Category Archives: Catering

Catering Special Events

Simply put, a caterer is a company that prepares and provides meals for special events. These events can vary greatly, but it is important for all events to have the right equipment to keep food save and to be prepared for all circumstances.

What Events Need Caterers?

Caterers are needed for all kinds of events from weddings, galas, business lunches, birthday parties, award banquets, and everything in between! The needs of each event will vary, but keep your mind open to the potential opportunities as a caterer.

What Equipment and Supplies Does A Caterer Need?

  • Food Pan Carts and Carriers

    • Used to transport food from the place it is cooked to the location of the event while keeping the food at safe temperatures. A wide variety of sizes and construction are available

  • Insulated Beverage Carriers

    • Keep drinks to temperature in the background, ready to be put into beverage dispensers or to be served individually.

  • Iced Beverage Bins

    • Does your client want to keep canned or bottled drinks out for guests to easily grab a drink? Check out our iced beverage bins in a variety sizes and styles!

  • Chafing Dishes

    • Chafing dishes are crucial for buffet style catering. These will keep the foods at safe temperatures and tasting good through the whole event. Styles and shapes can range, so be sure to know what your targeted market is looking for!

While not an exhaustive list, the above will cover most needs a caterer will run into. Looking for something specific? Browse today on our website! Or, do you want a friendly product consultant to help walk you through the process of making sure you hit everything on the list? Give us a call at 800.215.9293!

All About Chafing Dishes

Chafing dishes are essential to serving hot foot at a buffet, banquet or catering event. Knowing how to properly use chafing dishes, also known as chafers, is important to ensure your food is being served at a safe temperature and out of the danger zone.

Using a chafing dish is very easy. Simply heat a water pan underneath the dish using a chafer fuel candle or electric source. Currently, induction chafers are also a popular, safe hit because they use induction heating eliminating the need for a water pan or fuel.

There are various styles and shapes available on the market, making choosing the proper chafing dish somewhat difficult. Here, we breakdown each type of chafer eliminating the guesswork!

Chafing Dish TypesChafing Dish

There’s a reason for each chafer shape! Main dishes are usually served in larger oval or rectangular dishes, while you’ll find round chafers used for side dishes.

Rectangular: The most standard style of chafing dishes, commonly used for main entrees or a large quantity of sides.

Round: Round chafers are also popular, but more commonly used for side dishes and desserts. Some food service operations use these to serve up sauces and appetizers as well.

Oval: Oval chafing dishes are also used for main entrees like rectangle chafers, but give the dish a most stylish look.Chafing Dish

Marmite/Soup: Marmite chafers, also known as soup chafers, are used to hold what you think – soup! You can also hold stews, sauces, gravies and other liquids in these.

Square: Square chafing dishes are less common, but still used throughout the food service industry for sides and appetizers.

Coffee Chafer Urn: You’ve seen these before out on the buffet lines, and for good reason – they hold the holy grail of all hot beverages, coffee! You can also use these for other hot beverages such as tea.

Cover Types

One important factor when determining what type of lid you need to buy is knowing the crowd you’re serving. If you’re having a buffet where customers serve themselves, roll top lids are self-serve friendly. Lift off covers are a better option if your food service operation will be dishing out the food to guests.Chafing Dish

Lift Off and Dome Covers: This lid features a handle on top of the lid making it easy to remove completely from the chafer, even while hot.

Roll Top Covers: If customers are serving themselves, this is the cover to get! Roll top covers retract completely and it holds itself up. The front handle is easy to use – flip the lid up and locks help keep the lid in place!

Hinged Covers: A hinged lid acts and looks like a lift off lid, but angles it at 45 or 90 degrees. This lessens the hassle of completely removed the lid and stays open for easing serving.

Glass Top Covers: Glass top lids allow you and your customers to see food without lifting the lid. Glass covers allow for heat to stay with the food because people won’t be lifting the lid to see what’s inside. They also create visual interest, and can be used for main and side dishes.Chafing Dish

Chafing Dish Sizes

There are three standard sizes of chafing dishes: full-size, half-size and round. Full-size chafing dishes have an 8 to 9 quart capacity, half-size chafers have a 4 to 5 quart capacity and round chafers typically have a 4 to 7 quart capacity.

Shop Central

Central has a wide variety of chafers that will fit your food service operation. If you’re looking for some new chafing dishes for your restaurant and additional more help, call one of our knowledgeable Product Consultants at 800-521-1277 or chat with them live!

