Tag 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!

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

Guest Blog: London’s 2012 Olympic Food Vision

Blog written by Autumn Faust, Product Data Coordinator at Central

With the Olympic opening ceremonies just around the corner, millions around the world are preparing to cheer on their home countries.  London has just a little more to prepare for as they are hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.  This will be their third time hosting; their last time being in 1948.

Due to the economic climate and post World-War II rationing, the usual extravaganza the Games bring was noticeably missing.  Consequently, those Games became known as the “Austerity Games.”  This year’s Olympics may not be serving as an equalizer after years of World War, but London is facing another challenge.

They are challenging the long-time notion that the United Kingdom lacks a first-class cuisine.

Considered the largest, peace-time catering operation in the world, they now have their chance to showcase to the world their local fare.  Not only will all eyes be on London, but all taste buds as well.

The 2012 London Olympic bid promised a “memorable occasion that will make a positive impact before, during and beyond the main event.”  This must encompass what food is served and how it is served during the Games.

It is estimated 14 million meals at over 40 locations will be served during the Olympics.  This creates an immense challenge to deliver award winning food while keeping true to London’s sustainability promise.

Simply a tastier, healthier and greener Games.

Five themes with various objectives and commitments were outlined to help the food establishments of London adhere to the city’s promise.

This is known as the London 2012 Food Vision.

The Numbers

  • 31 competition venues
  • 955 competition sessions
  • 160,000 workforce
  • 23,900 athletes and team officials
  • 20,600 broadcasters and press
  • 4,800 olympic and paralympic family
  • 9 million ticket sales
  • 14 million meals

 

Food Amounts

American Translation

25,000 loaves of bread

25,000 loaves of bread

232 tons of potatoes

464,000 lbs. of potatoes

82 tons of seafood

164,000 lbs. of seafood

31 tons of poultry items

62,000 lbs. of poultry items

100 tons of meet

200,000 lbs. of meet

75,000 liters of milk

46,231 gallons of milk

19 tons of eggs

38,000 lbs. of eggs

17 tons of cheese

34,000 lbs. of cheese

330 tons of fruits and vegetables

660,000 lbs. of fruits and vegetables

 

Food Safety and Hygiene

  • Ensure exemplary standards of food safety and hygiene at all Games venues
  • Develop and apply robust traceability procedures
  • Manage the risk of targeted, malicious contamination of food supply

Choice and Balance

  • Ensure there is a diverse range of food and beverage for all customers, catering for all dietary and cultural requirements, that are high quality, value for money and accessible

  • Provide access to free drinking water at all Games venues
  • Provide a range of healthy and nutritious options for all customer groups
  • Effective use of vending services

Food Sourcing and Supply Chains

  • Support the delivery of safe food across the Games

  • Ensure food and beverage products are sourced with regard to high benchmark and aspirational environmental, ethical and animal welfare standards
  • Support a broad supply chain including smaller scale, British, regional and local enterprises

Environmental Management

  • Optimize supply of catering equipment
  • Maximize energy and water efficiency of catering equipment
  • Zero waste direct to landfill during Games time
  • 70% waste reused, recycled
  • Minimize carbon emissions

Skills and Education

  • 100% catering staff to receive minimum ‘Games’ training
  • Use games as a live case study for students
  • Target host boroughs for recruitment into hospitality training
  • Encourage and support innovative partnerships between catering and organizations and colleges
  • The Games provide an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the substantial and diverse hospitality career opportunities available
  • Develop quality credit framework to formulate sustainable catering study module

London was announced as the winning bid for hosting the Games in 2005.  Seven years of hard work and planning will come together beginning this Friday, July 27.  With the limited amount of time the Olympics run, there is only one chance to get the food right.  While we’ll be cheering on our American athletes, we’ll definitely be rooting for London to “wow” the world with their 2012 Food Vision.

Sample menu of the food being served in Olympic Park.

Catering Tips for the Summer Event Season

When it comes to catering and event planning, there is much more involved than just throwing things together and heading out the door.  It’s about being prepared and providing superb service to develop relationships with customers. A happy customer will always come back and even recommend to others.

