The Caterer's Skill Set

best caterers in Jaipur, Marriage Caterers, Wedding Catering Services, caterers skillWearing a multitude of different hats is all in an average day for a caterer. As long as you’re an adept quick-change artist, you’ll be a great caterer. This career requires a certain type of personality, versatility, and skill. Before you commit time, energy, and money and quit your day job, have a heart-to-heart with yourself and ask yourself these questions.

Are You a Detail Person?
It should really rankle you to see things done sloppily or haphazardly, but you should be able to revel in things that are done cleanly and to exact specifications. If you notice nitpicky details like lint on a friend’s shirt or fingerprints on a glass when you’re seated at a restaurant, you have the crucial eye for detail a successful caterer needs. Maybe you critique how dishes are plated when you eat out, or perhaps you find that nothing exasperates you more than surveying your Aunt Mary’s Thanksgiving feast and knowing everything is cold because her timing was all off. These little signs show you that details are important to you.

If you’d like to strengthen your attention to detail even further, take classes in pastry decorating, accounting, and other disciplines that require exact detail. If you enjoy these classes, then there’s hope that you’ll excel at catering.

Do You Have a Good Memory?
You easily remember what needs to be done and when it needs to happen, and you recall your colleague Nicholas from the Nashville office commented on his love of natural peanut butter the one time you met him last year. Even if you can’t remember Nicholas from Nashville, you can compensate by taking complete, timely notes about client requests and deadlines and invent mnemonics so that you can remember clients’ names. You’ll also need to be very organized and keep an accurate calendar and timelines for projects. Managing with sticky notes plastered everywhere won’t work.

Even with a great memory, you’ll have a lot of projects with many details, tasks, and steps to complete. You’ll need to find an organizational system that works for you in whatever mode(s) you prefer — handwritten, computerized, or on a personal digital assistant (PDA).

Many organizational companies provide binders and software for computers and PDAs. Most binder systems have special pages that allow you to record detailed to-do lists. You can easily take meeting notes and cross-reference lists and ideas so that you keep organized for clients. There are forms to help you track bills, phone calls, and other details. Project management forms break up responsibilities into smaller, manageable actions to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

PDAs are commonplace, and many business owners and managers wouldn’t last a day without them. If you’re technology friendly, enjoy using a tiny keyboard, and feel the need to be continually connected to everything, maybe a PDA is for you. If you’re just getting computer savvy and don’t use many features of your cell phone, don’t feel compelled to run your business on a PDA. If you’re not absolutely comfortable with it, it will cause you more frustration than it’s worth.

Some companies also offer seminars that will teach you skills for staying focused on goals to prevent you from getting bogged down in details. These seminars are particularly helpful if you feel like you’re not accomplishing as many important things as you should during a given week or month. Calendar planning software can help you to stay organized by reminding you about important events you have scheduled on a particular day. You can input tasks and journal entries and plan things far in advance.

Are You Action Oriented?
You cannot wait to start new projects, and you begin work as soon as possible to make the most use of the time you have before your deadline. Catering requires a take-charge attitude and a person who likes to get things done.

Skilled procrastinators need not apply. Catering requires an awful lot of meticulous planning and execution. All-nighters may work for some jobs, but there’s no way you can cater a dinner for eighty starting the night before.

Are You a Project Planner?
You are always the one who plans evenings out for your spouse or friends. You single handedly plan your vacation itinerary and pack for the whole family. Feeling comfortable managing large, complex projects at work or for a volunteer position is an important indicator that you can handle the rigors of catering.

If you haven’t professionally managed multifaceted projects before, take a course or seminar in project management. Get some practice in planning and organizing a large event by volunteering for a charity or taking on a new project at work. The more events you plan and run, the more efficient your technique becomes. And the more projects you manage, the more you’ll be able to juggle.

Do You Enjoy Logistical Planning?
Do you like to think about how all that luggage is going to fit into your car, or how you’re going to get the cake, punch bowl, and soup in good shape to your cousin’s party? If you don’t naturally think like a logistician, take a course in logistics planning for the food service industry. Logistics planning is a part of project planning, and in the off-premise catering business, it’s a huge piece.

Are You Organized?
People admire how much you accomplish in a day and marvel at the fact that you can find what you’re looking for 95 percent of the time. Your children and partner depend on you to be the organized one, and you always show up for appointments on time and meet your deadlines. Organization is a key part of catering. Often you’ll be working on multiple jobs at the same time. You’ll need to be able to keep them straight in your mind.

Do You Have High Energy and Stamina?
Caterers need to have the ability to run around and do many things at once for hours on end. If that’s not you, you’ll have to get into decent shape. Start an exercise regimen of walking fast enough to get your heart rate elevated, but slow enough that you can carry on a conversation with a person next to you. Start with a mile a day and build up to walking five to six miles a day within one to one-and-a-half hours. You’ll also need to do weight-bearing exercises at least three times a week to be strong enough to lift heavy pots and platters of food.

Catering requires a lot of physical work. Your body needs to cooperate when you ask it to transport food and supplies and stand for hours on end over a hot stove.

Do You Enjoy Prep Cooking?
A prep cook is at the lowest rung of the cooking staff in the restaurant or commercial kitchen. He is in charge of preparing or prepping the ingredients that will be needed for the day’s meals. In short, the prep cook does the peeling, chopping, trimming, cutting, weighing, and measuring. It’s grunt work, plain and simple.

You should consider chopping vegetables, deveining shrimp, and making sandwiches for the gang part of what makes catering fun. You can develop skills to make food preparation more efficient, but caterers inevitably spend a lot of time preparing food.

Do You Enjoy Working with Your Hands?
Your hands feel empty unless you’re doing something with them. Perhaps you use them to make meatloaf, sculpt, or garden. Maybe tinkering with car engines or repairing broken clocks is more your realm of expertise. Whatever you feel most comfortable with, you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty. If you pride yourself on having soft, callous-free hands, ask yourself if you’d be happier and have a greater sense of fulfillment working more directly with your hands. Catering might be your chance. Take some pastry decorating classes, a craft class, or a sculpture class to discover if you relish feeling different textures and producing something with your own hands.

Are You a People Person?
Meeting new people and networking come naturally. Does this sound familiar? Caterers need to be generally outgoing people, so if you fit into this category, catering could be a good profession.

The thought of going to a party or making a sales presentation should make you feel a little thrill of anticipation. Catering is a people business. There’s no way to avoid it. You’re providing a service in addition to food, and you’re going to have to work with a lot of people. You’ll be marketing yourself and your business, continually selling and meeting with your clients.

Are You Flexible?
Caterers must be able to go with the flow and manage change well. One thing is certain in the catering business, and that is that nothing is certain. Things change minute to minute, and you have to be flexible and adapt quickly to current circumstances. Surprises are the norm, from unavailable ingredients to inclement weather to unexpected guests.

If you’ve been truly honest with yourself and answered yes to all of the questions, ask your spouse/partner, work colleagues, and friends the same questions and see if they agree with your assessment. If they agree that you’d make a great caterer, it’s a good sign that your gut reaction is right. If you answered no to one of the questions, don’t despair. You still have the potential to be a good caterer, but you’ll need to modify your behavior and compensate for skills you lack. If you answered no to more than one or two categories, catering may not be the career route that would best complement your skills.