Whether you’ve been in the catering industry for years or are just striking out on your own in the catering world, you need to have a great catering checklist for each event. Making sure that your tools and resources are well organized allows you greater freedom the day of the event.
When you are prepared with a great catering checklist, you won’t have to spend time worrying whether or not you have everything you need. Plus, you won’t have to send an employee to a store to purchase some last-minute supplies.
With our list of seven things you should have on your catering checklist, you’ll be able to rise to almost any challenge.
1. The contract
The contract between you and your client needs to be on hand at all times (even though it’s not a kitchen utensil or any of the other tools that people associate with caterers). By having the contract with you throughout the event, you can be sure that no confusion will arise over what your job is…and what it isn’t.
While most clients are respectful and courteous by recognizing what the limitations of your services are, it’s always better to be on the safe side.
2. Beverage essentials
Beverages are essential on any catering checklist. You’ll need to be ready for any situation when it comes to the drinks at your client’s event. Having a mini-list of beverage-related items to bring is a good idea. You’ll want heavy duty water pitchers that, while made of glass, won’t break easily. Plenty of straws are also a good idea, as well as ice (and a way to keep it cold).
Your client may have some idea of the kind of cups or glasses they’d like to use for the drinks (particularly if the event is themed) but always make sure you have some spare cups on hand for emergencies.
3. Diagram of the location
A diagram or floor plan of the event’s location isn’t always necessary, particularly if the event is held in only one room, but for large-scale parties, weddings, and such you’ll need something extra. Before the event is held, ask the appropriate person (perhaps the manager) to give you a walk-through of the location and ask for a floor plan.
If a floor plan cannot be procured, make one yourself and note any exits, other doorways, winding halls…and then plan out your part of the event based on that diagram. If everyone knows where they’re supposed to be and how to get there, the event will go much more smoothly.
4. Off-site catering supplies
If your catering service is attached to a hall or a hotel you probably won’t have much cause – if any – to cater events that are outside those areas. But if you are asked to go off-site you should be prepared for anything.
Off-site catering comes with its own special challenges but, once prepared, you’ll do great. Extra garbage bags are a good idea, along with coolers and/or insulated bags to keep food at its desired temperature.
In your catering checklist, make sure you have plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer included. This is just in case the event is held, say, outdoors without many options for keeping everything clean. And make sure you bring along containers to hold all dirty dishes, food trays, etc.
5. Personal directory of other vendors
There may be times when all that is required for an event is a caterer, but usually there are several different event-oriented businesses that come together to create a truly wonderful experience. (A wedding, for instance.) If this is the case with your next event, take the time to find the phone numbers and other contact information of the different professionals working the event alongside you.
And make sure they have your number as well! That way, if there’s a sudden emergency with any of the arrangements, you can be notified and work together with fellow vendors to make sure that your client’s day still goes smoothly.
6. Inventory of table settings
There are so many things that go into creating great table settings – the number of them can make your head spin, especially if you’re new to the catering business. However, keeping a running inventory and itemized list of everything you need for the table settings will go a long way toward alleviating that overwhelmed feeling.
It’s essential to check with your client to see what he/she wants the table settings to look like, but you’ll probably need to stock some of the basics right away: dinner plates, salad bowls, bread plates, flatware, salt and pepper shakers, and so on.
7. Post-event schedule
This kind of detail might slip your mind in the fuss and bustle of the event itself, so make sure you have this schedule added to your catering checklist before the big day arrives. You need to know who will make sure the venue is returned to its pristine condition (you may have to roll up your sleeves and clean it yourself).
Find out who’s responsible for removing garbage at the end of the event as well. These details aren’t glamorous but they’re part of what makes your catering service great.