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Many people love entertaining and if you have young children, it seems like parties at home are becoming an ever-more common occurrence. Booking venues for events can be expensive, especially when you factor in food, not to mention that you’re often time-limited, and the food may be primarily beige and leave more than a little to be desired. Plus, if the event or occasion is for one of your children, it’s often in a highly child-focused venue and there’s much less opportunity for the adults to interact.
However, catering for a number of people can involve quite a lot of work and preparation, so increasingly people are turning to professional outside caterers to assist. This can then leave you free to enjoy the party, without having spent days prior cooking up pots of food or making and slicing sandwiches.
You may think that it sounds expensive, but it can be surprisingly cost-effective, especially when you factor in the time you’re saving. Most caterers offer a range of options to suit all budgets, on a price-per-head basis. I’d recommend only ordering food for 75% of attendees – as the allocation for each head is usually generous, this seems to be about the right level.
Working as a catering professional in a busy environment, it can be easy to lose sight of the people you are actually working for – your customers. When you are busy working in a kitchen, you can feel very far removed from the people eating and enjoying your food.
It is important never to lose sight of the people you are catering for, as this stops the job becoming a routine. You should think about crafting your menus and your services to meet the needs of the different people you are cooking for. If possible, have a chat to people to work out what they are looking for and to decide on menus with them. This is especially important if you are catering for a wedding. This might be routine catering for you, but for the bride and groom, it is their special day. Make them feel special with your customer service and attention to detail.
Catering is an industry where you will usually be expected to have a qualification of some kind. This proves that you are competent and understand the processes that are essential to what you are doing, like good food hygiene and good ingredient storage. There are lots of ways in which you can gain a qualification.
There are lots of different qualifications you may earn, including a Diploma in Professional Cookery, an NVQ in Hospitality, a Diploma in Patisserie and Confectionery, and many more. The qualification you decide on will depend on your ambitions for your career. For example, if you also want to work with customers in food service, and not just in the kitchen, you will also want some food service skills.
If you are going to gain a qualification, check what careers it can lead to and find a college where you can study at times to suit you.
Once you have built up a catering or cooking business, the next thing to do is to begin expanding. This will allow you to grow into a bigger business and complete more work, making money in the long term. Here are some things to think about when hiring staff:
- Do they have qualifications in catering? This will show that they are passionate about making good food and that they know their way around a kitchen and food hygiene procedures.
- Have they worked in the industry before? A proven track record is a good way of seeing how successful a caterer somebody can be.
- Do you want to have the responsibility of employing them? It is a major decision to make and you will be responsible for a lot of admin.
- Are you happy to have them representing your business? A caterer working for your company is a direct reflection on you and needs to provide your customers with quality food and service.
You need the right equipment to be able to create mesmerising dishes. As a caterer, investing in your equipment is investing in your career. But how do you know what you will actually need?
The main thing is to check with the venue what they already have. If they have everything you need to serve your food then you won’t need to worry about presentation. Check about everything from cutlery to centrepieces, as you don’t want to find you don’t have what you expect when you arrive.
The more equipment you have, the more versatile you will be as a caterer. If you are preparing food off-site, make sure you have the right equipment for transporting food. This includes a vehicle where you can store and stack food at the right temperature.
Also, invest in good quality equipment for food preparation. From mixers to cookers.