What Does a Caterer Do?

A caterer prepares, cooks, and presents food remotely, often for events. Read on to learn more about the skills, training, and licensing needed to become a caterer. Schools offering Hotel & Restaurant Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Caterers provide food service for functions like weddings, conferences, parties, and fund-raisers. Some caterers offer mobile catering services, which are operated out of vehicles or carts. Many professional caterers may work for a restaurant or private company, while others are self-employed.

It is a caterer's job to meet with clients, establish a menu, cook, present, and serve food and drinks at an event. Caterers often charge clients on a per-person basis. In addition to preparing the food, some full-service caterers also supply lighting and table setting to clients at an extra cost.

Important Facts About The Catering Profession

Median Salary (2019)$34,427 (for caterers)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth (for all chefs and head cooks)**
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or GED
On-the-job Training Mentorship working with an experienced chef, apprenticeship programs sponsored by culinary institutes, industry associations and trade unions

Sources: *Payscale.com and **U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties and Responsibilities

Some caterers work full-time while others cater only part-time on weekends and evenings. Caterers often spend long hours on their feet and face pressure to meet deadlines. Caterers can work from a home kitchen or a facility that they own or rent. Sometimes a caterer needs to hire additional staff for production, service, and cleanup.

Aside from being able to make large amounts of client-specified food, a caterer must run and market their business. A caterer is responsible for:

  • Meeting with clients, developing and suggesting menus, and ordering supplies
  • Preparing, cooking, and serving food
  • Understanding and complying with safe food-handling practices
  • Establishing prices and cost per portion served
  • Drawing up contracts
  • Marketing the company and keeping business records

Licensing and Training

Caterers may choose to obtain training through a degree program in the culinary arts. These degree programs include banquet and catering courses. State laws often require caterers to obtain a business license and meet food service requirements. Caterers typically must apply for a license from a health department or other state regulatory agency. Such departments inspect catering businesses, issue licenses, and conduct routine business inspections.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Strayer University

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  • The University of Montana

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    • Michigan: Big Rapids
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    • Kentucky: Louisville
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College

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    • California: Chula Vista
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    • Georgia: Valdosta