Duties & Responsibilities for Catering
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Caterers prepare and serve food items to clients hosting parties, meetings and events. In some cases, clients will retrieve the ordered food items to serve guests themselves, and, in other situations, caterers are required to transport the meals to an off-site event location. In either scenario, caterers have numerous duties and responsibilities to perform.
Caterers must prepare a menu with a variety of different popular foods. Items may include appetizers, entrees, salads, sandwiches, desserts or other foods that will meet your client's needs. Taking into consideration that you may be serving large groups of people, some of whom may be vegans, vegetarians, children or allergic to certain foods, you'll need to have a variety of options.
In many instances, catering is delivered to parties or organizations that have a scheduled chain of events. In these situations, caterers are required to work closely with the host or event coordinator to be sure courses of the meal are served at the proper times without disturbing the guests or getting in the way of any pertinent procedures. Wedding receptions are a prime example of such a situation. Catering staff may serve appetizers while guests are being received, but, while toasts and bridal party announcements are being made, servers may be required to leave the dining area until it is time to begin the table service.
Food preparation may be one of the most important responsibilities of the caterer. Besides the importance of providing quality foods with an attractive presentation, maintaining health and sanitary standards is an absolute must for legal as well as ethical reasons. The caterer must also be fully conscious of portion control in order to avoid profit loss, unnecessary waste or underserving the guests.
Transporting Food Items
The ability to transport food efficiently is essential to successfully complete an on-site catering job. Certain items like pastas and meats must be kept hot, while salads or cold cuts must remain chilled. Other items may be prepared in advance while some must be prepared at the site of the event, and still there may be items that are prepared ahead of time but assembled at the event, such as beef sandwiches. Knowledge of proper packing techniques and catering supplies, such as racks, Sternos and thermal coolers and bags is required.
In many cases, the catering staff will be asked to set up all tables, chairs, linens and place settings where the guests will be seated. Even if the event location has a pre-set dining area when the caterer arrives, the food-service staff will be required to set up the food-serving area or create a buffet-style setup for guests to serve themselves.
Once all tables, place settings, serving areas, and food items are prepared and guests are ready to dine, catering staffs may be required to serve the food. At most formal events, table service is offered and a catering waitstaff will deliver the meal directly to the tables course-by-course while clearing discarded dishes in between courses. At more casual events with buffet-style meals, the waitstaff may be asked to serve certain items to guests who line up at the food-service station.
The final step in off-site catering is cleaning up and tearing down the dining area. All plates, dishes, silverware and glasses must be removed, linens collected, tables and chairs removed and garbage cleaned up. Packing up any left over foods, serving equipment, thermal containers and bags to return to the home location is typically the last required responsibility for a caterer completing a job.
Michelle Renee is a professional trainer and quality assurance consultant in the career, education and customer service industries, with two decades of experience in food/beverage and event coordinating management. Renee has been published by Lumino and Career Flight as well as various food, education and business publications.