The food catering business is more complicated than one might expect. There are several tasks involved that include more than cooking a meal, large or small and delivering it to a person or function. The technical equipment caterers now utilize are just as advanced, and in many cases, more advance that those in a modern restaurant kitchen. When people think of caterers or of going into the catering business, they think about cooking and smiling in their kitchen with their happy go lucky apron tied around their waist but nothing could be further from the truth. The facts are that catering is an almost around the clock job that has a high level of stress. Serving food during outdoor events can be sometimes risky because you don’t know if it will rain or not.
First of all, if you want to compete in the food catering business, you have to be able to prepare, set-up, and serve a large number of people and all the inherent problems that go with it. Weddings are one of the caterers biggest customer base and are very difficult to serve. While the wedding couple is deciding whether to provide the guests with bath wedding favors or soap wedding favors, the caterer is providing a five-course meal that is five star restaurant quality and will be just as tasty and fresh for the late comer as it was for the first person served.
One of the reasons food catering is so stressful is the extremely important deadlines they must meet in order to preserve the integrity of their business and the function. It the timing is off by even a half of an hour it could throw a wedding with two hundred plus guests completely out of whack. A caterer’s bread and butter come from word of mouth advertising. This means that a level of perfection and professionalism has to be maintained constantly. There is absolutely zero room for error. When you have hundreds of people waiting to be served at an exact time at a remote location there is little room for mistakes or delays. The food and the service, and the timing, needs to be perfect.
One of the traits I have always admired in a professional food service is the ability to transport a huge amount of food in a very small and economical amount of space and time. The food caterer’s truck is an amazing display of organization and space utilization that would make a jigsaw puzzle maker envious. There is also a specific technique involved in the way the truck is loaded and unloaded. I found this out one day by watching a caterer deliver the food to a huge wedding of over one hundred people. She pulled up to the service entrance and it was my job as one of the ushers and general groom helper to aide the caterer and give them help in whatever they needed.
As she backed up the van and started unloading her equipment I asked her where she wanted the rest of the trucks to park as they waited their turn to back up and unload. She looked at me rather amused and asked to what other trucks I was referring. When she carried a rather puzzling piece of equipment into the building, I jumped into the back of the van and tried to figure out what I could carry in for her. When she came out, I thought she would have a duck, right there by the church service door. To my surprise, she remained calm and told me that she required no assistance but I was more than welcome to watch and hold the doors for her. She then preceded to carry, roll, and two-wheel-jack a variety of food and food transport and heating machines and tables. When she was done, I could not figure out how all of that foldable, hinged, and stainless steel machinery could have ever fit in the back of that van, much less the amount of food she brought with her and served. I was and still am completely amazed at how professional and compact her operation is and I vowed that I would never consider going into that business.
Food catering is an amazing job and requires skill and organization that one must be born with and I will always appreciate the people who have the fortitude to be in that profession.
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