If you’re interested in turning your love of food into a career as a caterer, it’s important to know the duties you may have, based on the different types of companies you can work for. Some catering entrepreneurs focus on the business side of things, relying on staff to serve and prepare foods. Other caterers spend more time creating menus and preparing dishes.
If you own your own catering business, your first responsibility will be generating business. This means either creating a niche, such as corporate outings, children’s events or weddings, or offering general catering for any function. Your duties will include creating relationships and cross-promotions with halls, wedding and party planners, photographers and florists. You’ll need to create a brand for your business, manage social media sites, develop brochures and place ads. If you don’t have a flair for selling, you can hire a marketing firm or sales rep.
The most enjoyable part of their work, for many caterers, is the time they spend creating menus, dishes and plans for parties, banquets, cocktail hours, weddings and other events. This is where you can create a brand around your unique personality. You’ll need to check out the competition to determine what others are selling and what your target audience is buying. If you’re a people person, you’ll work with potential clients to create the best menus within their budgets. If you work for a planner or want to avoid sales, you can spend more of your time creating food after contracts are booked.
A caterer must manage the logistics for each function, including ordering food, storing it, having the equipment to prepare it, transporting it and serving it. You must maintain sufficient preparation and serving supplies to handle all kitchen and event-site logistics or you’ll wind up with egg on your face. For example, you can spend days preparing an elegant buffet, but if you show up without heating elements to place under your chafing dishes, your reputation will fall faster than a bad souflee.
If you own your own company, you’ll need to handle the many administrative tasks associated with a catering business. This includes meeting all health department requirements, obtaining the necessary permits and licenses, managing your sales, payroll and income taxes, writing contracts, sending invoices and handling marketing. If your main reason for getting into catering is your love of cooking, realize that you’ll probably spend as much time out of the kitchen as in it if you work for yourself.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.