Catering Supplies and Materials

The following is a listing of Supplies, Materials, and equipment that are essential for a Catering Business.

        • Event Calender
        • Business Cards
        • Photo Copier/Printer/Fax
        • Office Phone
        • Business Signage/Promoting Materials
        • QuickBooks Software (For Billing Invoices, tracking expenses, and payroll)

      • Chafers (Display and containment for hot food)

    • Sternos (used to keep food in Chafers hot)

    • Heat Lamps (Used to keep crispy items hot, or alternate heating display such as a carving station)

    • Portable stoves (Can be used for omelet stations, or cook-to order items)
    • Ice Buckets
    • Coffee cups
    • Coffee/Tea brewing machine
    • Coffee and Tea Containers
    • Ground coffee beans
    • Tea bags
    • 6ft Buffet Tables

    • 8ft Buffet Tables
    • Portable Chairs
    • Display Platters
    • Cold Food Display
    • Hot box
    • Multi tray heat server

    • Serving Trays
    • Hot plate covers

  • Dinner plates
  • Cooking trays
  • Storage containers
  • Water Pitchers
  • Wine KeysThe following items can be rented instead of purchased base on your event needs. There may be times that you utilize a combination of rental ware, as well as your own materials. It will be imperative to communicate with your staff on which items are rental, and which item belong to the company. You will need to establish an area for separation of these items. Some items may also be provided by your client. You will need to discuss package options with your client. The more materials and or supplies you provide for your client; the higher the cost.
  • Flatware (silverware; i.e knives, forks, spoons)
  • Wine glasses
  • Water glasses
  • Napkins and Table linen
  • Center pieces

How to Start your own Catering Business; what you need to know

Perhaps you have considered starting your own catering company, but you are not quite sure where to get started. Maybe you are clueless as to what you may need, or where to attain the resources for what you need. I have compiled a list of areas to consider as well as integrated resources that you can use to get you started.
Please note: The order in which I have listed is not important. You are able to purchase, apply, Market, or establish the details of your business as you see fit. I have merely organized the areas in detail, so that you may view the breakdown, and be inspired to begin your business Venture.

Where to Begin

To begin your business venture, you will need to:

  • Registrar Your business/Attain Licensing
  • Understand Laws/Regulations/Requirements
  • Acquire Business Accounting Software/Get Office Ready
  • Decide On the Menu/type of food to sell
  • Purchase & Store Necessary Materials/Equipment/Supplies
  • Know Where/How to Market your ‘Brand’/Gain Customer Base

Accounting and Legal Organization
You should visit your local City Hall in order to register your business name, attain proper licensing, pay fees and get information geared toward your specific business. You will also need the proper billing software in order to bill your clients, track your earnings, and pay your employees. I highly recommend using QuickBooks Pro Software as I have personally used their software, and personally believe it is the best Bookkeeping software you can buy to keep your business organized.

Getting Your Office Setup
If you plan to start a business, it is best that you do it the correct way from the beginning. This way you will be organized, and prepared when it is tax season. With that being said; make sure you have an area allocated strictly for your business office. You may choose to work out of your home, or you could rent out an office space. The choice is entirely up to you, however, when you first start out your business, it would be advisable to not add the cost of an office rental until you have established a solid clientele and income base.

Here is what you will need for your office:

  • A Locking file cabinet
  • Files and Hanging Folders
  • Labels
  • Pens/Pencils/Highlighters/Sharpies
  • Stapler & Staples
  • Paperclips
  • A 3 tier Inbox desk rack labeled: ‘To Bill’, ‘To Pay’, & ‘Incoming Mail’
  • Computer & Printer/copier/fax machine
  • Printing paper (You can go with basic white or be colorful)
  • Business phone (Either Landline or Cellphone)
  • Business Cards
Your Menu, Preparation, Display, Tranport

Deciding on the type of food you wish to sell; will be your starting point. With your choice in mind then you must consider the following questions:

  • How & where will your food be prepared?
    -Are you Baking, Frying, Grilling, or is it a cold Prep?
    -What Equipment do you need to buy or rent?
    -Will you Prepare the food in Catering Truck, Your clients location, or commercial kitchen?
  • How will you display your food?
    -Will you Pre-prep and package your food?
    -Will you offer buffet style and plated packages?
  • How will your food be transported to your client?
    -Will your food be delivered to your client or available for pick-up?
  • What Products/Seasoning do you need to buy?
  • How will you store your food? Hot or Cold?Your menu choice will determine your equipment, materials, display, and prep time. For example:
    If you are offering a buffet style setup for your client, and you are offering a variety of foods; such as hot items, and cold items, then you will need the proper equipment to store and display your food. You will need Chaffers & Sternos, or heat lamps to keep your food hot.  A hotbox would  be needed to store back up, hot food, for refilling. Room temperature safe items; such as salads, sandwiches, & fresh fruit could be displayed on platters. Items that need to be kept cold and require ice need; such as seafood or Yogurt, would need the appropriate display containers/or display boxes. You would also need a refrigeration unit handy for your back-up supply.

