Catering Equipment Checklist for Big and Small Parties

Some people have nightmares of showing up to school naked. Caterers have nightmares about showing up to a wedding reception without forks (at least, that was a recurring nightmare for me).

To successfully cater any type of function, whether a large wedding reception or a simple business luncheon, you need to be organized. There are lots of items that can be overlooked in the rush to get out the door, such as salt and pepper shakers, cocktail napkins, steak knives (sadly, a true story).

If you’re really lucky you can run back to the restaurant or your catering kitchen and get what you need with no one the wiser. If you’re a little lucky you can buy the missing pieces at a local Wal-Mart or Target. If you are just plain unlucky, you can make up a story about how no one uses steak knives anymore and it is perfectly fine to use a butter knife instead, and see if the client believes you (they won’t).

To help you sleep better at night, I’ve comprised a list of everything you need to cater both large and small functions. You may have your items to add to it, as well. Keep it in your event planning book and be sure to show it to staff who are helping you out with the function.

Table Settings

  • Dinner plates
  • Bread plates
  • Salad plates
  • Water glasses
  • Wine glasses
  • Coffee cups with saucer
  • Silverware settings
  • Linen or paper napkins
  • Tablecloths
  • Table centerpieces
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Sugar holders
  • Butter holders

Serving Equipment

  • Serving trays
  • Bus tubs
  • Water pitchers

Buffet Equipment

  • Plates
  • Silverware rolls
  • Bread basket
  • Chaffing dishes
  • Fuel cells for chaffing dishes
  • Lighter or matches for fuel cells
  • Tongs
  • Serving spoons
  • Spatulas
  • Cutting board (for beefs, hams, and turkey)
  • Sharp knife for cutting
  • Rags (for spills)
  • Decorations (seasonal flowers, etc.)

Coffee/Beverage Station

  • Air-pots for coffee, decaf, and hot water
  • Water pitchers
  • Iced tubs for soda, juice and other cold drinks
  • Drinking straws
  • Drink stirrers
  • Cocktail napkins
  • Coffee cups
  • Water glasses
  • Basket of assorted teas and or hot cocoa
  • Basket of sugar packets
  • Small wastebasket

Additional Items for Off-Premise Catering

  • Cambro — an insulated container that keeps food hot or cold
  • Garbage bags for dirty linen
  • Extra bus tubs for dirty dishes
  • Disposable containers for food storage (if you are keeping it or the customer intend to keep leftovers)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tin foil
  • Extra serving utensils
  • Jugs of water — if no running water is available at the site
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Extra cleaning rags or paper towels
  • Directions to the location (don’t forget this one!)

Catering is a great way to try out the restaurant business without a huge investment. For those who already own a restaurant, catering services offer a great way to boost sales and expand its customer base.

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