By Carl Franklin Jones - CaterGreat Mentors (on Facebook)
The Call: Prospective client calls to inquire about catering services. The event planner asks the caller questions to collect information and get an overview of the event. The appropriate information is e-mailed to the client. Follow up must be timely.
Initial Appointment: If the prospect wishes to meet with the event planner, an appointment is scheduled. The first meeting usually lasts one hour. If all goes well, the client
Site Survey: If the event is in a home or unique location, the event planner will visit the location, do a survey and sketch out. Along the way, the client may stop in, phone, e-mail with questions or changes,
One Month Before: The client finalizes menu and event details. Our operations manager plans, confirms that the rental items are scheduled.
One Week Before: We call client to get the guaranteed number of guests. Sometimes the client calls to add more guests even the day before the event. The office manager enters all the information into the computer, prints 3 copies of the event sheet. The Operations manager and the Chef meet to discuss the event to determine special needs. Timelines and schedules are prepared. This process takes several hours.
Three days Before: The Chef analyzes the menu and calculates the needed ingredients to prepare for the event. He must calculate a percentage over in the likely event of a last minute change in the number of guests expected. Chef takes a complete inventory of ingredients, and then calculates the quantities of ingredients needed. Chef meets with vendors to order the necessary items.
Two Days Before: Delivery trucks arrive at various times with the items ordered. The Chef checks in each item to assure that the correct item arrives in excellent condition. The staff moves incoming stock from the delivery area to the proper cooler, freezer, dry storage, linen room, smallwares, or paper goods storage. Each item must be marked with a date. Stock must be rotated by pulling the existing stock, placing the incoming stock on the shelf, and then place older stock in front.
The day before the event:
The chef creates prep lists for each item, then assigns time schedules and prep lists for the kitchen prep staff. The prep staff pulls food ingredients from cooler and moves to prep kitchen area. They slice, dice, mix, and follow strict recipes procedures. Each prepped pan of food is then labeled, dated and place in the proper cooler or storage area. The kitchen is completely cleaned and sanitized. The floors are swept, sprayed, scrubbed, rinsed and mopped. The day is complete.
The day of the event:
The chef creates a timeline schedule to assure food will be ready at the proper leave time.
The chef assigns tasks to each of the prep staff who places foods in state of the art equipment, sets precise temperatures to assure the food temperature is at a safe level for holding. The pans of food are placed in an insulated storage box, placed on wheels, labeled moved to staging area. The event captain prepares a detailed checklist to assure each necessary serving piece, service ware, plates, glassware, silverware, etc, is pulled, packed, labeled, and moved to the staging area by the catering staff.
All items are carefully loaded on the vans and rechecked. A driver transports these items to the event venue. The catering staff unloads the items from the vans, carries each item to a staging area inside the venue. Depending upon the event, the staff may be required to place linens on tables and set the tables with silverware, napkins, glassware several hours before the event so the decorator can finish the tables. Staff covers the buffets with linens; and place each service piece in a pre-designed format. They fill the chaffing pans with water and place sterno under each. They light the sternos just before the food arrives.
Meanwhile at the Kitchen. Trays are garnished, double wrapped and all food is moved to the staging area.
The Staff carefully checks to assure all food and remaining items are loaded on the van. The driver transports to the event venue. The catering staff unloads the items from the vans and carries to a staging area inside the venue. The food is placed on the buffet.
Sometimes guests arrive at the appointed time, sometimes early, sometimes late. Everyone must be in uniform and ready to begin. We must pay our staff from the time they arrive and throughout the event, even while waiting. As guests arrive, the catering staff attends to the buffet assuring it is full and appealing.
The service staff pours, refills beverages, removes used plates and attends to the guests’ needs.
The event is finished? No way; now it’s clean up time!
Dishes are rinsed and repacked. Silverware, glassware, linens are packed and moved to staging area. Buffet is close. Chaffing pans are extinguish, cleaned, sanitized, repacked and moved to staging area.
All items are carefully loaded on the vans and transported back to the kitchen. All dinnerware must be washed, sanitize and dried before sorting, wrapping and returned to their proper storage location. Van is swept and cleaned. The hot storage containers, ice coolers and any other platters, trays or props are cleaned, sanitized and returned to storage. The kitchen equipment and surfaces are sanitized. Floors are swept, sprayed, and mopped. The employees clock out and go home after a job very well done!
The cost of catering includes many more things than just food, as described. Most clients do not realize how much work goes into pulling off a flawless event. It takes well-trained employees to assure guest receive proper service. It takes special equipment to keep food safe and in proper temperature.
Catering requires long hours, weekends away from family, hard work, and fast thinking. Caterers are special people dedicated to making special events the best they can be! We make our clients look good and make sure their guests are happy. The mission of a great caterer is to take away the stress of planning a special event.