The concept of afternoon tea, often referred to as high tea, finds its roots in 18th century England and France. Originally a heavy meal served in the late afternoon, high tea has since evolved to include a more dainty fare of pastries, light sandwiches and cakes. Tea rooms and tea parties are typically characterised by a Victorian theme, with Victorian decor and delicate china. A tea party catering business could be a lot of fun, but will require some serious legwork to obtain your clients.
Understand all that is involved in starting your own tea party business. While you will save tons of money by operating your tea party catering business from within your home, you will need to rent a licensed kitchen in which you can create your tea party menus. Other expenses include liability insurance, a business permit, obtaining your tea cup sets, advertising your business, travel expenses to and from each party and advertising costs.
Visit a tea room in your area to get a feel for appropriate decor for a tea party. While your clients may already have an idea of how they want their tea party set up, they may seek your advice. You should be knowledgeable on different styles of decor and proper etiquette. Tea parties are about the look, as well as the food and service. You need to be able to create the perfect atmosphere.
Create a fitting and memorable name for your business, and then register your business with your county clerk. Obtain a sales tax permit and federal tax ID. Then contact your health department to obtain your catering license and inquire about any other regulations. For example, your commercial vehicle in which you transport your food must meet county requirements. Purchase liability insurance from your bank or credit union or visit Netquote.com.
Find a licensed kitchen in your area where you can prepare your tea party menus. See Resources for help on finding a licensed kitchen in your area, or contact local churches, halls, private organisations or clubs.
Design your tea party menu. This may include an assortment of sandwiches, pastries, and teas. See Resources for tea party menu ideas. If you will cater children's tea parties, create kid-friendly menus that include cocoas and lemonade, as well as teas.
Purchase plates, cups, saucers, dessert bowls, tiered servers, sugar bowls, creamers, coffee urns and teapots (see Resources). Find elaborate china at thrift stores, antique stores and discount stores such as Ross or Marshalls. Purchase faux flowers, ribbons, doilies, cloth napkins and table cloths in Victorian styles. Purchase teas, food and ingredients to create your menu or buy pastries from local caterers or bakeries. You'll also need a commercial van to transport your goods and containers to carry your food and tea sets.
Throw a tea party for your family and friends to gain some experience. Ask them to treat you as a professional and have them critique you afterward.
Get your name out there. Create brochures for your business and pass these out. Advertise on notice boards at grocery stores, antique shops and libraries. Submit your business to local family-friendly magazines. Donate goodies to local organisations and schools. Join your Chamber of Commerce. Purchase a website or start a free blog and blog about tea news to lure in readers. Include your contact information and rates along the side of the web page.
Contact the IRS to learn how to pay taxes as a sole proprietor or business owner.