Not-So-Fun Aspects of the Catering Business
Like any job, there's drudgery. There will be daily tasks associated with catering that you'd rather not do.
Hours of Ingredient Prep
One of the minuses of the catering business is the amount of time spent buying, washing, peeling, cutting, and measuring ingredients before you even cook them. Dream about the day that you'll be able to afford to hire someone to help you do this while you focus on selling and planning your catering jobs.
The kitchen cleanup and after-party cleanup involved with some of your jobs isn't the most fun, but it is part of the job. Often, you'll have to haul trash bags, restack rented tableware, and lug equipment after a long day. And remember, leaving a client's office or home neater than when you arrived is a sign of a quality caterer.
Paperwork and Invoicing
There's no way to escape it. You're operating a business, and that involves record keeping, paying your bills, and making sure clients pay you. Writing proposals, making adjustments, pricing jobs, billing clients, organizing deposits, arranging for food and other deliveries, paying taxes and local permit fees — it all requires discipline.
Working with Clients
Working with clients is generally an enjoyable process, but it's one of those unique factors that can be both positive and negative. Some clients will be more challenging than others. There will be clients who yell at you when they have a bad day and clients who ask for unreasonable changes at unreasonable hours, but it's important to learn to take a few deep breaths and think about your response before acting.
Transporting the Food
Whether you're carrying large platters of baked salmon from your truck to an outdoor tent or transporting a finished wedding cake and hundreds of hors d'oeuvres in a van, moving food is always an adventure. No matter what kind of catering you do, you'll have to transport food in various stages of preparation. This is especially challenging for two reasons: The food has to be kept at the proper temperature so it doesn't spoil or melt; and food, by nature, is delicate and doesn't like to be disturbed.
Packing carefully and planning for the worst is always the best plan of attack. Experienced caterers know how to compensate for extra last-minute guests and food that gets ruined on the way to the event. Expect surprises and they won't seem so disastrous.
Knowing how to handle food that will be moved is a tricky and delicate operation. Experienced caterers know the tricks of the trade. They know what can be transported and what's best not included for that remote outdoor party, and they can tell you what should be assembled, finished, and decorated on-site and what can be done in the kitchen. Working for a caterer that handles large outdoor and offsite parties will help you learn the tricks of the trade.
While using a specially outfitted truck or van that has storage compartments, shelves, and other amenities is certainly helpful, mishaps happen to everyone. Bumps in the road, unexpected stops, even changes in humidity affect the food. The best caterers bring tools, edible glue, and an extra decorating medium to repair any last-minute emergencies.
Dealing with Vendors
Like clients, most vendors are pleasant enough to deal with. There are some, however, who are quite gruff and others who aren't exactly professional. Beware of the few who will try to take advantage of new business owners. Try to find vendors that you trust and can get along with. Hopefully you'll have relationships with them for years. They can provide you credit when you need it, they will talk about you to others in the industry, and they can also provide references and referrals.