Caterers are people who arrange the preparation and presentation of food for clients, as well as having the responsibility for the delivery of the food. Some caterers organize large events, including not only the food and drink, but also the decorations, dance floors, tables, chairs, music and lighting.
Catering is one of the fastest growing fields in Europe, Canada, and the United States. This field has continued to grow year after year, with many job openings appearing yearly.
Catering as an industry also has representation in a Union. The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Association was founded in 1920, having been created from the original International Federation of Tobacco Workers. As of 2005, the IUF encompassed organizations in 120 countries and represents over 12 million workers worldwide.
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.
Mobile Caterers - 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.
Hotel/Restaurant Caterers - are often liaisons between the client and the kitchen staff, planning events. Their responsibilities include menu preparation, banquet arrangement, table set-up, and delivery of decorations, as well as arranging for extra service personnel as needed.
Private Caterers - 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, and retirement parties, as well as many other events. They are responsible for all aspects of each occasion including menus, plate and dinnerware rental, and arranging for the appropriate wait staff. They are also 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 Caterers to become successful in their chosen field.
Many legal points 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, a clear knowledge of health and safety regulations, along with certification of such knowledge is a requirement of good Caterers.
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.
Caterers work in a variety of locations, such as construction sites, business lobbies, restaurants, hotels, malls, banquet and wedding reception halls, with some even working from their own homes.