The world of catering is an exciting place. It is a dynamic stage where all the players are engaged in a dance that is at once as exhilarating as it is nerve wracking. There is drama, laughter and tears.
When properly executed, a catered event is a delight to be experienced. The client is satisfied, the caterer is justified, and most importantly, the guests are glad they came.
From the outside looking in, it is sometimes assumed that to cater an event is an easy task; hire a few cooks, assemble a wait staff, buy some equipment and voila! All set to conquer. Unfortunately, too many people have had the less than pleasurable experience of being at an event handled by such fly by night outfits, either as the client or as a guest. The presentation is tacky, service is unacceptably long, and when the food finally arrives, well, let’s stop short of penning a horror story. To cook, is not cater; while cooks and chefs are essential to the business the art of successful food catering goes beyond the kitchen and involves a collaboration of tastes and ideas between the clients, their families and the operators.
Every business faces specific challenges inherent in its particular industry. Some businesses face stiff price competition, others have to constantly change their business model. Catering presents unique challenges as well, mostly from the ever changing conditions surrounding the event that comes to a head on the day itself. From fluctuating guest counts and seating changes, to weather delays, unpredictable road traffic etc., nothing in catering is static. These changes can seem daunting for an inexperienced caterer, but it is part of the business, and it is in this space that seasoned operators thrive.
For me, as an individual I was born into this business. I grew up with it, watched, listened and learned. Catering simply isn’t a profession where you can be a control freak and survive with your sanity (and your business) intact. There are a number of variables you’ll have to account for in every job, and no two jobs will have the same combination of unknowns. In catering you’re dealing with a live product that includes both the food and service. While you can control them to the best of your ability, you cannot prevent all accidents from happening. Somebody will drop a crate of eggs or plates, goblets may break during transportation, a guest may trip over a table and the whole glassware comes tumbling to the floor, you have to be prepared to replace broken items, provide alternatives to menu items that have met unforeseen fates, and manage changes to the established plan as they occur. A big part of excellent catering is the thoughtful processes that have been put in place to deal with the unexpected, and contingencies that have been developed that allow for such management to be seamless to clients and guests alike, and do not detract or disturb the day’s proceedings.
Estimating the quantity of food needed for a particular job is also a big challenge. It is usually the first step a caterer takes, since every crowd type is different. This is a challenge for the simple reason that the behavioral pattern of Nigerians has a flavor of its own. The amount and type of food people will eat varies with the time of day and even the temperature of the event space, If the event is outdoors on a very hot day, for example, people will tend to eat less and drink a lot more. Added to this is the fact that it is hard for a client to give an exact estimate of number of guest expected at an event, especially a wedding because when two families come together you just never know.
A caterer is supposed to prepare for the worst, making sure that there are extras, using excellent food distribution techniques and menu management that will help ensure that food is available through the end of the party no matter what. Portion control, plating, and efficient service also play important roles in the overall effort. It takes time and the experience of having dealt with various crowd types in multiple scenarios to develop the requisite skills that are needed.
Table settings are also very vital in food catering, table setting for fine dining is way different from table setting for a 500-1000 guest wedding. Not only does the setting present an inviting thematic visual, the choice of flatware, plates and bowls must be completely functional, fit the menu and provide for each guest the ability to eat their food on the spot and in style. It has to be neatly done and increase the appetite for the food.
The most important elements of food catering are the menu offerings and the service. Particular care must be given to ensure that reliable suppliers are used to source high quality, fresh ingredients. There can be no compromising on this point as it serves as the foundations to what eventually gets served.
In our kitchen, a formally trained chef and an army of cooks work tirelessly to transform these ingredients into tasty delights for your guests. A well trained wait staff ensures that service is both prompt and courteous. Orders are taken down correctly and served right the first time.
A caterer must never forget that they represent the celebrant and are their agents in making sure all guests are properly taken care of with regards to food and other refreshments. It is not a task to be taken lightly. All members of the catering staff share the responsibility of fulfilling that mission. Its successful achievement is what makes our catering world go round.
Yes the most important part of FOOD CATERING is the food; but the food, the great taste, and abundance of food at an event is useless if it isn’t well CATERED.