A caterer is someone who arranges the delivery, preparation and presentation of food for clients. If you've ever attended a bridal shower, fund raiser, rehearsal dinner, wedding reception or a bar mitzvah that had beautifully prepared and presented food, chances are that event was catered. Their responsibilities include not only the food and drinks, but the decorations, tables, chairs, music and lighting. Catering is one of the fastest growing careers in the culinary arts field.
There are three main types of caterers which include:
Caterers of each type meet a variety of needs for their clients. Note that in some cases, dietary and religious needs may play a part in the event being catered and need to be carefully observed.
- will often be found at a fair, a street corner, a food and drink trailer at a construction site, in a shopping mall kiosk or food court, and sometimes in the lobbies of some businesses. These types of caterers offer pre-packaged items ranging from sandwiches to salads and may even deliver meals for business clientele too busy to leave their office for lunch.
- are often liaisons between the client and the kitchen staff for planning an event. Their responsibilities include menu preparation, banquet arrangement, table set-up, delivery of decorations, as well as arranging for extra service personnel as needed.
- own their own businesses, contracting vendors as needed. These caterers are often hired for wedding receptions, birthday parties, business and personal anniversaries, business holiday events, retirement parties, as well as many other events. They are responsible for all aspects of the occasion including menus, plate and dinnerware rentals, and arranging for the appropriate wait staff. They are often responsible for arranging a clean-up crew to come in after the event has ended.
Catering requires a strong work ethic, as well as patience, excellent communication and supervisory skills, and devotion to detail. Excellent organizational skills, as well as fiscal responsibility will aid a caterer to become successful in this career.
Many legal requirements will need to be met by caterers as well. These include a health permit, liability insurance, and the appropriate business permits required by your state, province or country. A client will not wish to hire a caterer who does not hold proper insurance and permits. As well, knowledge of the health and safety regulations, along with certification is a requirement.
Aside from the legal and work-related requirements, there is also the need for caterers to be able to cook well, along with the knowledge of seasonings and the seasonal availability of the items desired by the clients. Attending culinary school is preferred, as having some training in culinary arts and business management will come in handy. Attending culinary school is not mandatory to become successful in the field of catering, however it may be a strong starting point in obtaining a position with an already established business.
A caterer can work in a variety of locations, both indoors and outdoors. Some examples are construction sites, business lobbies, hotels, banquet and wedding receptions, and people's private homes.