Catering coordinators have many responsibilities and roles including managing staff, helping to coordinate scheduling and/or decor at catered events, interacting with clients, and sometimes running small catering businesses. Aspiring catering coordinators can consider a bachelor's or associate's degree in catering, hospitality, or a related field.
A catering coordinator oversees professional catering crews as they plan, prepare and serve food at wedding receptions, charity events, holiday brunches and office functions. They may assign tasks to a team of cooks and servers and make sure those tasks are completed according to client specifications. On-the-job training is common in this field, and prior food service experience is a plus.
|Required Education||Varies; often, on-the-job training|
|Other Requirements||Prior food service/event planning experience or catering/culinary degree can sometimes be useful|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||5% for all food service managers*|
|Median Salary (2016)||$34,849**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
The National Restaurant Association reported in 2010 that the culinary and restaurant industry was the second largest employer after the government, with approximately 13 million employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on-the-job prospects of special food services workers, a group which includes caterers; noting that the employment of food service managers in the sub-field is expected to grow by about 5% between 2014 and 2024.
PayScale.com reported in January 2016 that catering coordinators typically earned between $25,385 - $42,745 per year; while catering managers, whose tasks are similar to those of catering coordinators, earned salaries ranging from $29,586 - $56,701 in that same reporting interval. As of May 2015, according to the BLS, the average annual salary of food service managers providing special food services was $58,470.
Duties of a Catering Coordinator
At a wedding reception, catering coordinators are responsible for cutting, serving, and packing pieces of the wedding cake for guests to take home. If the cake is somehow damaged, they may have to try and fix it. Another duty may be organizing bar service for guests.
In addition to preparing and serving food, some catering coordinators perform event planning tasks. They coordinate the furniture, décor, and floral arrangements at a venue. They may also arrange for entertainment, photography, video recording, calligraphy, printing, and valet parking.
In the kitchen and storage areas catering coordinators must ensure that sanitation standards are met. They have to date and label food products, maintain inventory records, and enforce 'First In, First Out' procedures to ensure the timely use of stored food. They perform management tasks such as coordinating staffing schedules and maintaining employment records.
Networking and good financial management skills are crucial for a catering coordinator. The Princeton Review noted that 70% of catering services are run by owners. Therefore, it is likely that many catering coordinators own and run catering companies, which requires business acumen. The Princeton Review also reported that the majority of catering businesses fail within 18 months because of high operating costs, poor reputation, and bad marketing. Successful catering firms develop good reputations with clients for a particular culinary specialty to ensure repeat business. Up-and-coming firms try to define themselves by developing unique menus and establishing good relationships with clients.
Requirements for a Catering Coordinator
There are no formal educational requirements for becoming a catering coordinator. Having prior experience in the food service industry is useful for gaining an understanding of the business. Some catering coordinators apprentice with an experienced caterer before starting their own businesses.
Aspiring catering coordinators may choose to get an associate's degree in professional catering or culinary arts to learn the culinary techniques, event planning basics, and the business skills required to run a successful catering business. Future coordinators who want to gain the management skills required to work for or run a large catering operation may prefer to get an associate's or a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management. All of the above programs emphasize hands-on training, requiring students to complete off-campus externships at restaurants, and other dining establishments.
Curriculum for Catering Coordinator Education Programs
Catering students learn to use kitchen equipment, plan, and execute menus and provide courteous customer service through mock training receptions and internships. Culinary arts students learn the history of culinary arts, techniques of food and pastry preparation, and food identification principles. They gain a thorough understanding of front-of-the-house restaurant operations and kitchen management by studying subjects such as purchasing and inventory control. Hotel management students study management theory and hospitality business law along with the basics of culinary science, which enables them to handle all aspects of a catering business.
Catering coordinators are the point-of-contact for special events and are often in charge of managing finances, coordinating deliveries and overseeing the preparation and service of food and beverages, among other tasks. With so many diverse responsibilities, coordinators could benefit from an undergraduate degree in catering, culinary arts, hospitality, or management. Experience in the food service industry is also a plus.