What is Catering? What is a Caterer? Types of Catering

Joanna Okedara
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    Before you consider starting a catering business, it is crucial to understand the types of catering and what is catering. Knowing the basic concepts of catering will help you run a successful catering business, be a better caterer and draft your catering business plan.

    Key Takeaway - The catering industry is very competitive and cutthroat. Therefore, carving out a unique niche that will set you apart from the competition is essential. To do this, you need to understand the various types of catering.

    So, what is catering? First, let’s review all you need to know about catering business basics and the types of catering.


    What Is Catering?

    Catering is the process or business of preparing food and providing food services for clients at remote locations, such as hotels, restaurants, offices, concerts, and events. Companies that offer food, drinks, and other services to various customers, typically for special occasions, make up the catering sector.

    Some restaurant businesses may contract their cooking to catering businesses or even offer catering services to customers. For instance, customers may love a particular dish so much that they want the same food to be served at their event. 

    Catering is more than just preparing food and cleaning up after the party. Sometimes, catering branches into event planning and management. For example, if you offer corporate catering services, you will be required to work with large crowds and handle the needs of corporate clients. 

    A catering business may use its chefs to create food or buy food from a vendor or third party to deliver to the client. In addition, you may be asked to plan the food menu for corporate events such as picnics, holiday celebrations, and other functions. So, what is a caterer? Let’s find out.


    What Is a Caterer? 

    A caterer is a person or business that prepares, cooks, and serves food and beverages to clients at remote locations and events. The caterer may be asked to prepare seasonal menu options and provide the equipment such as dishes, spoons, place settings, and wine glasses needed to serve guests at an event.

    Starting a catering business is the ideal venture for you if you enjoy interacting with guests and producing a wide range of dishes that are delicious to eat as well as beautiful to look at. A caterer is inventive in novel recipes, culinary presentations, and menus.

    In addition, caterers excel at multitasking. For instance, if professional wait staff will be serving each course of dinner to guests, the caterer must be ready to prepare all the dishes for the event at once.

    To ensure attendees enjoy their time at events, caterers always offer a delicious, relaxing dinner. Additionally, caterers may deal with particular demands and design menus for unique events directly with clients. 

    Usually, a catering service sends waiters, waitresses, and busboys to set tables and serve meals during sit-down dining occasions. The caterer may send staff to prepare chafing dishes, bowls, and platters filled with food for buffets and casual gatherings, replace them, and serve food to guests.


    4 Types of Catering

    It is essential to choose a catering specialty when starting your catering business. With many catering types to choose from, it’s only logical to research your options and pick a niche that will suit your target market and improve your unique selling proposition.

    Let’s look at the types of catering:

    What Is Event Catering?

    Event catering is planning a menu, preparing, delivering, and serving food at social events and parties. Catering is an integral part of any event. 

    As you know, events revolve around the food and drink menu. Party guests may even say that the success of any event depends on the catering services. 

    Birthday celebrations, retirement parties, grand openings, housewarming parties, weddings, and baby showers are a few exceptional events that fall under this category. In addition, catering packages for event catering sometimes include things like appetizers, decorations, bartenders, and servers.

    Types of Event Catering

    • Stationary Platters
    • Hors D’oeuvres
    • Small Plates and Stations
    • Three-Course Plated Dinner
    • Buffet
    • Outdoor BBQ

    What Is Full-Service Catering?

    Full-service catering manages every facet of an event, including meal preparation, decorations, and clean-up following the event. Unlike regular event catering, where the caterer just prepares and serves food and drinks, a full-service caterer handles every event detail based on clients' specifications.

    Some logistics, such as dinnerware, linens, serving utensils, and dedicated staff to help on-site, are handled by full-service catering. The head caterer oversees every aspect of the event according to what will appeal to each guest.

    What Does a Full-service Catering Business Offer?

    • Venue setup
    • Menu planning
    • Dining setup
    • Food preparation
    • After-party cleanup

    What Is Self-Catering in Hotels?

    Self-catering in hotels is when guests have the facilities to prepare their meals themselves. For example, a self-catering apartment or room may feature a small "galley kitchen" with appliances like a fridge, a stove, a microwave, some essential cookware like plates, bowls, and silverware, and a sink for doing dishes. 

    Usually, self-catering accommodations are available to all guests in the room, apartment, or shared cooking area. For example, a typical hotel room's corner can accommodate a galley kitchen because it is not very huge.


    What Is Family Style Catering?

    When meals are served family-style, plates are passed around and shared at tables. In this kind of catering, guests assist themselves as needed.

    This method speeds up catering while fostering social interaction among event attendees through meal sharing. There are several similarities between plated dinner catering and family-style catering.

