I’m not sure many people understand what goes into catering, so there’s often a sense of haggling prices, or thinking you’re not getting what you pay for. So I’d like to run through the 6 *basic* steps I go through, when catering. I will guarantee not all catering companies do this, and this is not a complete list of what needs to happen, to start or maintain a catering business. But so you understand what’s involved in each event, let's talk about the catering process for a minute:
- First: look at the season you’re in, and pick menu items accordingly (yes, I change the menu for every single event, and I know most restaurants do not do this, which saves them a great deal of time).
- Second: look for allergies from your clients. Also, what are they doing at this event? Do they need sustained fuel for the rest of the day? Are light foods better, because they're doing intense mental and emotional work? Do the ingredients pair well together, given their taste profile (i.e. sweet vs salty, Indian vs. Italian, etc. etc.)?
- Third: portion out the amount of ingredients you need, make a grocery list, and buy ingredients from multiple stores. (Rarely does one store have everything you need, especially if you do specialty catering.)
- Fourth: create any sauces or dressings you need for the menu. (I’m not saying you have to make every spice combo you use, but think of the show “Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives”…I seriously doubt Guy Fieri would highlight any catering company that uses store-bought barbeque sauce, or Hidden Valley Ranch dressing!)
- Fifth: cook the rest of the food for the menu, in order of prep time, cooling / refrigeration factors, freshness factor, and so on. Put on music appropriate for the energy of the event, whilst cooking (I admittedly play mostly ambient or chill music, because my intention is to facilitate healing, and reduce stress). Compost your veggies (another reason organic is important, as much as possible), and use fresh whole unprocessed foods, to minimize waste (buy in bulk, to avoid even more waste from packaging. I usually have less than half of a grocery bag of non-recyclable materials, per 20 people. The rest is compostable and/or recyclable.)
- Six: take pics, package it all, print out the menu, deliver the food, edit pics and post everything.
A simple rule of thumb I like to ask, when I look at catering menu’s or pricing at restaurants. If it were the holidays and I had to cook these items for my family, would the food and labor cost be close to this? Of course this isn’t factoring in overhead and a million other business expenses, but sometimes it helps to put yourself in their shoes. How stressed are you during the holidays, when you have to cook for your entire family? And are you even preparing every single dish, or are people bringing some side dishes, to ease the burden? Food for thought…(yes, yes, the pun was intended!) Happy feasting! For any additional questions or comments, feel free to contact me!
Pita filled with hand-crafted giardiniera