One of the most common jobs in the hospitality business is working in catering. Whether you’re an event planner, a chef, a bartender, a waiter or a busboy, a busy catering service will offer no shortage of work opportunities. The goal is to design and pull off events on a significant scale. And unlike in a restaurant, you may not always work in the same location twice. You could settle in with the catering department of a hotel or an event space, but many people work in business, industrial or mobile catering, meaning you’ll travel to the location, set everything up, serve dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people, then break everything down and call it a day. It can be incredibly fulfilling, and offer you some unique opportunities to network both within and outside of your industry. But it’s also a difficult job, with some serious stress involved. Here are some of the pros and cons of working in catering.
One of the biggest pros is the flexibility of scheduling. Unlike a typical 9-to-5 office job, no two days will be the same. There will be many days in the week where you will only be following leads or designing events, with easy hours and no actual catering work to do. This will free you up to maintain a second job, to spend time with your family, or to engage in other pursuits outside of your career. But while this is a positive, it can also come back as a serious negative. First off, you can expect to have to work most weekends, and a great deal of nights. This will put your schedule at odds with most of your friends and family. In addition, the work will not always be consistent. This could hit you more as a waiter or bartender, as you could be working in a restaurant that’s open seven days a week, with income you can rely on.
Another positive of a career in catering is the creativity and variety it brings. This is especially the case with mobile catering. You’ll bring the staff, the food and the drink, and create an incredible event in a new space every time. Each job will offer different challenges, pushing you to grow in your career and learn more every single day you’re involved. When catering, the menu will also be different each time. You’ll work with your clients to plan the menus, and these will often be incredibly creative. You’ll get to play with different dishes and see how they work on a sizable scale. This can also work against you, causing some major league stress. You’re generating a new menu all the time, and the staff turns over fairly often. You won’t always know if you can execute, and you won’t have total control of the situation. As a chef this can be absolutely maddening.
There’s also a significant physical toll. This isn’t the sort of job you’d take if you want to sit at a desk all day. You’ll be on your feet for twelve hours or more at each catering job, and you won’t just be standing around either. It’s like a marathon and a weightlifting workout all in one. The physical, mental and emotional stamina it takes is enormous, and burnout is often the result. In addition, it doesn’t always pay you that well. You can earn a great living if you’re high up the totem poll at a high end hotel or event space. But at lower end catering facilities you won’t even make as much as you would in a moderately busy restaurant. And since each event is different and the demands are ever changing, you cannot just put it on autopilot. Catering will certainly keep your life interesting, but relaxation will not be on the menu.