“We are always looking for ways to exceed our client’s expectations,” said Gus Rojas, owner of Five Star Catering in Indianapolis, Ind. “It is crucial to create relationships with your customers.”

For Rojas, creativity plus quality plus service equals a successful event.

It also never hurts to keep up with trends and provide a little variety, such as global cuisine action stations.

“They are fun, fresh, interactive eye appealing,” he said. “Some of the most popular for us are Mexican, Thai, European and Asian.”

And while catering alone can be challenging, the winter and summer months can make things even more challenging as you are battling the weather.

As we move into the summer months, here are a few catering tips to help you get through the heat from Central Product Consultant Michael Williams:

1. A proper inclement weather shelter/cooking area is a must. 

Weather can be very unpredictable.  Make sure you have a backup plan for cooking and hosting if the weather turns sour.  An often overlooked detail is having windguards/windscreens for chafers.  They are essential to keeping food hot.

Also, putting chocolate fountains outside on even a mildly windy day without proper windscreen is a recipe for ruined tablecloths, clothes and angry guests. (Trust me).

2. Pack an emergency kit.

You’ll often be away from your primary kitchen, so be sure to pack an “emergency” kit that includes:

  • Extra cleanup materials
  • Extra chafer fuel
  • Utensils and the like
  • First aid kit
  • Gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Jugs of water (Even if the outdoor sites do have water supply, it may be occupied by guests, too far away to be useful, or otherwise inconvenient)

3. Ensure food safety.

Summertime menus are typically lighter than their wintertime counterparts and often include more fresh produce and other temperature sensitive items which pose their own unique challenges due to the summer heat.

Make sure all foods are stored at safe temperatures during transport or aren’t set out of their storage zone too long.  Produce and other foods can wilt, degrade or spoil much faster this time of year.

 How do you gear up for catering events during the summer?

Tips to Stay Organized in Catering Chaos

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.

 

Back-Up Kit

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!

Trend alert: restaurants strive to remain relevant amid the recession

I’d like to share a few articles I read this week that address the changing climate of the restaurant industry and changes in the demographics and habits of diners. Each of these pieces touched on a common theme – that restaurants are going to have work harder to be relevant among a changing -and less loyal- demographic; one that is causing the market to become more competitive and more driven than ever by exceptional customer service.

First, a report released this week from the NPD Group ReCount showed the “total number of restaurant locations in the U.S. shrunk during the past year as smaller chains and independents in particular had difficulty weather the economic storm.”

And, coincidentally, a report from Technomic showed that consumers are entertaining at home more often than a year ago. That trend is expected to increase throughout the year.

The Technomic study is a good segue into a Wall Street Journal article that identifies a trend of restaurants opening fewer locations and instead trying harder to improve service. Mystery shopper programs and online surveys abound.

And the last article, from the Orlando Sentinel, shows how dining habits have changed. Older consumers, who represent a large portion of the casual-dining market, have reined in spending as their retirement savings have taken a hit during the recession. Meanwhile, the next generation of diners is less loyal to casual dining and often feel that traditional sit-down restaurants take too long. Moreover, grocery store chains are honing in on restaurants’ territory by offering more pre-packaged and ready-to-eat meals.

It’s easy to see the downside, but what opportunities do these trends present for restaurateurs?

First, as noted in the MediaPost article, it offers an opportunity for restaurants -especially the independent and smaller chains that are struggling the most- to place a greater emphasis on offering box lunches and party platters, complete with off-site preparation.

Second, these trends should tell restaurateurs that there are too many establishments that are almost exactly the same. Operators should be in a mode of constantly improving and reinventing themselves and keeping the concept fresh.

And last, restaurants should place an even greater emphasis on customer service that is second-to-none. I don’t just mean greeting the diners with a “Hi, my name is Kristy and I’ll be your server,” with a side-order of deadpan stare.

What I mean is to provide a customer experience that isn’t artificial and suffocating, but unique and special enough that people will tell their friends about it.

Now more than ever, your success depends on a unique and memorable experience, and depends on taking advantage of new trends and dining styles. Because in THIS economy, if you build it, sometimes they still won’t come.