5 Tips for Catering Outdoors This Summer

John Cohen | June 22, 2018

So many catering clients imagine beautiful outdoor events on warm summer evenings. What they don’t always consider is how the weather will impact the caterer! While they’re picturing a refreshing cocktail and a lovely breeze, you’re picturing cooking over a hot grill in the sunlight in a heavy chef coat. That’s why it pays to be prepared! Check out these tips for catering in the heat of the summer weather so you can be prepared for whatever mother nature throws your way.

  • Take care of your team.

As important as it is to provide for your clients, make sure you are also looking out for your team, too! They’ll be running around in the heat, carrying heavy trays, and usually they are dressed head to toe in black. Make sure you have a shady area for staff and chefs, plenty of cold water, and fans to circulate air. Allow your team to wear approved set up clothes (i.e. shorts and branded T-shirts) for setting up during the hotter hours of the day, and then change before the start of the event (bonus: this keeps their event clothes looking good, longer!). Encourage your team to take quick breaks when necessary. Overheating can be incredibly dangerous, so be sure to take care of your team in the heat.

  • Keep food at a safe temperature.

What precautions do you have in place to keep food a safe temperature? Consider where you are placing food stations—anything sitting in direct sunlight will get too hot. Ice baths will melt rapidly, so set timers to change out your ice regularly. Offer patio umbrellas as an add-on for outdoor events to keep food in the shade. If client is providing a tent, be sure to know which direction the sun will set to avoid the food being caught in the sun. Just because it’s under the tent doesn’t mean it’s in the shade! For large events with the right budget, consider renting an air conditioned truck to hold your food until it’s ready to be served.

  • Ice, Ice, baby.

In addition to those ice baths, guests will also consume more ice at outdoor events during the summer. How much more? Play it safe and account for 5-6 pounds of ice per person. This should have you covered for cocktails and water, as well as some additional ice in case your ice baths are melting quicker than expected! More ice is never a bad idea.

  • Always, always, always have a rain plan.

You can’t go without a kitchen tent (use it for shade or rain), but you also need to consider the rest of the event layout. If there is no indoor option, you will end up renting a tent repeatedly. Since you need to have this back up for every outdoor event, have your rental company on speed dial with a tent on hold—you an always cancel it 24 hours in advance.

  • Consider lighting.

If your event will carry into the late hours, be sure you have enough lighting. This is important for guests and serving food, but you’ll also need to consider the lighting required for clean up and packing your truck at the end of the night! 

Outdoor events can be the beautiful occasions your clients imagine, you just need to be prepared! If you’re facing the bigger challenge of catering an outdoor event that does not have a kitchen, download our guide on “How to Create a Kitchen When You Don’t Have a Kitchen.” This free guide is packed with helpful solutions when you don’t have access to running water or electricity!

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