What the Fudge? How to Use a Chocolate Fountain

Have you been searching for a sweet addition to your menu, but don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into it? Chocolate fountains can be a picturesque addition to any catering event, restaurant or party! Easy to use and surprisingly easy to maintain, a chocolate fountain is a simple investment sure to bring it profit. Learn how to properly use a chocolate fountain using these steps.

How to Use a Chocolate Fountain

Follow along to ensure your fountain is a hit at your next event!

Choose a location wisely

  • Pick a spot that is away from air conditioning ducts, dance floors, doors of any type or a heavy traffic area. The cold air from air conditioning will cause the chocolate to harden and have trouble flowing smoothly. Placing the fountain in a heavy traffic area or near doors will only cause the risk of someone knocking it over to rise greatly! No one wants to be cutting a rug on the dance floor and accidentally cause a chocolate catastrophe!

Chocolate fountains and the great outdoors don’t mix

  • One big gust of wind and chocolate will be all over you, your guests and your table! No one wants that! Water and chocolate don’t mix, so if there’s a sudden downpour the chocolate will start to sieze. Even on a picture perfect day, insects will drawn to the fountain. They love chocolate too!

Choose a sturdy table

Chocolate Fountain

Photo credit: debbietingzon / Foter / CC BY

  • There would be nothing worse than setting your chocolate fountain on display to have the table tip during the party. Make sure that your table is not only sturdy, but also level! Before the chocolate is even in the fountain, use a leveler across the bowl to ensure that the bowl is level as well. If not, adjust the feet until you’re positive it’ll be safe.

Melt chocolate beforehand

  • Melting chocolate beforehand will save you a lot of time, but you’ll need to use plastic or Styrofoam containers that will insulate the heat so the chocolate won’t harden. Reheated chocolate can sometimes lose its smooth consistency, so time the melting process accurately. You can melt chocolate in the fountain basin, but this process could take up to an hour. Preheat your fountain before you add chocolate to assure it won’t harden and will flow properly.

Monitor the fountain

  • Once you put in your melted chocolate, someone still needs to stir the chocolate frequently and spoon it towards the auger to get the fountain to pull up the chocolate and get it flowing! During the event, your fountain might stop flowing properly. If this is the case, you either to add more chocolate or air has been trapped in the auger. Turning off the auger for about 10 to 15 seconds should solve this problem.

Cleaning the fountain

  • The party is over, the guests are leaving, and you’re stuck with a messy chocolate fountain. Sounds fun, right? Cleaning a chocolate fountain doesn’t to be a pain! First, cleaning up the fountain right after use will make it much easier. Turn off the machine, empty out the leftover chocolate (what you can) and disassemble it as much as possible. If a spatula cannot get every last bit of the leftover chocolate, use a damp sponge with hot water. Don’t pour excess chocolate down your drain, because it will clog it! Most fountain parts can be ran through a dishwasher, so run the pieces through a cleaning cycle. Once that’s done, check out the auger post-cleaning to ensure it’s not still clogged with chocolate. Finally, wash the base and carefully store it away until the next use!

Get Creative!

Chocolate fountains don’t necessarily have to be for chocolate! If your food service establishment usually goes for savory rather than sweet, switch out the chocolate for cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese, right? Having a barbecue or tailgating party? Use barbeque sauce or ranch dressing. Use this for vegetables, chips and more!

Still want sweet but not chocolate? Try using caramel for fruit, cakes, pastries and candies.

Regardless of what you put in your fountain, just remember to not use wet items that will cause the product you use to seize, and crumbly items that will just contaminate the food.

Shop Central for the fountain of your dreams and call one of our helpful Product Consultants if you have a question at 800-521-1277. We’d love to hear from you! Happy fountaining!

Featured image courtesy of Eugene Kim

What Is A Charger Plate?

When it comes to table settings, there are a lot of terms to know. Throughout the duration of planning events, many customers will find the term “charger plate” pop up and wonder what exactly it is. You yourself may even be wondering the same thing! So, what exactly is a charger plate? Keep reading to find out!

Charger Plates

Charger plates are a great addition to a tabletop in order for it to really make a statement. Technically speaking, a charger plate is a large dish or platter used for decorative purposes underneath plates you serve food on. Charger plates are NOT meant to be eaten off of, just simply for beauty only!

