Off Premise Catering

The above image is an example of a recent venue I prepared a five course dinner. Today’s blog is about just that, off Premise Catering. Although I prefer to think of myself as a private chef, what I do is essentially catering. I work in a niche market at the premium end of the spectrum. Let’s have a gloss over what exactly is catering. Primarily I want to look at how it differs from conventional brick and mortar operations. There is a lot to look at, but don’t be overwhelmed. We are only going to look at a few key areas, that are often overlooked.

Off-Premise Catering Model

Menus

It wouldn’t be the first time I have mentioned that the menu basically governs everything in the food service operation. I mean everything. You don’t open a restaurant and figure out the menu later. The menu is what makes you stand out from the other sheep. It also determines decor, staffing, and the general needs of equipment and space. It also leads into the next phase of the catering model.

Purchasing, Inventory and Storage

I don’t want to spend a lot of time here. Purchasing for catering is fairly simple. You sell a menu to a client, and you purchase the requirements to fulfill it. Seems pretty straightforward, right? It is if you use standardized recipes, inventory par levels and a little help from technology. Ironically, a lot of people do not.

Specialized Equipment

I added this because with off premise catering, there are special needs above having a site kitchen. Here is my list for success;

  • Vehicle outfitted to accommodate rack and roll and cambro units.
  • All fashion of carts, rack and rolls and temperature controlled cambro units
  • Portable heating units, both propane and induction
  • Tool box with all required small tools and devices
  • MAPS…lol
  • Clean up stuff; bags, sanitizer, clothes, gloves, etc
  • Mobile cooking equipment
  • Cutting boards, probes, sharpies
  • Did I miss anything?

One note on the above. Purchasing a well set up food truck is an option to bring much of the above list into one neat package.

Communication

This is likely the single most important aspect of catering. Why? Because unlike a restaurant, you won’t likely see your client until the day of the event. There is little room for error, all the details must be clear and communicated with the host and staff. How is this achieved? Lists, lists, lists. I have both a digital and hardcopy booking system that covers everything from the first phone call to the cleanup at the end. Trust me, it’s necessary.

Cheers, and have a great Monday!