7 Steps to Know if You’re Starting a Charcuterie Business
Kaycee Anderson debuted Coastal Charcuterie in St. Pete Beach, Fla., after her friends suggested she start posting photos of the elaborate charcuterie boards she made for her own gatherings on Instagram.
Now she’s sold more than 50 charcuterie boards — and profited $2,000 in eight months. She juggles several boards a week, sometimes several a night, along with working as an accountant and office manager at a marine construction company.
“I actually started my business during the pandemic. A lot of people wanted something different that could be delivered to their homes,” she said.
Starting a charcuterie board business is harder than just placing a few slices of gouda and cheddar next to some prosciutto then dropping in grapes. But if you have a knack for selecting specialty cured meats and artfully arranging them with all kinds of food, smart grocery shopping, lots of networking and love all the hustle of a side gig, charcuterie could be calling to you.
Yes, pandemic charcuterie board businesses popped up across the country as families stuck inside together or neighbors in a bubble grew tired of pizza, wings, and sourdough bread. Meat and cheese boards with all the fixin’s became a new staple.
“The holidays of 2020 is when it really took off. I probably did 20 boards in the month of December,” Anderson said. The demand didn’t slow much as she filled Super Bowl orders for meat and cheese boards and a custom board for a fancy date night at Valentine’s. Charcuterie boards were a fun and delicious way to watch March Madness and the perfect gift to send for a friend’s baby shower on Zoom.
An elaborate charcuterie board goes far beyond the cheese boards of days past, you see. They even go beyond just a meat and cheese board. Cured meats and cheese are still staples, but boards often include nuts, fruit, pickled vegetables, spreads, chutney, jams, crackers, bread and olives. Then there are people also making breakfast charcuterie boards with pancakes, fruit, chocolate and bacon, or dessert boards with dips, fruit, cookies, pretzels and candy corn (really).
There are countless books, Pinterest photos and Instagram posts full of ideas for themes, shapes and ingredients.
7 Steps to Starting a Charcuterie Business
Anderson has picked up some tricks and secrets of the charcuterie trade, like holiday cheeses sell out early at Aldi and Trader Joe’s has the perfect bite-size olive-and-fig crackers. Realtors like giving charcuterie boards as a housewarming gift after a closing.
But there are more nuts and bolts to consider.
1. Know What ‘Charcuterie’ Means
Before you dive into the business, know the definition of what you are making. The traditional word can be traced as far back as 15th century France. “Charcuterie” is a French word meaning “products produced by a fancy pork butcher.” Charcuterie generally refers to a display of prepared meats paired with cheeses and plain vegetables on a traditional board. They remain a popular way to feed guests on a budget for small parties or wine tastings.
2. Consider All the Startup Costs
Anderson’s biggest startup cost was a $60 round wooden charcuterie board that’s about three feet in diameter from T.J. Maxx. She uses it for her grazing tables, which serve about 30 people.
For other small, medium and large orders she assembles the charcuterie on disposable hard plastic trays that come with lids and cost about $4 on Amazon.
She’s also bought a few distinctive bowls, spreaders and tongs. But all together the startup investment was under $300.
3. Do the Math on Pricing Your Products
“The hardest part is figuring out prices and what people are willing to pay,” Anderson said. “I really had to sit down with my mom, who is in the catering business, and figure it out. My main goal was to keep it to around $9 to $10 a head. With that I’m making a really good profit.”
Her smallest charcuterie board sells for $40 and she can usually make it for a cost of around $20. But when you figure in the time for grocery shopping, assembly and delivery, that profit isn’t even $10 an hour. Yet when she makes three or more similar boards within a couple days and combines shopping and assembly time, her profit margin improves.
On most boards, Anderson automatically includes crackers, bread, nuts, olives, pickles, fruits and vegetables. Clients can pick the main ingredients from four categories: hard cheese, soft cheese, meat and spread. With the small boards, which serve two to four people, they get four options. They pick six options for the medium, which costs $70 and serves four to eight. Clients pick eight options for the large board, which serves eight to 12 and costs $100.
4. Learn to Create and Perfect Your Charcuterie Boards
Anderson, who’s 26, has been helping her mom on catering projects since she was 14 and was drawn to charcuterie several years ago.
“My mom says she watches me and I just move things around back and forth 10 times or more until I’m completely satisfied with how it looks,” she said. “It’s kind of like painting a painting to me.”
She learned recipes for five different spreads, including lemon whipped ricotta and a sun-dried tomato spread, from friends and family over the years. She also has several go-to charcuterie books including On Boards, That Cheese Plate Will Change Your LIfe and Beautiful Boards.
5. Cheese Here, Crackers There: Shop for a Charcuterie Board
“If I’m doing a bigger board or multiple boards I go to Sam’s (Club) hand’s down. The prices are great. I can get a big wheel of brie and distribute it between three boards,” Anderson said.
If it’s just one board she heads to Aldi.
“They have a really good variety of cheese. They have specialty cheese on holidays. For St. Patrick’s Day they had green gouda. For Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day they had cheese shaped like a heart,” she said. “I buy several of those as soon as they have them because they always sell out. Then I can premake a themed board to show on social media for people to get the idea to order.”
6. Attract Charcuterie Board Customers on Social Media
With 200 followers on Coastal Charcuterie’s Instagram page and about 200 for the Facebook page, Anderson has steady business, which goes to show you don’t have to go viral or be a serious social media influencer to have a successful side gig. She uses hashtags that local foodies follow and a variety of others including #charcuterieofInstagram.
Anderson engages followers with photos of her boards, of course. She posts examples of themed boards for graduates and teachers at the end of school, moms at Mother’s Day and for the Super Bowl a week or so before clients would need to order them.
She created her own website and includes the link on all of her social media so customers can see more photos and place orders.
7. Balance Your Charcuterie Side Gig With A Full Time Job
“Sometimes I do two to three orders a day on the weekends. I do a lot of the prep work the night before, cutting up the cheese and meats,” Anderson said. “I make all the spreads the night before, too. Then the day of, I cut up any fruit and vegetables and assemble each board. I do them all at once.”
If she has an event after work, she rushes home and assembles all the pre-cut foods then delivers the boards.
Anderson keeps all size boards on hand for last-minute orders so she’s not running out to buy them as well as food. And if it’s really last minute, she will suggest whatever food she has on hand to the client so there’s no extra trip to the grocery store.
Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer with The Penny Hoarder.