Charger plates are most widely used for weddings, large parties, banquets or catering events. Since they are used for decoration only, they will usually sit on the tabletop throughout the whole service, while the staff will serve each part of the meal on a separate bowl or plate and place it on top of the charger plate each time.

You’ll find charger plates in a variety of shapes, styles, colors and construction material. This will allow you to choose the right piece to match the décor, mood or style of the event. Charger plates are one of the easiest ways to make for a unique presentation to guests, and to make the whole meal stand out.

Using A Charger PlateCharger Plate_2

When purchasing charger plates, it’s important to think about a color or style that will fit with your existing décor and tabletop. Consider the type of dinnerware you already have – what color is it? What are the shapes? Do you use tablecloths or placemats? These all will help determine what charger plates will most fit your restaurant, banquet hall or catering service.

After you’ve purchased your charger plates, place each one at each guest’s setting on top of your tablecloth or placement, and finish setting the table. It’s important to note that charger plates are fairly large, so make sure you have enough room for each guest’s spot at the table.

Charger plates act like a base, so when service is ready to start, waiters will place soup bowls, salad plates and dinner entrees directly on top of the charger. Once everyone is done eating, remove the charger plates with the dinner plates from each setting. They are never to be used with dessert and are always removed before serving. After service is over, simply wipe the charger plate clean and you’re all finished!

Other Uses

Charger plates don’t have to be used solely for setting dishes on! You can also use a large, ornate charger plate as a tray or platter for appetizers and desserts. If you do, remember to place something on top of the plate when it comes in contact with the food. Place votive candles, pillar candles or even flowers to create a beautiful centerpiece for each tabletop!

The possibilities with charger plates are endless! Dress up any tabletop or create a centerpiece to impress your customers and make them really enjoy their experience!


Photo credit: Didriks / Source / CC BY

Summer’s Over, Time to Think Christmas

Happy Labor Day, America! Now that we’ve reached the ‘unofficial end of summer’, we have to ask the question: “Do you have your holiday shopping done yet?” While we know that 32 million Americans will wait until the last minute for their personal holiday shopping – the restaurateur will probably need to plan earlier for their restaurant, catering business or institution’s needs. Don’t sweat it, because Central Restaurant’s product consultants are here to show you some products that will get you ready for your holiday rush.

Start With Some New Banquet Tables

Correll Heavy Duty Plywood Core Folding Tables are great for catering.

Correll Heavy Duty Folding Tables are great for catering.

Planning to host some holiday parties? Need extra seating? Check out the Correll high-quality folding tables we recently added to our assortment. We carry tables ranging from economy-priced plastic top models to heavy-duty plywood core tables that are perfect catering halls or temporarily increasing the table count at your restaurant to handle holiday crowds.

Pair your new tables with folding chairs from National Public Seating. Central carries them in several styles and colors – including some in holiday-themed red and green.

Stock up on Supplies

Remember to stock up on punch bowls, serving utensils, table coverings and other supplies. With holiday parties these items will get a workout and you’ll want to make sure you have backups available to maintain your high standards.  Don’t be a Scrooge and wait until the last minute for holiday ordering. Plus, there are still a few days to save 15% on Vollrath products (promotion ends Friday, September 5th).

..And Some Not So Helpful Suggestions

We had other ideas, but they were shot down. Still, we wanted to pass some along so you could be the judge.

First, we thought it would be nice to be able to recreate that timeless Christmas song using a Star radiant gas charbroiler. It usually is pretty cold outside in December, so we thought about bringing those ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ inside. One of our Product Consultants said that would not be a good idea. Who knew?

Not a suitable 'nutcracker'

Not a suitable ‘nutcracker’

Next, we searched our catalog for a traditional nutcracker. Turns out we don’t sell any decorative soldiers with a large mouth used to crack traditional holiday nuts. We suggested decorating a Tablecraft lobster cracker, but was told that would be to much work to create.

Finally, we read how 122 million pounds of eggnog were consumed by Americans in 2007. It sounded like a job for a new gravity-fed milk dispenser. Then we read further into the statistics and learned that this broke down to half a cup per person. If the other half of the cup is being thrown down the drain, maybe a dispenser dedicated solely to eggnog would not be a great investment.

But Seriously Folks

Just because the calendar hasn’t even reached the fall season (more on that tomorrow), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be planning ahead. Remember that Central Restaurant’s website is available for you 24-hours a day, and our knowledgeable product consultants are ready to answer your questions and take your orders Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern and each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Barbeque Season: Are You Ready?

