The Italian Caterer
- small budget
- deliver / take away
- in the countryside
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Now here’s a concept that I particularly like, and for several reasons. Firstly because it could give an opportunity to young, trained professionals (or even self-taught enthusiasts) to go into business easily and at a low cost.
Secondly, there is a real need for this type of good, wholesome food. What’s more, this concept is really in tune with the times we live in.
As you are aware, buying or starting up a restaurant is a costly business.
So do something else! Our towns and villages abound in delicatessens which are unfortunately having to close down for the pure and simple reason that young people are not attracted to the job and apprentices are hard to find. So the premises are often taken over by Chinese take away or kebab sellers or, even worse, by banks or hairdressing salons. How sad!
But this could be your lucky break. This could be your chance to find a prime located premises with all the necessary catering equipment. And the icing on the cake: your premises may very well include an apartment.
As there will be no room to set up a restaurant in which to serve your customers, you’ll have to become a caterer/delicatessen. You’ll need a catchment of at least 30,000 inhabitants.
Italian cuisine is simple, it’s varied and universally liked. Italian caterers/delicatessens can only be found in large towns or cities which is crazy given that lots of people have neither the time nor the desire to cook proper meals these days. And anyway, it’s high time the usual delicatessen fare was sexed up!
So when you have found your premises and freshened up the décor, you’ll be ready to bring your business to life. Before continuing, I must emphasize that you don’t need to be Italian to cook Italian food.
There are numerous books where you’ll find whatever recipes you need. Amongst them I would recommend the well-known “silver spoon” and books written by Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio, both of whom are great Italian chefs.
If you have the means and the time I would advise you to go to Italy and to gain first-hand knowledge of the cuisine, the local and regional produce, including wine and desserts. You may even find some local producers willing to export their produce.
Imagine the delight of your customers when you inform them that your mozzarella comes directly from the farm or that your olive oil is usually never exported! Or even that you have be friended the guy who makes your prosciutto, salame, coppa and mortadele. It never fails to impress!
You will of course make your own fresh pasta. Eg: tagliatelli, spaghetti, papardelle (both plain and flavoured) and the stuffed varieties too (ravioli, mezzaluna). Change the fillings you use regularly, using whatever ingredients are in season.
The sauces to go with your pasta will of course be homemade, and you’ll give your customers precise instructions about reheating them. A truly delicious homemade tomato sauce, prepared exactly as it ought to be, will be available on a daily basis.
You’ll have a wide range of lasagnes and pasta gratins, always a favourite as they heat up so well.
Foccacia is a terrific idea. You spilt them open, fill them with all sorts of fillings and all your customers have to do is brush them with olive oil and pop them into the oven. Make at least 2 different sizes with a large choice of fillings. Provide suitable packaging for take-away.
Italian cuisine is also famous for its antipasti, and these sell very well, especially if you make most of them yourself.
A choice of different types of salads will also tempt your clientele.
Italian cuisine abounds in wonderful, traditional dishes. Choose the ones you like best, bearing in mind that they must be easily reheated by the customer. I can just imagine your porchetta (Italian style roast pork shoulder) or your roman-style leg of lamb selling like hot-cakes!
Put together a menu which the customer can consult and choose from when placing an order. If you have the know-how, the time and the desire, there are some fabulous and original Italian desserts and pastries. Oh for a homemade pannettone at Christmas time!
Selling top quality Italian charcuterie, cured meats, will round off your turnover, but you really must find the best suppliers possible. The pancetta, coppa and mortadelle sold in supermarkets are not worthy of the great Italian traditional charcuterie! You will also introduce your clientele to lesser known specialities such as spianta, all sorts of salami including Milanese salami which is so much superior to that nasty Danish stuff found in supermarkets.
You could also introduce your customers to the famous lardo di Colonnata, an Italian lard which is a real treat and will be widely appreciated.
You might also want to stock some good Italian wines and a range of Italian gourmet foods.
You should compile a special menu of specialities which can be adapted to catering for large numbers. This catering end of the business could greatly boost your turnover.
With a little advertising from time to time, especially before your opening, and if you keep your prices reasonable, you’ll have no trouble building a profitable business.