Getting into the restaurant business usually requires a substantial financial investment. You can cut down on the amount of investment by working from a mobile location or opting to run a catering business instead of a restaurant business.

A catering business is simpler than a restaurant business, because you don’t require a commercial location. Just be aware that if you run a business from your own home, there could be tax considerations to take into account, such as if you subsequently sell your home, you may have to pay capital gains tax on the sale.

Most common food service business models:

RestaurantCateringMobile Food Service
  • Fixed location
  • High start-up costs
  • Can rely on passing trade
  • High trust factor
  • Can be as creative as you want
  • Venue chosen by client
  • Low starting cost
  • No passing trade
  • Low trust factor (at first)
  • May be limited in how creative you can be
  • Mobile location
  • Lowest starting cost
  • Passing trade
  • Low trust factor
  • Not very suited to creativity


The first step is to make sure that you’re equipped to run whichever type of business model you’ve chosen. In addition to cash, you also may need training in things like:

  • Small business management
  • Marketing
  • Book keeping
  • Employment law
  • Training specific to the foodservice industry

How many of the above items you need training in will depend on how much of each role you’re going to handle yourself, and how much you plan on outsourcing. Ideally, you should outsource as much as possible, so you can focus your attention and talent where it will do you the most good.

Meeting the government requirements

You’ll then need to meet the regulations for running this type of business in your state. If you’re not running a mobile food business, the first thing you’ll need to determine is if you’re even allowed to operate a food business in the location you want to work from (if you buy or lease property that was previously used for that purpose, you should be able to meet this requirement). In many states you may also be required to attend a food handling safety course, or appoint a qualified member of staff to the role of Food Handling Safety Supervisor.

Set up your business

Now you need to equip your business with everything it needs to be up and running. If it’s a restaurant, you’ll need to think about the layout of the customer service area, how many tables you’ll need and of what type, and where you will obtain them. You’ll also need plates, silverware, glasses, and other dining equipment. Depending on what type of restaurant you’re setting up, you may need cold storage, ovens, stoves, and so on. Most restaurants will also require an electronic POS system, and it’s good (but not essential) if you can accept payment by credit card.

For a catering business, you won’t need any of those things, but you will need a suitable vehicle for transporting food and equipment to the client’s location. Most catering businesses make use of folding tables or tables that can be assembled on-site. These can be hired on an as-needed basis or you can buy them. Catering businesses also usually hire their plates, glasses, and silverware for each individual party they cater.

For a mobile food business, you won’t normally have any expenses for tables, chairs, plates, glasses, or silverware. Your highest expense will be the vehicle you plan to operate the business from, and the cooking equipment. Other than that, you’ll simply be paying for napkins, take-away food containers, straws, plastic or bamboo forks etc.

For all three business types, you’ll also obviously need to buy the food ingredients and condiments.

Insure your business

It can be tempting to skimp on insurance, but no business is less suitable for doing so than a food service business. You need many different types of insurances, some of which are mandatory and some of which are optional.  The cost of these insurances are going to form a substantial part of your initial investment.

Now, you’re ready!

With all those things taken care of, all you need to do now is work out how you’re going to market your business and attract customers. Follow that up by providing great food, excellent service, and good value. If you do all these things correctly, you will have given yourself the best chance of success, and will be able to enjoy pursuing your passion in your food career. The International Career Institute offers the Certificate of Catering and Cooking, that you can complete online in as little as 24 weeks. Contact us today to start learning the vital skills you need for an amazing career in the catering industry.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.