Ten tips for perfect, or near perfect, catering


Catering can be the financial backbone of many restaurants. I have always considered entrees, appetizers, and desserts to be an edible brochure for special event catering in each of my restaurants. I never would have survived for a decade if I didn’t actively promote and sell catering in all of my restaurants. Whether a 20 seat remodeled country store, a 50 seat French Bistro, or a 350 seat converted lakeside boathouse, each had a profitable catering department.

Two of my restaurants, both of them in California that had a less than positive ending, did not have a catering department or clientele and it proved to be disastrous decision that led to eventual location extinction. Simply put, I lost a fortune and ended up closing both of them, primarily, I believe, because I did not have that high profit margin catering.

Recently I did a story about the uncovered cart of food being wheeled up Powell St. from a local San Francisco hotel to another, sister hotel.

The only thing worse than not having a catering department, is having one that operates poorly. This will put you out of business faster than anything else in the business.

The foundation of any good catering event is the execution of the event.

That begins with the planning of the event.

Here are ten tips on a catering check list:

1). Plan the event and write it down beginning with what day and time prep begins.

2). Assign tasks and make a sample of each of the dishes that will be at the event. Many catering companies have a “tasting” for the clients where the actual dishes are sampled and chosen. Take pictures before these plates are delivered so you can later use them as an example for your kitchen to recreate.

3). Allow enough time for the food to be prepared but do not prepare it so far in advance that it is tired when it arrives at the event.

4). People eat with their eyes, first. Make sure to create items that are creatively attractive when on a buffet table or are passed to your guests.

5). Stay on schedule. Synchronize your team. Make sure they are working in concert with everyone else.

6). Take the day part in consideration. If you are usually swamped with breakfast orders on Saturday morning and you have an event that needs to go out at 1:00, do not try and squeeze an event in without extra time or people.

7). Build in any extra labor in the food costs.

8). Do not, if you can help it have a printed menu with prices on it. Catering is a direct profit center. Prices fluctuate. Once they are printed you are committed to them.

9). Make sure all of the food leaves your kitchen covered, in NSF approved containers or with something as simple as clear wrap. Make sure nothing can spoil from the time it leaves your kitchen until the time it gets to the event.

10). Don’t forget the serving utensils.




John Foley is Publisher of foodiedaily.com

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