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Event Catering: The ins and outs

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Enck's Plus Catering is a seasoned caterer with decades of experience in all types of catering. We work to provide quality service to our customers and experience and wisdom to our fellow caterers. For us catering is an industry and service where 90% is preparation and planning and 10% is the food and experience. There is a lot to consider when it comes to running a catering company: Making selections in onsite and offsite equipment; The care and organization required in staffing of coordinators, culinary teams and servers; The customer experience and your specialties of food and service.

The catering arena from the kitchen to the venue requires quite the arsenal of tools and equipment. A commercial catering kitchen is set up differently from your typical restaurant kitchen and certainly very different from your home kitchen. We have multiple departments within the catering kitchen for food prepping and cooking rather than a restaurant where there is a line and window for expedition. Speed racks, hotel pans of all sizes, bus tubs, sheet trays by the dozens. Prep work is done by the case rather than by the bag. Most of the food is cooked with multiple convection ovens, baker's ovens, steamers, 15-gallon cooking kettles, larger flat tops, griddles and gas ranges. Everything is prepared in large quantities and high volume. Rather than a line cook sauteing a single chicken marsala meal in a sauté pan, we are preparing 100+ portions at a time using sheet trays in convection ovens preparing sauces by the gallon in kettles or larger stock pots. Food is sometimes cooked and/or stored short-term in large lower temperature heating cabinets or alto shaams.

Presentation is such a major part of catering, so every catering kitchen is equipped and stocked with equipment to accomplish this. There are decorative heated dispensers for coffee and tapped vessels for cold beverages. We have heated rollers for hot dogs and sausages. You'll always see baskets and display trays for breads and fruit/veggie trays respectively. Sometimes you might have portable carving stations and heat lamps for prime rib or other carved meats. Glass and China bowls and serving platters are kept in high volume for sauces, dips, dressings and various other purposes.

Of course, everything needs to be easily transported so typically you have a catering van or fleet of catering vehicles. Some may be modified to have refrigerated storage, and some may even be heated to keep food hot during transport. Insulated hot boxes built to fit hotel pans keep the food warm or cold in a traditional catering transport vehicle. The vehicles are stocked with rolling carts for transport of heavy hot boxes, chafing dishes and sternos, flatware, napkins, serving utensils and stabilization racks to keep food and equipment from sliding around during transport.

The catering operation requires various departments to run smoothly and effectively. You have of course your head chef or kitchen manager with various cooks and prep workers under them preparing and cooking most of the food. There is the catering crew who transports, delivers and serves the food. The catering crew will sometimes, like a server in a restaurant take on making salads or preparing things like putting dressings in bowls and making sure to have enough napkins and flatware. There is the sales team who takes the calls or online inquiries for potential catering events. These folks coordinate the whole process between the customer and the kitchen staff. Depending on the size of the company there may be additional departments or roles in HR, advertising, sanitation, customer service and more.

No matter the size of the organization it is imperative to have a healthy and professional employee culture that operates as an effective and cohesive team. There are times of high stress where the workload picks up in pace and if everyone isn't on the same page things can spiral negatively very quickly. It is wise to practice diligence during the hiring and the selection process. Every event successfully delivered through solid teamwork makes the job fun and should be celebrated.

The day of the event has to go off without a hitch. So long as everything has gone according to plan all the food that could have been prepped the day before has been prepped, food has been cooked and prepared, displays trays have been assembled, beverage containers filled, vans loaded, and food delivered to the venue on time. Onsite setup for an event varies of course by the size and type of event being catered. Some events we have to get there much earlier to set up tables and table clothes, chairs, power supply for any portable appliances and any other decorative items there may be. When food is delivered, it is done so quickly, quietly and in an orderly fashion. The goal is to slide in almost without notice setting up the chafing dishes, lighting the sternos and displaying the food in a tasteful way that is not cluttered but appealing to the eye.

If the event requires a serving staff, we always ensure that our team is polite, professional and attentive to meeting the needs of the party being served. Caterers are gloved and dressed professionally for the event typically wearing company branded shirts and aprons. As they serve the food is constantly stirred to make sure it is being heated evenly throughout the service time. As trays or pans get low, they are quickly replaced or restocked until the designated time service ends or until the predetermined quantities are consumed. Caterers work diligently to ensure the tables where food is displayed or served from stay clean and organized. At the end of the catered event, the catering staff breakdown equipment and tables and clean up completely so it looks like we were never there.

A well catered event satisfies the appetites of all attendees with fresh delicious food. It provides the customers with an enjoyable and memorable experience. Happy customers often return and attendees who are delighted by our service often become future customers.

chafing dishes at a catered event
Event catering

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