The next time you attend a wedding or large business meeting, you'll probably
enjoy a visit to the buffet table for some yummy food. Have you ever wondered
who prepared all this food and who will wash up the dirty dishes? It was a
caterer, an expert in food and events.
Caterers tackle the complicated task of providing food for both large and
small occasions. The job involves everything from menu planning to cleanup.
Some caterers prepare food for large events such as weddings with as many
as 500 guests. Other caterers may specialize in providing small business lunches
to only a handful of people.
There are two kinds of caterers: the "off-premise caterer" and the "on-site
- The off-premise caterer is typically self-employed. This caterer
prepares food in their own commercial kitchen, then delivers it to where it
will be eaten. These caterers may also have to provide other required items,
like plates, tables and chairs. In such cases, these caterers will hire another
business as a sub-contractor to provide these items.
- The on-site caterer is employed by a hotel, banquet hall or convention
center. The idea is "one stop supplies it all." If you have a meeting at a
hotel, they will provide everything you need, including meals, tables, chairs
and even rooms.
From a career point of view, the self-employed caterer concentrates more
on food selection and preparation. The on-site caterer is more concerned with
the management of the total event, including logistics of where guests will
park their cars.
An essential part of every caterer's job is to find out how many people
must be fed, what they want to eat and when they will be eating. Based on
this information, the caterer builds a menu and works out how much food will
have to be purchased.
All the food must then be prepared and ready for the event. Sometimes caterers
will deliver and serve the food. Other times, the food is picked up and the
caterer doesn't go to the function.
Caterers are usually hired directly by their clients. Sometimes a client
will ask for a "bid" before they hire a caterer. A bid is a document which
sets out what the menu will be and how much it will cost.
Clients may call several caterers for bids, then choose one. While menu
choices and price are important considerations for a client, so is the caterer's
Caterers work all kinds of hours. They may find themselves feeding a rock
'n' roll band at 2 a.m. Saturday night, only to get up at 6 a.m. to prepare
for a funeral Sunday morning. Whenever events happen, you'll find a caterer
Physically, a caterer must be able to endure long hours and the occasional
short night. There is some heavy lifting involved as well, such as stacks
of dishes and trays of food.