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Equipping Yourself for a Great Catering Season

Caterers and banquet facilities have a busy season that starts in late spring, and continues all summer long.  People tend to conglomerate frequently during the warm months, and there is a constant need for food whenever people gather in large clusters.  There are two primary varieties of catering operation, and though both have different needs to function properly, both banquet facilities and traveling catering operations have a need for proper cooking equipment and kitchen space.  Let’s take a look at some of the specific items that should be readily available during the busy catering months.

Banquet Operations

Banquet facilities tend to have larger parties to serve than mobile catering operations (though this is not always the case).  The summertime is the busy wedding season, and banquet facilities require not only a large quantity of all BOH supplies, but also FOH catering supplies as well to be prepared for the large gatherings.

  • Smallwares – Banquet facilities have a tremendous need for BOH smallwares.  Since they cook and prep food in such high volumes, banquet facilities would do well to stock up on extra smallwares in every facet of BOH.  Things like cutlery, utensils, cutting boards, cookware, and hotel pans should all be in supply.
  • Holding Cabinets & Banquet Carts – Holding cabinets and banquet carts are the ideal way for banquet facilities to keep food warm before service.  Banquet carts are intended to house plated dishes, and heated holding cabinets are intended to hold large quantities of sheet or hotel pans.  In most banquet facilities, more than one of each will be needed.
  • Chafing Dishes & Buffets – Most banquet facilities offer buffet style banquets, and it is necessary that there be an elegant way to display buffet items while keeping them at proper serving temperatures.  Banquet facilities tend to invest in both elegant display chafing dishes and portable heated or cold buffets to provide them with options when setting up rooms for a banquet.
  • Carving Stations – Some banquet facilities offer customers the option to have a carving station at banquets, and a mobile carving station is essential to this sort of operation.  These units have drainage for any juices that may drip off from the meat, as well as a flat surface for cutting and heat lamps to keep the meat warm.
  • Flatware, Tableware & Glassware – Banquets require tremendous amounts of tableware, flatware, and glassware.  Banquet plate settings often have several plates and bowls, a wealth of silverware, and a water glass to accompany whatever wine and other various glasses patrons are using.  Business owners need to keep a tremendous backstock of these items, as they break / chip relatively easy or can find their way into a garbage can on accident.
  • Storage – All of the extra items needed for a large banquet facility need to be properly stored.  Storage for dining accessories like tableware and glassware, storage for BOH smallwares like cookware or hotel pans, and even storage for the large quantities for food being ordered in will be needed.  Additionally, plate warmers should be on hand to ensure that dishes for plated banquets go out as hot as possible.
  • Furniture, Décor & Banquet Accessories – Furniture and seating are of paramount importance in a banquet facility.  It is important that banquet halls have adequate seating to accommodate the varying sizes of receptions they will be catering, but also adequate storage for furniture when it is not in use.  Additionally, things like table linens, décor such as champagne fountains or punch bowls, and other accessories such as serving trays for hors d’oeuvres will be necessary for an elegant and functional FOH.
  • Portable Bars – Portable (or in some instances stationary) bars should be a part of every banquet hall, and should be fully stocked.  Not all events will make use of the bar, so it best to decide whether or not your business would utilize a bar enough to necessitate building a stationary one in your facility.

Mobile Catering Operations

Though the needs of the BOH are the relatively the same for mobile catering operations (except that they may not have to prepare for as many people), however there are a number of items necessary that are specifically needed for caterers transporting food and serving on site.

  • Insulated Food Carriers – More often than not, traveling caterers will transport cooked food to the location it will be served.  In order to maintain proper serving temperatures, food must be transported in insulated food carriers.  There are a wide range of sizes of food pan carriers, so it is important to size them according to your business’s needs.  Additionally, for caterers that travel extended distances to serve, it may be wise to invest in a food carrier that has a built-in heater.
  • Insulated Beverage / Liquid Carriers – Both hot and cold beverages often need to be transported along with food in many instances, and insulated beverage containers are needed to keep them as they are supposed to be served.  These carriers are also available with out the spout for liquids such as soups or chili.
  • Portable Food Service – Often times, mobile caterers will bring food to catered events in hotel pans to be served buffet style on site.  When this is the case, portable chafing dishes, salad bars, cold buffets, and steam tables are an absolute necessity to keep food at proper serving temperatures while it is on display.  These minimalist chafers aren’t always as decorative, but are easy to break down and tend to be more resistant to travel damage.
  • Serving Utensils – It is important to have serviceware that can make the trip to serve on site.  Serving spoons, tongs, and other serving utensils should be stocked for all parties.  Mobile caterers often have to cater different events in different locations, and business owners must be prepared to send some of their equipment and smallwares to as many locations as they will be catering at one time.
  • Plate Dispenser – One thing every operation needs is something to hold that food. And moving mountains of plates around can really be a chore. Using a plate dispenser can save you from getting a head or backache.
  • Countertop Hot Plates & Cooktops – Some caterers do some last minute cooking or finishing on site, even if cooking equipment isn’t accessible.  Things like portable butane hot plates, and outdoor catering equipment such as portable propane griddles or fryers are ideal ways to finish food on site.
  • Heat Lamps – Often used in lieu of a chafing dish, or with items that may deteriorate in a chafing dish, heat lamps are another easily portable solution to keeping food warm.  It should be noted, however, that shatter resistant bulbs should purchased to reduce the chance of damage in transit.

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