36+ Sample Catering Checklist Templates

What Is a Catering Checklist?

A catering checklist is just as its name suggests—a document that lists every single task to handle catering services appropriately. And this checklist has helped many caterers and similar businesses to avoid disappointing guests during events. Since there are a lot of food orders, equipment rentals, money distributions, and special services to manage catering services, a checklist will make your tasks easier. It outlines what you can do first until last, when to perform them, assign tasks, and so much more. And with over 13 million individuals employed in American food services in 2017, according to Statista, it is no surprise that catering must be taken seriously.

According to Statista, the United Kingdom’s turnover in the event catering industry reached £5 billion in 2018.

Meanwhile, the US food services employed around 13 million people in 2017.

On another note, Chron has reported the common challenges in a catering operation: lack of training, poor management, long hours, poor organization, stress, and lack of creativity.

Why Do You Need a Catering Checklist?

A catering checklist is important because you should be very organized to cater successfully, whether it is a small business meeting minutes luncheon to a highly extravagant wedding reception. Maybe you were too focused on serving the buffet that there were no forks and knives available. Or perhaps, there was no food at all, which is probably the worst-case scenario for a catering service. Hence, checklists help you stay prepared or sleep better at night because you know exactly what to do during the actual event.

Furthermore, catering is already a big industry. In the UK, for example, their event catering business turnover garnered £5 billion in 2018 alone. That is, according to Statista’s research survey. And what is even better? Catering applies to any event from a birthday party, business conference, school program—you name it. Clearly, catering is not something you want to ignore unless you want your guests to starve throughout a long program. However, a catering service’s success also depends on how well-made the checklist is. Not to worry because we will guide you on how to make a great catering checklist further in this article.

The Important Dishes of Your Catering Checklist

Yes, a catering checklist is essential. But do you already know what exactly is found inside such a checklist besides its checkboxes? If not yet, then we will introduce you to the common dishes found in a catering checklist. And they consist of the following:

Table Settings: First things first, set the table. And you will need to write that in your checklist by creating a category called table settings. In planning a sit-down meal, you have to gather every bread plate, salad plate, or dinner plate required. Do not forget to complete the necessary utensils as well. And when the soup is part of the menu, soup bowls are a must. Other essential items to bring are water glasses, wine glasses, tablecloths, and centerpieces. Just like in a restaurant, you can add extras from sugar, salt, and pepper. Most importantly, add some creativity factor to the setup.Serving Equipment: Just like any buffet, a beautiful presentation for the food and drinks is part of catering. That way, every guest seated can be served with the best serving trays, water pitches, bus tubs, and more. A tip is to add more bus tubs for the sake of keeping the dirty dishes after clearing out every served meal. Hence, it will be easy to manage all the dishes in the kitchen afterward.Buffet Equipment: Serving the buffet for the guests also comes with required items. But, its presentation, setup, or placement needs not to be the same as the table setting. Make it different by including several extras too. The thing with a buffet is that the meals are more accessible there. Suppose you prepare silverware inside rolls, that is acceptable. And in serving, a large spoon or some tongs are needed. The same goes for the main knife for slicing meals. If there are lots of meat, then a cutting board should be there.Beverage Station: Catering services would not be complete without drinks. Prepare a coffee or beverage station in case guests want to drink other alternatives. Or perhaps, refill their drinks. Beverage stations also need their own equipment from the coffee airpots, decaf backups, hot water, sugar, etc. And for cold drinks, some ice would be nice. Do not simply prepare the same cups or glasses if many assorted drinks are available. And the more variety there is to the drinks means the more variety applies to the station’s items.Additional Items: Look for the bigger picture of the catering service if there will be more additional items required. What is needed will even depend if you have inhouse catering or offsite catering. Create a list of all the practical equipment to ensure catering will push through successfully. Maybe more containers are needed as there are lots of food and drinks prepared. If there are many cold drinks and food, then use a cooler for storage. And most importantly, prepare garbage bags as it might get messy afterward. You would not just through garbage anywhere anyway. Other extra items worth considering are plastic wraps, paper towels, and sanitizers.