In order to learn more information about food service safety, proper food temperature control, and to attain your own Food Handler Certification go to:

  • Marketing
    Now comes the most important part; your customers. A customer cannot purchase your products or service if they are unaware that you exist. You must decide how you will market to your customers. When you begin your marketing strategy. You need to consider the following:
  • What is your customer demographic?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How far do you plan to travel, to offer your services?
  • What Season’s will your catering be the most popular?
    Narrowing these questions down will help you decide how you will find and service your customers. This is the age of the internet so establishing a website for your business will be essential; complete with menu options, pictures of your product, and contact information. Having a blog section of your website would also be a good idea, and interacting with potential customers can help you gain exposure. However, having a blog section is not an absolute necessity.

    Social Networking is also a key essential to establish your visibility, but unless you plan to have a far reaching audience and offer extended services, it would be best to just focus on a local audience. When you are first staring out I would suggest getting out in your community and connecting with people. Keep business cards with you at all times. Visit local Churches, schools, and small businesses. Become active in your community, and partner with local Charities. It is a good way to put your business out there and make a positive difference at the same time.

    For a list of products, and additional information, please visit our resources page under Catering Supplies.
    Thank you for reading!

Proper Serving Etiquette

Being a good server is not just about taking an order from the customer and relaying the order to the kitchen. No, being a good server is about providing an experience for your guest. As such, there is a proper etiquette involved. Everything from how you introduce yourself to your guest, how well you know the menu, the interaction between you and other staff members, and the terminology you choose to use will affect the experience of your guest. If you want to supply a five star experience for your guest then you need to be self conscious on all of your interactions. You must be respectful, courteous, and attentive to your customers at all times.

Proper Introductions
When introducing yourself to a new table it is important that your guests have had a moment to get properly settled, but not wait too long for your first interaction.  Greeting your table must happen within a 5 minute window. Upon greeting your table the first thing you must remember is to smile. Welcome your guests with sincerity and tell them your name. Following by an inquiry of starting a drink order. Ex: “Hello, my name is Nancy and I will be your server this evening. May I offer you sparkling or bottled water this evening?” or “Would you like to hear our drink, and entrée specials this evening?” As the server, you are in charge of the flow of service, and you are in charge of what you can sell. The customer cannot purchase a drink or entrée special if they are unaware there is one. Also as the Server, it is your job to know the menu, and products so that you may pass on the value the customer is receiving.

Key Phrases and Responses
When interacting with your guests it is important that you use the proper key phrases. There is a psychology in the way your message is received, and it is your job to ensure that your guests feel both taken care of, and receive the correct message that you are trying to convey.

Use key words such as:

  • May I…?
  • Would you like…?
  • May I offer you…?
  • May I remove your plate?
  • Would you care for….?
  • Shall I?
  • Yes, or course (When a guest requests or asks for something)
  • Absolutely (When a guest requests or asks for something)

Avoid phrases/responses such as:

  • Are you done?
  • Are you still working on that?
  • Ain’t ..
  • No Problem.. (of course it’s not a problem. It’s your job. NEVER respond with this phrase. Ever!)

Professionalism on the floor

It is important to remember that while you are working; ALL EYES ARE ON YOU! Your interaction with other staff members, your posture, and your appearance are all open for interpretation while you are on the sales floor. You must remember to hold a professional façade while working.

That means: 

  1. Foul/Improper language and grammar is forbidden
  2. No speaking of personal experiences within earshot of guest
  3. Do not speak ill of another guest (that’s very disrespectful and unprofessional)
  4. No leaning on counters
  5. Keep your hands OUT of your pockets
  6. No consuming Food or Beverage where guests can see you (There are break stations, and break times available for this)

The guests that frequent your establishment are what ultimately pay your paycheck. Without satisfied guest, you will loose your client base, and without a client base, your company with run out of business. The quality of service starts with you. You are the face of the business, and you need to remember to treat your guests with the respect they deserve.

Realize not all guests are easy to serve, but at the end of the day; if you can honestly say you did your best to supply the highest quality of service, then you should be proud of your position, and the value you bring to your company.

Providing the Right Atmosphere for your customers; learning how to ‘set the mood’

Supplying the correct presentation is essential to any business and any misrepresentation can lead to unhappy or otherwise disgruntled customers. It is for this reason you must learn how to ‘set the mood’. Just as it is important to set the mood when building a new romantic relationship; it is also very important to set the mood when building your customer’s relationship with you and your company. Having the correct staff in place (those that know how to ‘set the mood’) will ensure happy customers and repeat business.

So, how do you Set the mood?
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Serving Food Not Germs

Servers are in Charge of handling and delivering food. They serve as the ‘Middle Man’ between the customers and the kitchen. The Customers trust the servers and their establishment to uphold a clean and healthy atmosphere.

Germs spread rapidly. Some can even be life threatening. A person likely to have a compromised immune system would be a child or a senior citizen. These particular individuals are at a higher risk for illness.
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I’m a Server, Not a Dumb Waiter


What is it about a sunny day that makes me feel like I can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone? As I drive down the road I watch in envy as the tourists, and weekenders stroll by past the shops; enjoying the day, and soaking in the sun.
Do I need to wait til I’m retired in order to have weekends and sunny days off? The last thing I want to do is be stuck in a building all day serving those who have become more successful at life than me, and then come home to my family at night after everyone is in bed. Coupled with a low salary and an ever sloping self esteem. I’d say I will soon be on my way to the nut house. I’m sure many of you have had these thoughts at one time or another.
Continue reading “I’m a Server, Not a Dumb Waiter”