A catering department is made of many roles—each of them being important. If one thing fails, it’s automatically a chain reaction. Here are a few tips for staying organized in chaos and some ideas to prevent it.
Don’t Set Yourself Up for Failure—Make Reminders
In a rush, someone is likely to pass on a message. Perhaps the chef said your pastries will be placed in a different cooler or your customer would like additional drinks at a specific time. Unless you are magical and can remember everything, don’t set yourself up for failure. Make yourself a note. Perhaps it’s a Post-It, cell phone alarm or even writing it in a place you’re guaranteed to see it like your hand—just help yourself, otherwise forgetting will set off a chain reaction of events.
Catering is all about planning. Unfortunately things pop up and sometimes you don’t have as much time as you’d like to plan—making it incredibly easy to forget an extra tong or stack of napkins. Take advantage of downtime not only to roll silverware and all the other miscellaneous things—but put together a back-up kit. Every department (and event, for that matter) is different, so make the kit based off your department and be sure to re-fill it from time to time.
Keep Your Catering Room Clean and Organized
This can get tough sometimes, especially if a department is small with several events. However, if the space is organized, it will not only be easier to find materials but will also make clean-up easier too. Mark everything out in storage bins or drawers—such as all serving spoons in one and all the spatulas in another. Then for larger objects like décor or tubs, have them placed in their own designated spots (and keep it that way for more than a day!)
When Things Go Wrong, Keep Calm and Professional
Oh no! The food is running behind or your chef forgot part of the order. First and foremost, no matter what kind of chaos is going on in the office or kitchen, always remain calm and professional in front of your customer and any staff at an event. If you’re panicked, they will be too. Unfortunately things will go wrong every once in awhile. So when they do, don’t forget to breathe and just communicate the issues with your catering director. Between the two of you, depending on the severity of a situation, figure out a way to make it up to the customer and just be polite.
Time is Everything
Time. It takes time to plan, set-up, serve and teardown. Be sure to take the time you need for all these things. In a rush, it can be easy to run in, grab what you need and go—as you should. There’s no time for dilly-dallying in the catering business. However, if you take an extra 30 seconds to a minute to make sure you have everything you need, it can save you from coming back a second or third time to retrieve items you forgot because you were in a rush. If you’re finding you’re having a hard time with all of the timing for events, Central Product Consultant Michael Williams has this tip:
“One event planning tip I’ve never forgotten and has served me well was to plan the event backward and add in ten minutes. If dinner has to be out by 6:30 p.m. and it takes an hour to cook, then subtract ten minutes from the clock and put the dinner in at 5:20 p.m. Do this with each dish and task on paper before the event, moving backwards all the way to the time you arrive at the venue and fine tune it as you learn what your staff and setup are capable of, and you’ll never be late. If you do that, catering will still be chaos, but at least it won’t look like it to the guest.”
You Are Important
If you can remember anything—remember how important your role is. Whether you’re the chef, caterer, office worker, set-up staff, director—whoever, you’re role is important. If you fail in some way, it will affect the next person, to the next person, which can end up at your customer. In some catering situations, you might feel like your being set up for failure (i.e. short staffed). Keep everyone in the loop and find back-up plans—it will make it easier for you, and everyone else along the way.
What are your catering stories and tips? Please share!