What Does A Caterer Do? (And How To Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working in the food business to create satisfying meals can be both appealing and challenging. A caterer is to create new recipes, food arrangements and menus that people appreciate. Understanding the responsibilities of a caterer can help you decide whether you fit the role. In this article, we discuss "What does a caterer do?", educational requirements to enter the catering industry and necessary skills to be a good caterer.

What does a caterer do?

If you are considering a career in catering, you may benefit from knowing the answer to "What does a caterer do?". A caterer prepares, delivers and serves meals during special events such as a wedding, birthday party or corporate event. Caterers plan for their event by meeting with a client. This helps to determine the scheduling, menu and pricing for the total number of people attending the event.

Caterers typically cook off-site and transport food, cutlery and tableware to the event. The catering staff includes people across different roles, ranging from cooks, delivery people, estimators, servers and clean-up personnel.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a caterer usually include:

  • meeting with clients to choose a menu

  • estimating the cost of food and personnel for events

  • visiting event sites before an event to plan the layout and examine the kitchen facilities

  • planning ingredient amounts to prevent wastage

  • cooking and assembling menu items, usually off-site in a catering kitchen designed for commercial food preparation, including plating with decorative elements, wrapping and packing for transport

  • transportation of all food, serving and decorative items to the event venue

  • complying with regulations for food safety and handling

How much does a caterer make?

The national average salary of a caterer is ₹12,248 per month. This figure depends on their experience, the services they provide and the location of the organisation. For instance, a person with a few years of experience working in a tier-one city catering for a large-scale corporate event will earn way more than a fresher who lives in a tier-two or tier-three city and is catering for a local event.

Requirements to be a caterer

A caterer's success depends on the level of education and prior training in the kitchen that prepares them better for the role.

Education

Working as a caterer or for a catering company does not require any mandatory level of education usually. You can still enroll in a culinary education programme to stay ahead of the curve. Colleges and universities also offer several programmes, including culinary arts, business administration, event planning and other hospitality-related fields that can be beneficial to work in or run a catering company.

Training

Many caterers are self-taught cooks who learn while they are on the job. Working as a cook or a server can teach you specific skills useful for catering. Preparing meals for a large number of people or learning the proper etiquette for service at a banquet can help you become a good caterer.

Skills needed to be a caterer

A caterer takes on many roles and develops a variety of skills, including:

Customer service

Caterers meet with prospective clients before an event to chalk a menu. They also determine the costs and concerns relating to the event. The catering staff should be polite, cheerful and helpful to guests.

Related: What Is Customer Service? Definition And Career Advice

Business acumen

Catering service owners promote themselves and their food through networking and client recommendations. They should be resourceful and agile. These qualities help them manage payroll, overhead costs and create a detailed contract outlining the terms for each event.

Cooking expertise

Caterers and catering cooks should know the menu thoroughly and deliver the meals as per plans. To do this, they need extensive cooking knowledge to carry out the vision of the client. It is essential for head cooks should know a variety of recipes and expert cooking skills to impress clients and their guests.

Menu knowledge

Caterers should create a satisfying and diverse menu. Meals should be appealing both for the eyes and the taste buds. It is necessary for the catering staff to know what dishes go well together and the best methods for preparing and serving them.

Organisation

A catering crew that is efficient and responsible can function better as a team. Each member of the crew has specific duties. The supervisor oversees the employees are maintaining cleanliness in the kitchen and there is no wastage.

Logistical knowledge

Special events demand care and attention to several logistical details. It is essential for caterers to have a good eye for details and also the ability to adapt to logistical problems. This includes planning menus, ordering supplies, serving guests and returning serving pieces.

Ability to follow instructions

Every client has individual requirements, which makes it necessary for caterers to possess the ability to orchestrate new plans to serve food, organise dishes and ensure guests do not have to wait at the dinner table. Caterers who act as food expeditors should liaise between cooks and servers. This helps to facilitate kitchen orders and maintain quality control.

Knowledge of safe food handling procedures

Preparing food for an event requires adherence to food safety practices. This ensures guests leave the event healthy and happy. As a caterer, it is necessary to obey all guidelines to avoid cross-contamination and illness, such as proper temperatures for food storage and cleanliness standards.

Caterer work environment

Caterers handle many roles in a variety of locations and conditions. Here are some things you may expect when working as a caterer for special events:

  • Prepare, cook and assemble food in an off-site kitchen and transport it to the venue. At times, you might also require preparing meals outdoors, which might require some adaptation.

  • The catering business does not follow fixed work hours. If you are expecting a nine-to-five role, the catering industry may not be the one for you. Sometimes you might cook at all times of the day and at other times maybe twice a week.

  • You might have to use knives, kitchen tools and other kitchen equipment.

  • Tasks in the kitchen can get repetitive and mundane. You might chop food items or bake the same dish every day of the week.

  • Stand or even move around for long periods. This includes cooking, assembling, serving and clean-up at special events.

  • Complying with food safety and handling guidelines is imperative. This includes proper handling of kitchen gear and ensuring food meets temperature and quality standards.

How to become a caterer

Being a caterer is a good fit for anyone who enjoys cooking and working in changing locations. You can follow these steps to become a caterer:

1. Take a food safety course

The more caterers know about food-borne illnesses and how to prevent them, the easier it is to prevent customers from getting food poisoning. Food safety is crucial not only for the health of guests but also for the reputation of your organisation. You can take a food safety course online or offline to learn about potential hazards relating to food.

2. Practice your cooking skills

Take culinary classes, prepare recipes that you might require and practice your cooking skills. Whether you start your own catering company or work for someone else in their kitchen, honing your skills can keep you ahead of the competition.

3. Seek apprenticeships or internships

Working with an expert goes a long way to sharpen your skills. Caterers in the industry may be willing to offer an apprenticeship or internship so you can learn from a mentor. Enquire with vocational or culinary schools and certification organisations to see if they can arrange a match for you.

Related: What Are Internships And How Do You Find One?

4. Maintain good relations with clients

Be generous when preparing menus. When budgeting meals with clients, try not to overcharge for a few extra changes or additions. The key is always to make clients and their guests happy. This solidifies your reputation and helps you land more clients in the long term.

5. Network and market yourself

Help others taste your food by participating in wedding trade shows or even volunteering your services for events, such as a school event and charity functions, among others, in exchange for some amount of advertising. You can also use traditional networking sources like social media or websites.

Related: What Is A Peer-To-Peer Network?

Caterer job description

Below is an example of a caterer job description:

We are looking for a caterer who can help us cook and serve food to guests at special events such as weddings, birthday parties and conferences. As part of the catering team, you will work across different roles in both the preparatory and execution stages, including transport and cleanup.

An ideal candidate is punctual, eager to help with any kind of job and can multitask while standing on their feet for hours at a time. We follow stringent food handling practices for guest safety and we expect the applicant to be mindful of food safety practices as well.

A typical event includes several stages, including planning the menu, communication with the client, food tasting sessions and cooking. The caterer must also be aware of plating and packaging of food, how to transport meals safely, serve food and keep utensils, tables and crockery clean. Finally, after every event, we perform a thorough cleanup session, which follows with repacking and safely transporting everything back to the catering kitchen.

We value applicants with prior culinary experience or certifications in the hospitality or food service industry. We also value people without experience who demonstrate a desire to learn.

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