Catering, at the core of providing food and beverages, involves a constant effort to evolve to make the clients always feel happy. Whether you’re attending a wedding, a birthday party or an official conference, there’s one thing everyone looks forward to—the food. Good food can make or break an event. At the heart of it all is the caterer, the silent orchestrator behind fond, finger-licking memories.
Keeping up with changing demands
Catering is the simple business of providing food and beverages at events or other venues. Yet today, it is anything but simple. Rampant globalisation has given rise to a gastronomic curiosity in the modern context. The Indian palate is well-travelled, sophisticated and ready to explore the depths of culinary delights. Catering is now a booming creative industry. In a time when a simple menu just won’t make the cut, The Kitchen Art Company (TKAC), a Delhi-based caterer, provides a 35-page menu to its clients, with room for customisation. Understanding the needs of the clients and adjusting according to them is also very important.
TKAC is a high-end caterer with a legacy of over 25 years. What has it taken to keep the sought-after brand ticking all these years? A constant effort to adapt and evolve. “Most of our clients have been with us for a long time. Now, we have to woo the next generation. We are surviving pretty well. This is because we have young blood in our company which provides that boost,” says Dinyar Banker, CEO, TKAC. For companies, old or new, it’s important to keep abreast of the changing times and adapt accordingly.
Gastronomy, glamour and hard work
“It’s a very opulent job. There’s a lot of money and glamour, but there’s also a lot of hard work as well. You have to be driven, you need to have a passion. Every other person wants to become a caterer today. It all depends on what your long-term intention is. If it’s good food, you’ll survive. If it’s money, then you’re going in the wrong direction. Money will be a by-product of the kind of passion you put in,” insists Banker, in an appeal to aspiring caterers.
The different configurations of catering
Catering is essentially about three things—food, presentation and service. From chefs and cooks in the kitchen to service staff like waiters and stewards and management positions on the administrative end of the spectrum, the catering business has many integral roles.
Depending on the size of a catering company, these roles can be handled by in-house employees, outsourced, or simply left out of the mandate. For instance, a big-time company can handle all aspects from kitchen to service, presentation, plating and decor, while a home chef may offer catering services that only deal with the preparation, packaging and delivery of food. Of course, working in a hotel’s kitchen also presents catering opportunities. Hotels, party lawns or banquet halls are good options for chefs and waiters alike.
When it comes to hotel catering or private catering companies, it is the service staff that becomes the face of the organisation. Proper grooming, tidy uniforms and good etiquettes are a must to watch out for when training waiters and stewards, as they become the face of the company at the events.
Ever-widening scope of work
The avenues for catering run far and wide. This could range from stand-alone social events like birthdays, festivals, kitty parties to wedding functions, corporate meetings or conferences, along with regular contracts for servicing corporate offices, schools, institutions, hospitals, airlines and more. The possibilities for growth are endless. The best thing about the field is—the scope is huge, and does not necessarily require formal culinary education to succeed. All you need is a passion for food, good recipes and a solid business plan—whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom or a culinary graduate, success can be yours for the taking in this field.
Creativity, authenticity and quality
When it comes to food, Indians don’t make any compromises. The ghee flows freely in Indian homes, and so should it from caterers’ canisters. Quality is the queen in catering. From trying out new recipes and keeping up with the latest trends in food to experimenting with different tableware and presentation layouts to designing modern service uniforms—your creativity can be the difference between making a unique statement, or coming across as run-of-the-mill.
Boosting your business
To run a business successfully, so that it can become a profitable enterprise means crunching numbers. Take time before you commit to a client to take a look at the pricing of each dish, associated costs, labour wages among other things. Find the best rates that don’t compromise on quality, and your profit margins will lean to the right side.
As long as you don’t cut corners and continue to deliver excellence in your service, clients will keep coming back for more. In fact, they will be your loyal ambassadors. Word-of-mouth is often the most effective—and surely, the most budget-friendly marketing strategy any service company can hope for. Yet, when the competition grows day by day, a little bit of marketing can go a long way in getting your brand out in the public eye.
Keeping aside the traditional print advertisement, another way to boost your business in today’s world is to have a strong digital presence. As it is said, we eat with our eyes. So, keep posting delicious pictures of your culinary creations, and let your followers feast their eyes on your tempting dishes.
You can start with catering in your local area, but once you get your business off the ground, the sky is the limit. If expansion is on your agenda, work towards exploring different cities, and perhaps one day, you may find yourself catering a yacht party on the French Riviera!
Select institutes offering courses in F&B
Culinary Academy of India, Hyderabad
Bachelor of Catering Technology & Culinary Arts
Diploma in Food & Beverage Service
BA (Honours) Culinary Arts
Bachelor’s in Hotel Management & Catering Technology
PG Diploma in Culinary Arts