School’s out, it’s getting warmer, and summer is just around the corner. It’s time for swimming, vacations, and barbeques. Make sure you’re ready for grilling season in your barbecue grillestablishment by reading our guide and checking out our products online!

Depending on the size of your crowd, it’s important to know what size grill you need. Central carries grills in sizes from 30”W to 80”W, and many in between! Remember to consider not only the crowd size, but also the products you will be grilling.

Gas Grills

If you have a gas grill, you have definitely thought about how many BTUs you need. Keep in mind that higher BTUs does not always mean it’s a better product. It’s more important to look into how many burners are included. Individual burners with adjustable heat will allow for more control over your cooking, and more even heat distribution. Gas grills will be a lot quicker to start, and easier to control the flames.

Charcoal Grills

Commercial charcoal grills can be a more economical option for your establishment. Another advantage is that your food will have that distinctive smoky flavor that customers love! Central carries charcoal grills that are transportable, and perfect for catering and other outdoor parties.

Customize Your Cooking

barbecue cleaning

Don’t forget accessories! Check out our variety of options so you can create a more personalized cooking experience.

Patio Space

bbq sink

Now that you’ve mastered outdoor cooking, why not spruce up your patio space? Central has a great selection of outdoor furniture and umbrellas. Be sure to also check out the outdoor patio heaters for chilly evenings! Having a tailgating event and need to stay sanitary? We have portable sinks so you’re always ready to go – no matter the situation!

Shop at Central

Not sure where to start? We’re always adding new products, so feel free to browse our website, or call to talk to one of helpful product consultants. Tell us below what your favorite part of grilling season is!

Catering Tips for the Holidays

Can you believe that the holidays are only a few weeks away? Maybe you can with all of the early Christmas music and decorations, but I can’t! The holiday season is always an extremely busy time for most foodservice operations, so it’s important to be prepared ahead of time. Catering is an especially popular option for families and business hosting parties weekend after weekend. What all do you need to be prepared for a catered holiday party? Keep reading to find out!

Food Pan Carriers and Carts

The first step in catering an event is to prepare all of the food before (obviously) and make sure that’s properly stored and ready to be transported at safe temperatures. Food pan carriers and carts are used to transport food safely, while still maintaining their serving temperature hours

Say you’re catering a small holiday party, and only need to transport a few pans of food, then a pan carrier is probably your best bet. They come in two types: top loading and front loading. Top loading horizontal units are ideal for holding the same type of food in one or more pans. These are also a more economic option than front loading. Front loading carriers, also known as “end loading”, are vertical units with doors on the front and can be stacked. These carts are ideal for carrying multiple pans without having to stack them on top of each other.

If you’re serving a large party with multiple pans of food, pan carts are your best option. These transport easily because they are a complete unit with casters already attached. Electric units ensure food stays at the proper temperature and won’t drop over time. Non-electric units are useful when electricity isn’t available to wherever you’re catering. The insulation allows the carts to retain hot or cold temperatures for hours.

Hot Food Tables

Some restaurants and foodservice operations are already prepared for catering with hot food tables or steam tables. These tables are used to ensure food is kept warm at a set serving temperature. Hot food tables can be used in various applications, but are most often used for self-service or operator service buffets. Don’t forget to keep your buffet clean and sanitary with these tips!hotfoodtables

If you’re looking to purchase a hot food table, consider these basic features:

  • Electric or Gas Powered
  • Amount and types of food served (Number of wells needed)
  • Legs or casters (stationary or mobile)



No guest wants to be served cold food, and no chef wants their food served cold! Chafers are always an appealing option for catering, as they look great and can still maintain temperature. To ensure your food stays fresh and warm for your guests, remember to heat the water in your chafer before you drop in your hot food pan.

About twenty minutes before you’re ready to served, place around 1-1/2” of hot water in the water pan, light the fuel and cover. Be patient and let the water and pan heat up for a bit. When your food is ready, insert your hot food pan and you’ll be ready to serve hot, fresh food!

Options and Accessories

Now that you’ve got your most important aspect to the party ready, make the holiday gathering more appealing with some dining room accessories.  First, it’s crucial to make sure you have enough drinkware, flatware and dinnerware for your guests. You don’t want to run out of clean dishes when the party is still going on! Tie in the holiday theme with festive tablecloths, napkins, decorations and more. Tabletop displays are an attractive way to hold flatware, condiments, rolls – you name it. You could even use colored dinnerware to match the holiday colors – the possibilities are endless!

