Is becoming a caterer right for me?
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How to become a Caterer
Becoming a caterer typically involves a combination of culinary training, practical experience, and business skills. Here are some steps you can take to become a caterer:
- Get culinary training: Many caterers start by getting formal culinary training through a culinary arts school or program. This can provide you with the technical skills and knowledge you need to prepare a variety of dishes, as well as the opportunity to work with experienced chefs and instructors.
- Gain practical experience: In addition to formal training, it's important to gain practical experience in the catering industry. This can involve working in a restaurant kitchen, catering facility, or event venue, where you can learn about food preparation, kitchen management, and customer service.
- Build a portfolio: As you gain experience, it's important to build a portfolio of your work, including photos of dishes you've prepared and events you've catered. This can be used to showcase your skills and attract potential clients.
- Develop business skills: Catering is not just about cooking - it also involves business skills such as marketing, sales, and financial management. It's important to develop these skills in order to run a successful catering business. Consider taking courses or workshops in business management, or working with a mentor who can provide guidance and advice.
- Obtain necessary licenses and certifications: Depending on your location and the type of catering you plan to do, you may need to obtain various licenses and certifications. For example, you may need a food handler's permit or a catering license from your local health department. You may also want to obtain certification from a professional organization which can help you establish credibility and build your reputation (see below).
- Market your services: Once you have the necessary skills and credentials, it's time to start marketing your catering services. This can involve creating a website or social media presence, networking with event planners and other professionals in the industry, and advertising through local media outlets.
There are several certifications available for caterers that can help demonstrate their skills and knowledge in the industry. Here are a few examples:
- Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE): The CPCE certification is offered by the National Association of Catering and Events (NACE) and is designed for catering and event professionals. To earn this certification, candidates must demonstrate knowledge and skills in areas such as event design, food and beverage service, and event management.
- ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification: This certification is offered by the National Restaurant Association and is required by many states for foodservice managers. It demonstrates that the holder has the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the safety and sanitation of food served to the public.
- Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Certification: Caterers who specialize in wine and beverage service may benefit from obtaining a certification from WSET, which provides training and education in wine and spirits.
- Certified Hospitality Sales Professional (CHSP): This certification is offered by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute and is designed for hospitality professionals who specialize in sales and marketing. While not specific to catering, it can be helpful for caterers who are responsible for marketing their services to potential clients.
There are many online resources available for caterers that can help them stay up-to-date with industry trends, connect with other professionals, and find helpful tips and advice. Here are a few examples:
- National Association for Catering and Events (NACE): The NACE website offers a wealth of resources for catering and event professionals, including articles, webinars, and networking opportunities. Members can also access exclusive content and discounts on industry events and resources.
- CaterSource: CaterSource is an online resource for catering professionals that provides articles, videos, and podcasts on a variety of topics, including business management, event design, and culinary trends. The site also hosts an annual conference and tradeshow for catering and event professionals.
- Catersource Magazine: Catersource Magazine is a print and digital publication that provides industry news, advice, and inspiration for catering and event professionals. The magazine covers topics such as menu planning, event design, and business management.
- Chef's Resources: Chef's Resources is a website that provides culinary resources for chefs and caterers, including recipes, cooking techniques, and equipment reviews. The site also includes a forum where professionals can connect and share advice and tips.
- Event Leadership Institute: The Event Leadership Institute offers online courses and webinars for event professionals, including caterers. Topics include business management, event design, and marketing and sales.