Catering is an excellent way for businesses and individuals in the food business to expand their services. Caterers ease the stress and hassle of preparing and presenting food for events by delivering it in the most delectable fashion. Of course, not everyone can just fulfill the duties of a caterer, being a caterer requires culinary training, certification and licenses, and experience.
Catering demands individuals not only to prepare good food and deliver it, but also to bring a level of professionalism and communication which can be obtained through formal education. Community colleges, culinary schools and technical schools train those interested in catering and offer certificates and associate's degrees.
- Catering Certificate
To obtain a catering certificate, one must go through basic catering and business training by taking courses on food preparation, sanitation and safety concerns and catering in general. It can take anywhere from 6-12 months to go through the program. Certificate programs typically include an internship opportunity with local businesses for students to obtain a real-world experience.
- Associate of Science in Culinary Management
A way of establishing credibility for a caterer is to obtain an Associate of Science in Culinary Management. This is a 2-year program that concentrates on food preparation, delivery and business ethics. Similar to a catering certificate program, students complete internships with local catering businesses. Students take an array of classes which focus on nutrition, pastry arts, menu design and hospitality.
- Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts
Those seeking to advance their culinary career and be leaders in the foodservice industry may pursue a Bachelors Degree. Students interested in this degree will take business related courses to learn about the financial and marketing aspects of this industry. Students are also often presented with the opportunity to study abroad and learn about foreign cultures and cuisines.
Certifications & Licenses
Hand in hand with education, caterers must obtain a caterer's licenses and certain certifications. Caterer's license fees and duration vary state-to-state and county-to-county, so check with your local government first. Before obtaining a Caterer's license, one must first receive a Certificate of Occupancy. This basically states that your business does not violate any building and zoning codes.
- Business License
Business licenses are permits distributed by the government that allow business owners to operate within its estate. To obtain a Basic Business License (BBL) one must submit a BBL EZ Form which can be found on the District of Columbia website.
- Health Department Approved Facility
In addition to the licenses and certifications, caterer's business must be inspected and approved of by the Department of Health Environmental Health Administration; Bureau of Food, Drug, and Radiation Protection (Food Protection Division)
- NACE Certified
The National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) is the largest catering organization that issues certificates for caterers. To become a Certified Professional Catering Executive (CPCE), applicants must first pass a comprehensive exam that tests the knowledge of accounting, beverage management, catering services, contracts and agreements, event management, food production, human resources and sales and marketing.
Employers look for applicants who have had some experience in the field but also usually provide their own training. For catering managers, at least 3 years of experience as a catering supervisor is required.
Attending workshops is a great way to train employees in skills such as planning menus, handling food and taking inventory. It helps management bond with the employees and teach the company's approach to catering. Organizations such as NACE have annual conferences where caterers can learn from the industry leaders and network within the food service field.
You're now fully aware of everything you need to become a catering professional! The list is long, but the work is fulfilling. The question is, do you have what it takes?
Sam Ott writes for Lutz’s BBQ, a restaurant serving up its smokin' delicious barbeque to any event in and around Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo.