Equip Your Catering Business for Success
Whether you own a restaurant that also offers catering or a business whose specialty is catering, having the right equipment can make all the difference in your venture's success and profitability. Below we cover some of the best catering supplies for expanding the reach of your business so you can maximize your profits while minimizing recurring costs.
Carts Decrease Labor
No matter how large or small each catering job you accept is, any job you do off-site will require transporting food, plates, utensils, and drinks. Investing in foodservice carts to transport those items faster means saving money on hourly wages, and using them to limit the amount of lifting and carrying required may even mean you can cut down on the number of employees you need for each job. Some carts you may want to consider are:
- Dish dispensers allow you to carry large amounts of plates, bowls, trays, and cutlery from your vehicle to the serving area, and then from the serving area back to your restaurant. This cart can not only reduce the strain on your employees, but also reduce the amount of breakage in your dinnerware.
- Ice carts help you bring large amounts of ice to remote locations. These carts are available with lids to protect ice from debris and insulation to slow melting times.
- Trash carts come in a variety of sizes, with and without covers. Invest in a trash cart to help speed cleanup without having trash bags spilling everywhere in your vehicle.
- Utility carts are available with two to four shelves, and can be made of plastic, aluminum, or steel. They have weight capacities ranging from 100 to 900 pounds, and some models are collapsible to make transportation easier. These carts are invaluable for moving equipment, bus bins, ingredients, and plates of prepared food.
Insulated Food Carriers Allow for Travel
Food pans and soft-sided food carriers can help maintain food temperatures for short distances, but investing in a more durable and insulated method of transporting food can allow you to widen your range of service, meaning more potential customers and more profit. Food carriers have carrying handles either sticking out of the top of the box or recessed into the sides. Most of these use insulation and tight seals to keep food at safe temperatures for hours, but some units can also be plugged in to power built-in heaters.
There are several features to keep in mind when you're deciding which models to invest in. Some have built-in casters, while others are stackable and can be used with dollies for easy transportation. Top loaders are for single or easily-stackable pans, and end-loaders have pan racks for sliding in pans, with some models accommodating as many as 24 full-size pans. Large chillers and warmers, which are cooled in the freezer or heated in the oven prior to use, can help food carriers maintain temperature, and a thermobarrier can allow you to store both hot and cold food in the same unit with minimal temperature transfer.
Electric Heaters are Dependable and Save Money
Traditional catering has always relied on chafing fuel, a gel or liquid in a can with or without a wick that is lit on fire and placed underneath a chafing dish. While this is sometimes still the best way to keep food warm while serving, such as when operating in a location with no access to electricity, newer options are now available that can help apply more controlled, even heat while saving you money in the long run.
Disposable chafer heaters, often generically referred to by the brand name Sterno, cost more than a dollar each on average, even when purchased in bulk. This recurring cost adds up quickly, considering most catering jobs will require at least five to 10 heaters. Electric chafer heaters require more of an up-front investment, but pay for themselves quickly with savings over disposable cans. These heaters also reduce the risk of fire and eliminate the worry of wind blowing out the flame. Another option is a countertop buffet warmer, which may include a built-in sneeze guard. Induction models are available, but these will require induction-ready chafing pans.
Portable Bars Help You Add a Drink Service
There's a reason bars are such a common sight: alcoholic beverages are a profitable business. Investing in a portable bar and hiring a bartender allows you to tap into those profits. Having a portable bar that you can offer to customers for events will not only allow you the opportunity to upsell, it will also help you reach customers for whom an open or cash bar is a must.
Portable bars come in setups as simple as an ice well with a bottle opener and as complicated as those with built-in water tanks and post-mix soda guns. Many have utilitarian plastic or metal exteriors, while others have attractive wooden façades. All portable bars come on casters to make them easy to transport to your catering locations.