How to Make an Excellent Catering Checklist

Let us now proceed to the very meat of the article which is to create the catering checklist itself. First things first, have you seen our sample catering checklist templates above already? If not yet, then check them out. They are the core answer in terms of how to craft a catering checklist. You simply download, customize, and print the list. And for a more detailed process on how to ace the checklist, kindly follow these five easy steps:

Step 1: Know What the Client Wants

Planners and organizers would not automatically create catering checklists without knowing exactly what the client wants. Maybe your plans do not meet the client’s expectations. An example is when you prepared a very lavish catering service yet the client only wants a low-key type of event. And in planning with the client, this part is where you can finalize the catering business budget, needed items to rent, and many other examples.

Step 2: Brainstorm the Necessary Steps

Now that you know the catering business plan, make a draft to list all the steps to accomplish for the service. Since it is still a draft, you can change it afterward. Write down everything to achieve from renting the equipment, securing the venue, ordering the food—you name it. After listing everything, you begin organizing the steps according to their sequence. Which step should happen first until the last one? Arrange them down. After that, set a schedule on the exact time and date to do such steps.

Step 3: Download a Template

After finalizing the list, transfer the details to a sample catering daily checklist template. That is where you can slowly write, customize, and design your catering checklist. The key is to make a detailed checklist but straightforward. Avoid giving unclear instructions or you might not be able to fulfill the tasks. And whether you want to change the format, insert more categories, and other considerations, you are free to do so. There is no need to stick to a template as is because editable templates are not restricted. You can edit however you want.

Step 4: Insert the Needed Elements

Can you still recall important dishes on a catering checklist? Be sure you have them prepared on the list as well. From the table settings down to the additional items, they are helpful for your success. Thus, you should divide your steps according to what is done for the table, buffet, drinks, and so forth. You can also divide task checklist according to what you can do to a specific time, daily, weekly, or monthly. And whatever element you add to the document, the layout is up to your convenience.

Step 5: Observe an Easy-to-Follow Structure

Do not launch your checklist just yet. Have you reviewed everything already? Check the spelling or if there is any step you missed. Most importantly, take it easy. If there is any way to make the presentation easier to understand, then do so. An example is to incorporate clearer instructions instead of giving broad goal statements. Never make your checklist more complicated since you deserve an easier experience. Another plan is to be flexible. Welcome possible changes if necessary. And once you are happy with the outcome, launch your list.


How much food, steps, and work are needed in a catering service?

Plainly, there is no exact answer. The only way to be clear of how much or how many steps, work contract, and food to manage catering services is to follow your client’s word. Clients will tell you about how many mouths to feed, the involved budget, and many more. But it would be much better to prepare extra more rather than lacking something during the event, which is much worse.

What are some of the basic challenges in catering services?

According to Chron, a catering operation has five basic challenges in general. They are the lack of training, poor management, poor organization, long hours, lack of creativity, and stress. And as an organizer or planner, it is important to manage such challenges to make the event successful.

What is the best strategy in facing the worst-case scenario of a catering operation?

When you get unlucky where you face the worst-case scenario of a catering service, whether that is lack of food, incomplete table utensils, or any other matter, you should learn how to adjust. Creating a strategic plan ahead is smart. Suppose you run out of food, it would be great if you have close ties with a nearby restaurant or supplier to help you in fixing the catering service issue. The point is you should have a plan B as you never know what can happen.

Indeed, an event checklist with great food and service will be a moment worth remembering. But behind the experience, there is a lot of work involved. And the catering service is just one work to manage in an event. What matters most is that everything is carefully planned for the service to guarantee a successful event. And since you already know how to write and create a useful list for catering, begin working with our sample catering checklist templates now.