Wondering what does a Catering Manager does? Role definition: Catering managers perform the planning and management of catered events.
Job descriptions bore incredibly as they simplify complex, multifaceted work environments, stealing all inspiration and joy before you can decide if you truly desire the job!
This is my very humble attempt to place you in the shoes of ‘a day in the life’ of a catering manager. To give you the real taste of what it takes, the highs and the lows. This blog is for you if you are curious or considering working in this role in the future but might not know anyone who is currently working in the industry.
First, note that while there are general similarities in a Catering Business Owner or Catering Manager position. There is some variation in them based on location, the company you work for, the people you work with and the people you look after!
So start by imagining you are me! Lucky you! This is an office day where I am not needed in the kitchen or on the ‘floor’ running on on-site event.
How my day starts
At 6am my alarm clock starts screaming and another day in the beautiful garden-filled city of Toowoomba (population 165,000) BEGINS.
Not being a morning person, I force myself to eat breakfast, drink a Berocca and sit down to pray for a least 30 minutes. It centres me so that the rest of the day can flow from a place of peace rather than anxiety.
If I am very lucky and have held on to my will power to not hit snooze on the alarm. I am out the door and at work by 7.15 am, ready for my start at 7.30 am.
Being Toowoomba, it takes 15 minutes drive to get to work. Small city WIN!
Unlock gates and doors.
Turn on lights.
I adore these moments in the morning. The hush of the warehouse, the darkness of the kitchens, the empty office and reception.
The silence, interrupted only by the hum of the cold room condensers.
One thing I work hard to live out is to be a servant leader. So I walk to the staff kitchenette turn on the kettle and shift the wet washing (there is ALWAYS washing in hospitality) into the dryer. While it boils I fold tea towels and wash any stray mugs that have escaped yesterdays cleaning.
Then carrying a freshly made tea to my office I swing past the main kitchen to check the work board for the day, picking up any notes and the Duty Manager phone from the bench.
There is often a messages from late the previous afternoon or evening that needs an urgent response.
‘’Amy, is it possible to increase our catering by two people for tomorrow and one of them is a VEGAN? We are so sorry to do this!” – Client of 5 years’
“ Amy, we ran out of Danishes over the weekend. They have been ordered and will be here in the first delivery—they might beat me to work. Please keep an eye out for them.” – Head Chef
‘Amy, I am SICK!! Sob! Won’t make it to work today. Have asked Rachel to cover me” – Staff Member
With my hands full and heavy, I trek up the stairs to my office that overlooks the warehouse.
Air con and lights on.
Why air con? The office has no opening window. None. The design is a box in the sky.
The morning rush
Then the two hours of my day is a mix of reading emails, phone messages, text messages, social media messages, interspersed with waving to staff as they start their shifts.
Why do I start with the messages? Because people come first. I can prioritise their requests or respond immediately as I read BUT if I don’t even know about what people want or need, it will catch me out at the WORST moment later on in the day.
Sometime during this time if I am very lucky, someone will relieve me of the Duty Manager phone so that I don’t have to answer incoming call and enquiries while I work through the back log of requests.
In a family businesses you never know when or who this will be, it is a tag team.
By 10 am, I have sticky notes filled with reminders and actions points ready to catch our Head Chef for a mini hand-over meeting.
So back down the stairs I go to nab her from the kitchens. If I have timed it PERFECTLY the morning catering orders have been made, boxed and are being packed into the delivery van.
We then have a lull; a clean and reset hour before the lunch delivery runs have to be ready to go.
The Chef and I
So Chef and I huddle for 20 minutes and swap notes over:
- Changes to bookings and client requests
- Staff issues
- New recipe changes
- Supplier deliveries and stock quality
- Random client requests and everything in between
It’s fun, it’s short and it is like playing verbal badminton. Chef gives me as much information and action points as I give her.
In this role, your Head Chef is one of the most important people. IF you have a good one (and I have an incredible one!) they will have your back, give you information that you don’t even know you need and give you a reason to come to work with joy.
Choose them well (if you have the power to choose them) and treat them like GOLD.
It is now the point in my day where I have a narrow window between now and lunch—the project time!
We always have ongoing projects which would in another larger, business fall into a Business Development department. For us it is all about systems improvement.
Already in the last 12 months year we what created two seasonal menus, have re-priced our suppliers, created wholesale agreements, fixed the integration of our Full Kitchen Management Software.
Menu creation is a joint project, while the Chefs put forward recipes and the creative side of things, as my role is so closely linked with clients. I bring the reality of what the clients are willing to pay. What they ask for, where they are, etc and this then has a massive impact on what the menu then looks like. It’s not just ‘Pulled Pork Sliders sound delicious’.
Lunch, done work and an early finish
Lunch is a social moment—we all sit together and eat whatever dish is being developed or is left over. There is ALWAYS food. I get to hear what is going on with the kitchen, with everyone’s lives and they common annoyances that bind us together (‘you accidentally got locked out too!’).
The afternoon is where I lose all energy. It’s for my meetings and drone work.
I see clients for larger event bookings wedding catering meetings or conferences, meet suppliers, enter booking requests, sort stock and do all the things that need doing BUT take half my brain power.
By 3 pm I am DONE! I put so much into each day that the early finish is a God send.
Why and how I protect my energy
Do I ever work at events?
Yes, I do!
But often that work is better done and supervised by our chef and supervisors. I am ‘The Big Guns’, the backup if they aren’t able to or if the event is very complicated. If I have done the planning well enough and in enough detail, our talented team can run events without me. While I can do their job (on-the-floor action based), they cannot do my job (strategy, planning, client management).
So I protect my energy and focus on working on the things that no-one else is able to do, rather than running myself ragged on the floor (working events) and having nothing left to give to the wider business development and operations.
That was a tough lesson to learn.
Because I am not just the Catering Manager of Monkey Business Catering.
I am the Managing Director for the M & K Venture Trust, that owns and operates Monkey Business Catering AND iCooked, a ready to eat frozen meal company.
You can see my role over laps with Business Development, Marketing, Sales, Operations, and Human Resource Management and I adore every minute of it 😊