Qualities of a Successful Caterer

by Bruce Mattel and The Culinary Institute of America

  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Time-management skills
  • The ability to multitask
  • A friendly, hospitable personality
  • The ability to manage stress
  • An extensive knowledge of ingredients
  • A high level of written and verbal communication skills
  • Natural leadership and motivational skills
  • A knowledge of social and religious cultures and customs
  • Excellent networking skills
  • Proficiency in basic accounting principles
  • Basic mechanical skills
  • Good negotiating skills
  • Quick thinking and problem-solving skills

Some of these qualifications could be a natural part of your personality or education; you might have to learn others. Or you could hire a person or company to handle a part of the business that is not your strong suit. Here are several examples:

  • If your culinary creativity soars, but your spelling and grammar are not the best, contract with a high school English teacher or a professional food writer to proofread your letters, contracts, and menus on a case-by-case basis. You may have the best-looking and best-tasting food in your city, but if your contracts, letters, and menus have spelling mistakes, that tells your customers that you aren't top-notch.
  • If you're a talented chef with a sense of style but you don't have a clue about accounting practices, take a noncredit adult education class at your local community college, hire an accountant, or shadow a restaurant or catering manager to see how the book work is done.
  • If your food and business skills are terrific but your style sense suffers, either concentrate on an area of catering in which this doesn't matter as much—institutional or outdoor barbecue catering—or hire an assistant or catering manager with a sense of style.
  • If your food sense, style, and business skills are all great, but you can't fix anything, offer a retainer to a full-time (more expensive) or retired (less expensive) handyman or refrigerator and appliance repairperson to be on call. Then pay the hourly rate for any service call. For a major function, include the cost of this person's services as an insurance policy against culinary disaster. If you can't get the blowtorch to work and you need to make crème brûlée for three hundred, his or her services will be worth the extra money—especially if you have already figured the cost into your per person price.

The bottom line: a successful caterer has all the bases covered.

  • from:
  • A Guide to Managing a Successful Business Operation
  • by Bruce Mattel and The Culinary Institute of America
  • Wiley 2008
  • Hardcover, 368 pages, $45.00
  • ISBN-10: 076455798X
  • ISBN 978-0-7645-5798-9
  • Information provided by the publisher.

Buy Catering



Read the full chapter in PDF format on the Wiley.com site.

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