Introduction

The purpose of this book is to give a short but complete guide to the procedural aspects of managing a catering operation. Too often books on catering focus on only one part of the puzzle----food preparation, say, or buffet design, or maybe even cost analysis----while providing very little useful information about the rest of the catering puzzle. Catering Complete provides a complete picture of all the many pieces which must come together to manage a successful catering operation. You will find in this book answers to many questions. For example:

How can I maximize my sales investment?

Tried and true methods for producing professional portfolios are provided, along with methods for developing leads and getting the maximum exposure in your targeted markets.

How can I be sure I'm pricing my product correctly?

Catering Complete will provide you with specific step-by-step systems for determining menu and event pricing, along with the details of finalizing guest counts, guarantees and billing.

How do I find and keep professional employees?

The latest ideas in personnel recruiting, hiring and management are discussed, with ideas for organizing and utilizing an employee database.

What are the keys to running an effective and cost-efficient kitchen?

Food purchasing and inventory control measures are detailed, as well as methods for organizing your stock, developing your staff, and keeping food cost under budget.

How can I set large or intricate room sets quickly and without confusion?

Numerous specific systems for setting banquets are presented, along with an analysis of their uses and drawbacks.

How can I be sure my banquet service is better than the competition?

A complete discussion of contemporary styles of banquet service is provided, with specific service techniques that will help you provide that extra level of polish.

How do I organize my beverage department to control waste and theft?

Modern systems for managing your beverage costs are presented, as well as a quick primer of bar and wine service.

How do I put together a coffee service operation that can handle high-volume shows?

Numerous systems are presented for the staging and expediting of coffee breaks so you can meet all your service and cost projections.

How much equipment do I need, and how can I control breakage and theft?

Equipment purchasing, inventory management and systems for reducing loss and breakage are discussed, with specific suggestions on controlling your equipment and supply expenses.

How can I keep expenses in line with my sales?

Financial analysis tools are presented for computing product cost, labor costs, event budgeting and monthly cost statements.


Planning, Teamwork and Details


In 1996 I held the position as the Manager of the Executive Suites and Hosted Services at the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta. You may remember that in the summer of 1996 Atlanta hosted the Centennial Olympic Games. Both basketball and gymnastics were scheduled to take place in our stadium. The plan was to create two stadiums out of one by separating the building with a curtain across the fifty-yard line. The individual events were scheduled to ping pong back and forth, with three or four separate ticketed events every day, for 20 days straight. To make the math even more difficult, the daily schedules did not follow a consistent pattern. One day you might have basketball, gymnastics, basketball; and on the next basketball, gymnastics, gymnastics. We serviced 100 suites on each venue, with an average of 20 people per suite. On our advance menu we sold 43 distinct buffet offerings, along with an expansive a la carte menu and beverage list. In addition, we offered an order-today-for-tomorrow menu and event-day snacks and beverages. In numerous other areas on the property we hosted meals and parties from dawn to midnight. Needless to say, it was catering on a scale that none of us could have imagined. We began our planning for the summer games more than a year out, adapting our specific procedures as event schedules, menus, Olympic Committee requests and requirements, and hundreds of other contingencies were, one-by-one, finalized. We hired over 400 employees for my department alone. Eventually, of course, the doors did open and we pulled together as a team to welcome the world. I can't tell you that everything went perfectly. But we did manage to pull it off. In fact, after a few days, things settled down into a somewhat comfortable pattern of operations. Our guests were pleased with our efforts and left our site with positive experiences.

I recount this story to make a simple point: Good planning and teamwork can accomplish some amazing things. In this book I have tried to focus on the planning aspects of managing a catering operation, as well as passing on a few thoughts on how to engender teamwork. Having spent 20 years in food service management----much of it in high-volume, high-profile catering operations----I have been exposed to numerous systems and approaches for managing the many tasks which confront the professional caterer.

I have tried to bring the best of these systems together in an easy-to-understand, logical format which should provide a great resource for anyone considering the start-up of a catering business, students studying the subject for course work, or for established catering professionals at all levels. While there are many general concepts and ideas presented, I have focused on specific procedures as much as possible. A quality catering operation (like any other business) depends on how well all the little details are managed. Developing and documenting step-by-step procedures is always the first step in the process. You will notice that in almost every chapter there are specific ideas for using a computer to make your business more efficient. Catering is a business filled with great amounts of constantly changing information. How well you manage this information will play a big part in how well you manage your entire operation. At the end of this book I have included numerous forms, checklists and diagrams which I believe you will find helpful. These are referenced as they are presented in each chapter.

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