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How to Become a Catering Director

Caterers are the professionals behind some of life's most important events, from weddings to graduation parties to business meetings. Caterers must create meals that not only taste good but also look great. These seasoned professionals prepare gourmet meals on the go, often without the convenience of a full-service kitchen or state-of-the-art appliances.

Culinary Arts

Catering director job description

Catering directors oversee an event's food service, but that's only the beginning. In fact, these professionals oversee virtually all aspects of an event, from planning to cleanup. While specific duties often vary by position or work environment, there are a few duties most catering directors perform. These include:

  • Event planning: Catering directors work with clients to ensure their events succeed. This includes helping them coordinate services with other vendors and ensuring they've considered all the details.
  • Customer service: A catering director is the anchor connecting the client to the staff. When there's a problem, it's up to this professional to resolve it (and fast).
  • Site preparation: Catering directors make sure every visual detail of an event is perfect. They also oversee seating arrangements, room layout, and decoration.
  • Menu planning: Catering directors work with clients and chefs to come up with an appropriate menu that works within the event budget. They also oversee pricing and prepare sample menus.
  • Management: Catering directors oversee event staff, typically hiring, training, and firing them when necessary. They also oversee scheduling, considering each employee's strengths to ensure the staff matches the event.
  • Business relations: Catering managers are responsible for coordinating services and ordering food, equipment, and supplies. They must be able to maintain good working relationships with vendors and negotiate deals when necessary.

One of the great things about being a catering director is having the freedom to work in a variety of environments; after all, you could work anywhere that would support a great party. Still, most catering directors work in one of the following venues:

  • Hotels
  • Restaurants with banquet services
  • Cruise lines
  • Event centers
  • Private and office event sites

Catering director educational requirements

While food management professionals were historically taught on the job after serving a number of years in the industry, the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) notes that more employers than ever are recruiting professionals with formal training. This is particularly true for catering directors, which must have a certain degree of business acumen.

There are a number of paths to becoming a catering director. Here are the most common credentials:

  • Associate degree in catering, food, or hospitality management
  • Bachelor's degree in catering, food, or hospitality management
  • Professional food manager certificate, requirements vary by state
  • Certified professional catering executive certificate through the National Association of Catering Executives
  • Other business-related degrees, so long as you have an interest and aptitude for food service

Catering director courses touch on a number of topics, including: nutrition, food preparation and planning, business, accounting, public relations, and sanitation.

Catering director salary and job growth

Like most food management careers, the job outlook for catering directors is a mixed bag. On one hand, the BLS reports that new positions are expected to grow just 5 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is slower than the average for all occupations. On the other hand, food careers typically have tremendous turnover, so there is still an abundance of jobs for new catering directors.

It can be difficult to say for certain how much you can expect to earn as a catering director since salary varies by employer, typical event size and budget, and location. In general, however, the BLS reported that food service managers made an average annual salary of $48,560 in May of 2014. This number can increase dramatically with education and experience. You can also earn more by using your skills to launch your own catering service, though a business degree might be in order to help you succeed.

If a career in catering sounds like the job for you, browse Chef2Chef.net to learn more about becoming a catering director.

Sources:

  • Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
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            Lackawanna College is the premier, private, accredited two-year college serving the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. With a focus on keeping higher education affordable and accessible to our immediate community, Lackawanna draws 80 percent of its student population right from our own region.

            With a main campus situated in downtown Scranton, Lackawanna’s expanding footprint also includes satellite centers in Hawley, Hazleton, New Milford, and Towanda.

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