Catering is a fantastic industry that bridges the gap between business and social events.


The catering chef’s goal is to bring ease to events so clients can focus on what they need to do. 

The many responsibilities of the catering chefs include:

  • crafting menus, drinks and themes
  • food preparation 
  • table / buffet setting 
  • the smooth flow of the event
  • ensuring that all guests are fed

Menu, theme and decor will vary from client to client, but there are some fixed tips to help catering services deliver safe and delicious food.


1. Prioritize food safety


Anyone working with food should know the basics of food safety, which generally falls into four categories:


Biological Hazards


Food can be contaminated by microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and parasites) found in the air, food, water, and in the bodies of animals and humans. The growth of these microorganisms is affected by:

  • Temperature – This temperature range, called The Danger Zone 40° F – 140° F, enables bacteria to grow most rapidly, almost doubling in number after 20 minutes. 
  • pH levels – The acidity of food can affect microbe growth acceleration. Acidic foods like lemon juice do not encourage microbe proliferation compared to less acidic foods, such as milk. 
  • The food’s moisture – Microbes thrives in warm and wet environments.

Biological hazards can be prevented by practising proper processing and storage procedures. Before packaging, measures such as pasteurization or cooking or should be done to kill the microbes. Clean and effective packaging should be used as well, such as vacuum sealing to hinder bacterial growth. The right temperature in the storage location can also affect microbe growth. Overall, ensure that everyone in the processing chain should do adequate sanitation and hygiene practices to reduce cross-contamination.


Chemical Hazards


Chemical hazards are harmful substances that are either found naturally in food or unintentionally added during food processing. Examples of these chemicals are preservatives or pesticides. 

To prevent harming people, the responsible kitchen team members should perform proper cleaning and sanitation procedures. Knowledge of hazardous chemicals and their appropriate use, as well as proper storage, should be done. 


Physical Hazards 


Physical hazards are foreign or inedible objects found in food such as fruit stems or hair and plastic. To prevent damage or injury caused by these hazards, the responsible kitchen team member(s) should thoroughly inspect food and adhere strictly to food safety regulations. 


Allergenic Hazards


Allergenic hazards or allergens are ingredients/components mixed in the food that can cause allergic reactions. These allergens can cause the human body to produce local or systemic abnormal immune responses that can be fatal. It is critical to reduce or eliminate the risk of an allergic reaction. Check out this previous post on how to avoid or manage food allergies during food prep and serving.

 It is harder to regulate the right food temperature on a buffet service, but consider this during menu selection to help avoid food temp issues. Choose cold hors d’oeuvres and warm dinner, which can also be served at room temperature. 

Read more about reducing food contamination here.


2. Secure staffing 


The number of staff assigned to an event is almost always directly related to the level of expected service. A general rule of thumb is:

1 server: 25 guests 

1 Bartender: 50 guests

For seated dinners, 1 server: 2 tables

For a buffet, 1 server: 40 guests

In the kitchen, it is the chef’s job to prepare the food. It is wise to have a sous chef as a backup for a large party. For smaller and more intimate events, one chef is usually enough to handle all the food preparation. Anytime Chefs has worked with several catering businesses providing short term hire chefs to support an event or rapidly solve an absence issue. 


3. Prepare ahead


Prepare for the event both physically and mentally to alleviate any stress. Do as much behind the scenes as possible. No one can predict how an event will go. Catering service still has to give out a professional, polite or even friendly service to have people raving about the event. 

Physically prepare everything needed for the setup ahead of time, including food. Parboiling some ingredients is helpful in shaving time off. This technique is the secret to speedy and flavourful food preparation. Cut vegetables and store them in an airtight container. Cold meals without meat, seafood, eggs, or dressing can be prepped ahead.

Mentally prepare for the event by running through the tasks to be done for the night. Go through all the steps to get the food to the table.  


RELATED READ: Creating Successful Events with Good Caterer and Events Manager Relationships


4. Err on the side of having extras 

The number of actual guests plays a significant factor in either having runouts or having leftovers. Attendance can be unpredictable, directly affecting the headcount for the event. caterer brings typically 3-5% of additional food, just in case

 However, to prevent worrying about the lack of food:

  • Get an estimated headcount and prepare extra
  • Serve appetizers to stretch food beyond budget and help accommodate guests who failed to RSVP
  • Have additional fillers or side dishes 


5. Don’t forget your profit


And while none of us wants to run out of food, we also don’t want to overpay and break the budget. Catering is a delicate balancing act to deliver client expectations while staying true to its business nature. 

Markup the catering about three times the cost of the menu ingredients. Price this out before you finalize the menu, so there are no budget surprises for your client later on. According to Houston Chronicle, the food bill should be about 30 per cent of the total price,


In Summary:

Catering is more than having a culinary chef and their team preparing, cooking, and serving food. It is a technical orchestration of skills to coordinate the preparation, creation, delivery, and presentation of food for clients. 

Anytime Chefs has been providing A-class chefs to catering businesses for their staffing needs. Give us a call and let us help you create a fantastic catering event, whether for large crowds or intimate.


That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,


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