Caterer Job Profile: Careers on the Move
By Jane Greer
Catered events run the gamut from simple box lunches to children's parties to cocktail hors d'oeuvres to gala events. They may provide elegant table linens, a different wine for every course, fresh flowers on every table, an ice sculpture, and a laser light display.
Caterers: A Day in the Life
Caterers don't just prepare and transport food to events. Depending on the event, location, budget, and client's wishes, you may be required not only to cook delicious, creatively presented dishes but also to design and decorate the site; work with bridal consultants, florists, bakers, and wine experts; find entertainment; and provide portable toilets, tables, chairs, tents, table linen, flatware, glassware, and even limousines. More and more caterers are providing full event planning as consumers grow more wealthy and sophisticated.
Because the catering business is usually seasonal--requiring extremely long days, nights, and weekends during party and wedding seasons but tending to be quieter at other times--you'll probably have a small full-time staff. One of your greatest challenges will be to find talented, dependable part-time help when you need them. Another challenge will be understanding the logistics and economics of cooking for large groups and transporting food while maintaining safety and quality. For most caterers, these challenges are more than offset by the chance to run a business independently.
Caterer Training Requirements
Catering is a complex job combining entrepreneurship, culinary arts, human resources, marketing, organizational skills, and lots of hard physical work, and becoming a successful caterer requires a great deal of training. Much of it can be acquired on the job if you work in a restaurant or for another caterer, but if you're in a hurry to start your own business, you should consider college or culinary school training. For instance, regardless of their culinary prowess, caterers need to to know how to advertise and market themselves, price their services to be competitive but also profitable, and recruit and manage part-time employees who will make the business look good. A number of culinary schools and colleges offer classes and degrees in hospitality and catering.
Salary Information for Caterers
According to the National Restaurant Association, catering is one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry. As a caterer, what you earn will depend on many factors. If you work hard, are located in the right city, have the right training and experience, price your services correctly, have a great reputation, and offer in-demand types of catering, you should be able to earn $60,000 per year or more.
About the Author
Jane Greer is a freelance writer, editor, and communication consultant.