By investing in some solid food transport equipment and hot food tables or chafers, you can be sure the food at your catering event doesn’t disappoint. Keep the festive atmosphere with decorations and brightly colored dinnerware, and make sure you have enough flatware and drinkware to go around! Happy holidays!

Tips For Keeping A Buffet Clean And Sanitary

Buffets can be a very attractive option for customers, and can become quite profitable for your foodservice operation if done the right way. It’s important to not only have a presentable and appealing buffet, but most importantly to keep it healthy and sanitary. Read on for sanitary tips and presentation tricks from Central!

Safety First

When it comes to buffets, it’s important to keep food at proper internal temperatures to fight bacteria and to have the correct size of dishes to be serving the food in. According to the CDC, they estimate roughly “1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.” Foodborne illnesses can travel from person to person, so it is important to stop the spread of bacteria before it starts.

Keep in mind these tips:

  • Prepare your food ahead of time so it’s easy to replenish throughout the night. Replace the serving dish with a fresh container throughout the service.700-043
  • Hot foods should be kept at an internal temperature of 140°F or warmer.
  • Keep checking food temperature throughout the service using a food thermometer. Hot food should be served or kept in chafers, slow cookers or warmers.
  • Foods at 140° or more will keep nasty bacteria away, so make sure your warmer is set up correctly so food is at the proper temperature!
  • Cold foods should be kept at 40°F  or colder.

It’s important to keep cold foods refrigerated as long as possible before serving time. Place plates on ice or other cold food bar accessories such as the Cambro CamChiller if food will be out longer than two hours. Insulated buffet bowls outperform ordinary plastic ones with no insulation in keeping foods chilled.

913-705“Don’t add food to an already-filled serving dish,” according to the FDA. “Instead, replace nearly-empty serving dishes with freshly-filled ones. Be aware that during the course of the party, bacteria from people’s hands can contaminate the food. Plus, bacteria can multiply at room temperature.”

Employees and patrons must be aware of cross-contamination. Make sure every station has it’s own spoon, ladle or tongs to pick up food so customers won’t be apt to grab items with their bare hands (or their own silverware).

Workers should always come to work with good appearance, but this is especially crucial when working a buffet where customers see the workers throughout the dining area. Employees’ uniforms and aprons should be clean, and without stains. Hairnets or hats should be worn to keep hair from falling into food and employees that are handling money or cashiering should not handle any sort of food.

Keep The Presentation Appetizing

Along with following simple health tips, there are other ways to make your buffet pres250-196entable and sanitary. Sneezeguards are one of the most important aspects of a buffet. Without them, food is susceptible to the spread of bacteria from person to person. Sneezeguards come in a variety of styles; ones that are portable for single dishes to guards for condiment toppings (a station that’s often overlooked).

Clean plates should be stacked nicely at the end of each buffet table in a dish caddie. Waitresses should advise customers that they should get a new, clean plate each time they go up to the buffet tables and they should not bring any used silverware with them.

Flatware holders will keep your flatware organized and sanitary. Tongs, ladles, salad tongs and any other serving utensil should be clean, and placed in an easy-to-reach area for customers. An attendant should keep an eye on these serving utensils so that the handle does not come in contact with the food that is being served. Also, at least one serving utensil should be at every station.

913-650Make your buffet tables pop with some added touches of color and style. Central has many buffet bowls that are very appealing, ranging from ones with pops of color to classic clear.

Dishes and flatware aren’t the only buffet items that need to be organized, the salad and dressing station should be too! This station in particular has lots of options for customers to choose from, therefore lots of dressing options will be on display. Central has salad dressing dispensers along with organizers to keep your station looking neat.

If your buffet serves up breakfast, chances are you’re going to have cereal or dry food as an option. Keep dry food sanitary by using dispensers. These dispensers allow for the customer to pour out as much as they want, without touching any part of the food. If you have an ice cream or dessert station, these dispensers will work well with toppings for sundaes as well.

Finally, add salad bar tiles and templates to make for a nice presentation. You can also add artificial produce such as peppers and kale to make the salad bar look full and appealing.

Need Help?

Buffets are an enjoyable option for many customers at your restaurant. If buffets are kept clean, sanitary and presentable, they can bring in big revenue for your foodservice operation. Keep in mind these tips and products, and if you need any help don’t hesitate to call one of our Product Consultants at 800-215-9293!