    Like a plated meal, guests won't have to leave their seats because the catering staff will deliver everything to them. However, it also resembles a buffet because caterers will provide beautifully designed platters that guests can move around their tables rather than individually plated meals.

    Family-style catering provides a more laid-back and social meal experience, especially if no one knows anybody else.

    What Is the FDA Requirement for an Offsite Caterer?

    Every business in the food and beverage industry must stay compliant with FDA regulations. As a catering business owner, following FDA food safety codes and guidelines is essential if you want to remain in business.

    Here are some of the requirements to take note of:

    1. Structural and Equipment Requirements
    • A caterer is expected to run their business out of a licensed kitchen that can handle their projected operation.
    • All food transport equipment must be NSF-certified or equivalent, maintain the necessary temperatures (41°F for cold foods and 135°F for hot meals), and be free from contaminants.
    • All transportation-related vehicles must be built, outfitted, and maintained in such a way as to prevent contamination of any food, tools, utensils, tableware, or linen.
    • The entire operation must be able to safeguard all food products from contamination and maintain the necessary temperatures for serving.
    • A certified powered serving device will be needed for continuous food service that lasts longer than four hours, such as portable steam tables and refrigerator tables.
    • A self-contained hand washing station is required from caterers, or a permanently plumbed station with hot and cold water under pressure must be at the location.
    • Unless a designated support area is provided at the banquet hall or event venue, all equipment and supplies must be returned to the approved kitchen for cleaning.
    1. Administrative Requirements
    • Only a catering permit is necessary from a food outlet authorized to provide catering to an event location.
    • All goods sold separately over the counter, such as sandwiches, cookies, bagels, and doughnuts, must be packaged in food-grade packaging or placed in containers that have been certified for use.
    • Licensed restaurants are exempt from needing a separate catering permit. However, they must inform the health department that they offer catering services.

    The Importance of Catering In Modern Society

    Various types of catering service will be valuable to your customers for a number of reasons. For one, many social gatherings require an amount of food and beverages that regular people do not have the means to prepare themselves. 

    It’s not just individuals who opt for hiring a catering company for social gatherings. In fact, corporate functions are some of the most popular among social event catering clients.

    Frequently Asked Questions About What is Catering

    Learning what is catering and the types of catering are the first steps to starting your catering business. Let’s answer some more relevant questions to help launch your catering business.

    What Is the Average Cost Per Person for Catering?

    The price of traditional catering services might range from $20 to $200 per person. Similarly, the cost of food truck catering, excluding set-up and travel expenses, ranges from $20 to $35 per attendee.

    Wedding catering is the most expensive type of catering. The average cost of traditional wedding catering is $70 per person for meals or $85 per person for food and beverage.

    Depending on the theme, corporate event catering costs change. Costs for 100 employees range from $2,000 to $4,000.

    What are Examples of Catering Services?

    Examples of catering services are:

    • Wedding catering
    • Winter cocktails reception
    • Corporate catering
    • Buffet Catering
    • Sit-down Catering
    • Petite Take-Away Buffet Catering

    What Is Catering Insurance?

    Catering insurance offers specialized protection to address the particular requirements of catering companies. Caterers are protected from the specific hazards associated with running a catering business by catering insurance, a specialized sort of Business Owner's Policy (BOP). 

    Catering liability insurance is a safety net of protections that also includes general liability insurance, tools and equipment insurance, and more. With a dependable catering liability insurance and eCommerce accounting policy, you can continue expanding your catering business, mishaps and all. Catering liability insurance coverage guards against work-related accidents and any litigation.

    What Is Catering’s Future?

    Just like other industries, catering is changing. Customers change their preferences and caterers strive to answer to their demands by adapting. Here are some of the trends in the catering industry.

    1. Sustainable catering. The food industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. That’s why a growing trend is to provide catering services in an eco-friendly way. That includes practices such as partnering with local producers, striving to reduce food waste, and implementing more seasonal ingredients.
    2. Online ordering. A growing number of businesses integrate food online ordering software such as Revolution Ordering. That way they offer customers the convenience of purchasing catering quickly and with less hassle.
    3. Farm-to-table catering. The market encourages using locally-sourced ingredients and creating dishes with sustainable products. That’s why farm-to-table practices in the catering industry are a growing trend. They also help caterers build strong relations with local businesses and the community.
    4. Global cuisine. As the economy is evolving, customers want to experience new things. That’s true for food as well. Caterers are slowly introducing dishes from all over the world as they pique the interest of customers and increase revenue and profit.

    Cater For Success

    Now that we’ve explained what is catering, it is easier to finalize your catering business ideas and get ready to launch your catering business. With the right catering software, restaurant management software and a POS system, you can streamline your business process flow and rapidly grow catering business.

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