The Five Levels of Catering

The word catering is used to describe many different kinds of services. What level of catering is your organization currently doing? More importantly, what is it capable of? We will assess your current catering operation and help improve your existing situation in regards to sales, marketing, staffing, menus, purchasing, front and back of the house logistics, beverage service, rentals and more. We can then guide you in building your catering business by helping you offer more services to your customers, in a more professional way, resulting in increased revenue and profit, all from your existing restaurant. You already have the facility, now leverage it! Ramping up your catering operation and in-house banquet business is one of the best ways to grow your business with minimum expense. Let us show you how to move from whatever level you are currently at, up the ladder to more business and more profit.

Level 0

No catering whatsoever.

Level 1

Restaurants and caterers at this level drop off room temperature food, individually portioned or as multi-portioned platters in disposable containers. Boxed lunches, sandwich platters and canned soft drinks are typical. All items (forks, napkins, etc.) supplied are disposable. Orders are taken with little lead time (typically 24 hours or less.), with very little customization. The invoice is paid in full at the time of delivery.

Level 2

At this level, a company drops off simple, room temperature or heated items in disposable containers, usually in bulk quantities, but also as individual portions. Entrées, side dishes, salads, desserts, breads and canned soft drinks make up a typical order. All items (forks, napkins, etc.) supplied are disposable. Orders are taken with little lead time (typically 24 hours or less.) with very little customization. The invoice is paid in full at the time of delivery.

Level 3

At Level 3, the service moves beyond a simple drop off, with staff delivering, setting up and serving the food, and then cleaning up. “Themed” buffets (Italian, fajitas, barbecue, etc.), with some items transported hot to the event, are typical. Additional items, such as seating, linens and simple china, glassware and silverware might be provided. Drinks can be canned or served from pitchers (iced tea, lemonade, etc.) There would be more menu and service customization, with a possible advance site visit. Lead-time would typically be 2 days to one week. Deposits of 50% are collected at the time the order is placed, with the balance paid upon delivery.

Level 4

Here, there is more emphasis on service, with a lower staff to guest ratio, and more specialized service roles, such as managers, captains, waiters, bartenders, busboys, chefs and cooks. The food would be comparable to a mid-level restaurant, with some cooking and preparation done on site. In addition to buffets, seated dinners might be offered. Full bar service, or at least beer and wine, would typically be offered. Rentals, such as seating, linens, china, etc. are the norm. Additional services, such as valet parking and security might be offered. Lead time is at least 2-3 weeks, or even up to a year for a wedding or large corporate event. Some customization and pre-event consultations would be necessary. A 50% deposit is due with a signed contract outlining the parameters to reserve the date, with the balance due the day of the event.

Level 5

Similar to Level 4, but more so. Food, service, bar and rentals (seating, linens, crystal, etc.) would be on par with the best restaurants in town. All the cooking and much of the preparation would occur on site; temporary kitchens will frequently need to be set up. Passed canapés, lavish buffets and multi-course seated dinners are the norm. Any additional services the client might want (valet parking, security, photographers, videographers, live music, DJs, florists, ice carvings, dance floors, special lighting, tents, various entertainers…) would be provided, though frequently sub-contracted, by the caterer. A good knowledge of, and relationship with, various local sites is important. Customization and pre-event consultations are the name of the game. Lead-time is typically several months or more. A 50% deposit with a signed contract books the event, with the balance due the day of.