Starting your Catering Business: The Three Types of Caterers

The catering sector is divided into three categories determined by the services provided and menu selection: Party Food Caterers provide prepared meals and desserts but exclude services and equipment; Hot Buffet Caterers offer a broader menu and service with mainly heated meals; Full Service Caterers handle the entire event organization, from food providing to contracting entertainers, decorators and other support personnel. The choice of catering equipment is largely influenced by the menu type.

As you can tell from just a glance, each of the three categories is distinguished by the different services provided. More importantly, each of the categories is determined by the most critical factor in catering – the Menu. It’s your menu which largely determines who you serve, when you serve and how you serve.

Also, it’s the menu that guides you in the critical selection of your catering equipment. For instance, a smashing menu exquisitely prepared and presented will be ruined if the foods lose their desired temperature in transit from your kitchen to the site.

Party Food Caterers

Party Food Caterers typically supply only the food for an event. Serving equipment and personnel are left for others to provide.

Party food menus are just that-cold sliced meats, cheese, salads, breads and desserts. The caterer supplies these foods on disposable trays or plates with the host responsible for transfer of foods to serving utensils.

If you’re a Party Food Caterer and wish to increase your sales and profits, consider adding hot foods to your menu. Armour, Green Giant, and Stouffer’s all offer frozen entrees, vegetables, pastas and ethnic foods that are easily heated in your oven and transported hot in insulated equipment like the Food Pan Carriers.

Hot Buffet Caterers

Hot Buffet Caterers offer a wider menu and more service than Party Food Caterers. Hot foods are standard, and many Hot Food Caterers specialize in either ethnic or specialty menus that are delivered hot to the party site.

Food pan carriers can also be used to transport the hot foods you’ll serve as a Hot Buffet Caterer. For larger events, many Hot Food Caterers will even transport entire pre-made buffet trays or bowls in the insulated food carts on casters like the one shown in the picture. For hot or cold drinks, Camtainers® insulated beverage dispensers are ideal. They’re insulated, easy-to-carry, and even stackable.

Finally, if you’re now working as a Hot Buffet Caterer, you should consider boosting your sales by also providing buffet serving pieces such as chafing dishes, coffee servers and wine buckets.

Some Hot Buffet Caterers go even a step further by also providing serving personnel at an additional charge.

The Full Service Caterer

The Full Service Caterer

The Full Service Caterer does it all. First comes the consultation with the customer. Then back to the kitchen to develop the custom menu. Ultimately, the Full Service Caterer is responsible for the planning, execution and success of the entire event. Responsibilities the Full Service Caterer may also assume beyond the menu includes:

  • Providing serving personnel
  • Contracting additional companies if needed to provide or install tents, dance floors, and lighting
  • Hiring florists
  • Arranging for set-up of tables and chairs
  • Hiring musicians or other entertainment

Many Full Service Caterers depend upon the “full service” Cambro line. In addition to the food pan carriers and carts, Cambro “Clear” Food Pans and Boxes, Dollies and Utility Trucks often serve as the equipment backbone for the Full Service Caterer.

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