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5 Things Every New Caterer Should Know

It has been over twenty five years since I started a small catering company that specialized in International Tapas, tiny silver trays of finger foods to delight the eyes and satisfied the stomach. These little morels were tasty, light and filling. At the time I did not know the little delicacies I placed on the buffet would give way to a very traditional way to dine. I just thought my customers should be exposed to something a little more exciting than Wing-Dings and Swedish Meatballs. I really wanted to move away from serving full means and introduce my customers to a variety of food from all over the world.

Today with food being the number one American pass-time, catering has come full circle, and even a novice cook with the right recipes, a good head for business and a charming personality can start a small catering service to address the needs of the corporate/business world and the new breed of entertainers that frequent theatre houses and night clubs. It's no secret that when a band or theatre group hits a town, they are often looking for a great place to eat and if you can offer a unique dining experience all the better.

If you think becoming a caterer is something you might want to consider, assess your skills and talk to professional caterers in your community. You may want to volunteer for a couple of events to get your feet wet or sign-on as a part-time helper. Caterers are always looking for good people and smiling faces.

After jumping in feet first and discovering that catering is your thing there are a few things you must know and understand about this profession.

1. It takes time to establish your business. You are going to be salesperson, marketing expert, advertising specialist, cook, clean-up person, baker, banker, accountant and driver all rolled up in one. This is a good thing because in the beginning you must know every aspect of your business before you can turn it over to hired help.

2. Study your craft. Never assume you know it all, you don't. Learn about food safety, food presentation, napkin folding and formal food etiquette. Letitia Baldridge's Executive Guide to Manners will help you glide graciously through those formal catering events. The book is not about food, it's about etiquette and when you read through it you will understand why I recommended it.

3. Always have a signature dish and give the recipe to no one. My signature dish was a dessert; it was an Old Irish Whiskey Cake. I would serve it at every formal event and always had request for the cake to be shipped to family and friends of the host.

4. Network and establish good relationships with the owners of bridal and floral shops, photographers, funeral home owners, food editors and alumni associations. Why? Because these folks are in the same business you are, the service industry and they all make a living working with the public. Nurture these relationships and you will go far.

5. Always have a contract and get your money up front. Food is perishable. Make sure your down-payment covers the cost of the food. You can return tablecloths and silverware, but food can and will self-destruct.

Remember any job worth doing is worth doing well. Caterers need a cool head, a sharp mind for business and a winning personality. If you are missing any one of those attributes, hire a partner with the strengths you lack. Start small and give yourself time to grow. You will make mistakes, forget things and things will not go as you anticipated. This is all part of going into business. You will however make a lot of people very happy and introduce folks to new flavors and foods. As with any profession you learn by doing it, over and over and over again.

D.D. Davis is a writer with over 20 years of experience, and has produced a series of e-Books that support parents in creating a good life for their family. Detra may be reached at detra_davis@supportingourchildren.com, or by mail at J. Davis & Associates Publishing, P. O. Box 44782, Detroit, MI 48244-0782, Attention: D. D. Davis. To learn more visit: http://www.supportingourchildren.com


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