To anyone who works at McDonalds who is feeling bad about their life choices just remember…

You can technically put White House Catering staff on your CV now

Good morning sunshine! Todays topic, off premise catering. I spent a considerable amount of time working in this particular environment. I would like to say, it definitely is the most challenging of all the sectors of foodservice. Weither on a grand scale of 1000+ guests to the smaller private chef functions of as little as 6, there are many more considerations to complicate things. Planning is an integral part of the proccess…..anything missed can end up being a disaster. I’m including a couple of templates that I have found useful, at the end of the blog. OK, lets dive in….


What is off-premise catering?

Bill Hansen and Chris Thomas, authors of Off Premise Catering Management, explain that off-premise catering is the term used to describe a catering service in a location away from the caterer’s food production facility. While caterers are always ready to provide one-event food service, not all caterers can offer the same kind or quality of service. Off-premise caterers are actually classified into three groups:

Party food caterers. These caterers actually focus their operation on providing food for events. They are not involved in the event preparation and it is really up to the client to get the venue ready, including cleanup, etc.

Hot buffet caterers. This type of caterers focuses on serving hot foods, which are made in their commissaries and delivered to the venue. Foods are sealed in hot containers. Sometimes, there’s a personnel to help serve the food but for an extra fee.

Full-service caterers. Other than providing and serving the food, food service caterers also prepare the food onsite. Likewise, the service of wait staff is available and other food-related facilities and equipment are included, like china, glassware, utensils, tables, chairs, napkins, etc. In other words, a full service caterer is not just involved in preparing the food; the caterer is also involved in the over-all facet of the gathering.

The earliest account of major services being catered in the United States is a 1778 ball in Philadelphia catered by Caesar Cranshell to celebrate the departure of British General William Howe. Catering business began to form around 1820, centering in Philadelphia. Catering became a respectable and profitable business. The early catering industry was disproportionately founded by African-Americans.

The industry began to professionalize under the reigns of Robert Bogle who is recognized as “the originator of catering.” By 1840, the second generation of Philadelphia black caterers formed, who began to combine their catering businesses with restaurants they owned. Common usage of the word “caterer” came about in the 1880s at which point local directories began listing numerous caterers. White businessmen eventually moved into the industry and by the 1930s, the black businesses had virtually disappeared.

In the 1930s, the Soviet Union, creating more simple menus, began developing state public catering establishments as part of its collectivization policies. A rationing system was implemented during World War II, and people became used to public catering. After the Second World War, many businessmen embraced catering as an alternative way of staying in business after the war. By the 1960s, the home-made food was overtaken by eating in public catering establishments.

By the 2000s, personal chef services started gaining popularity, with more people seeking to work independently. 2021 has seen a huge boom in meal preparation and delivery, private chefs and more.

I personally have worked in a number of different off premise catering scenarios. Of course my company, “Dinner Thyme”, was founded as a personal chef and private dinner party company…..22 years ago. Today, I train people to do what I was doing all those years ago. Off premise catering as I mentioned is much more challenging than restaurant/hotel work. The reasons are logistics and planning. There is a very small window for error, especially if the venue is far from the site kitchen. In addition you often have to coordinate with other companies, florists, service companies, event planners and so on. Here are a few tools to help you with off premise catering….if you don’t have these, you should. I have a repository on this site for members that has dozens of more essential forms for download. Maybe consider joining us today!

Cheers, and happy cooking!