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Best Practices for Staffing Challenges

Let’s talk about staffing. If you’re experiencing staffing challenges, you’re far from alone. As reported in the ICA’s most recent annual report, at least 48 percent of the caterers surveyed last year experienced obstacles that ranged from finding seasonal staff or quality part-time staff to losing potential candidates to restaurants.

As leaders in the catering and events industry, we aim to connect caterers to the best practices, resources, and tools designed to make staffing more bearable for everyone from managers to the staff themselves. That’s why this month, we’ve reached out to a few ICA caterers and vendor members with expert staffing tips. Here you will find some of their insight on staffing calendars, hiring practices, training, and more.

Attracting talent

Before you can successfully train staff and integrate them into your scheduling system, you first need to ensure you’re making solid efforts to attract them. When is the last time you have posted a job opportunity on your social? What does your referral program entail? Is your application process easy and modernized? When’s the last time you reached out to your suppliers and creative partners?

When asked about her company’s recruitment efforts, Erika Hegedus, chief hospitality officer of The JDK Group, said, “We recruit staff EVERYWHERE! We use traditional methods such as posting jobs on our website, our Facebook page, local chambers, Indeed, Craigslist, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, and we send to anyone who is willing to share.”

Hegedus continued, “We also ramp up our recruitment marketing eight to 12 weeks in advance of when we hope to do a majority of hiring for the season. We’ve used Facebook, Google ads, print magazine ads (sometimes traded for catering services), and in a pinch we use higher-priced efforts such as billboards and radio. And our current employees usually provide great referrals.”

Attracting talent is a year-long responsibility. Many staffing experts agree that just because it’s off-season doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be keeping your eyes open and revisiting all recruiting channels throughout the year.

Many experts agree that having a staffing calendar that accounts for the full year of hiring, not just peak months, is a must. “Always have job postings and hire all year long, rather than just June and July,” says Tina Lobe, director of staffing for Artisan by Barbara Catering.

Joe Veneman, founder and innovation strategist of StaffMate Online, points to the “shooting-the-gap” hiring trend, which is what happens when caterers hire too soon and hire too late.

“It’s difficult to peg a certain month, as caterers in different parts of the country have very different peak seasons,” Veneman said, “but a general rule of thumb is to begin the process a month to six weeks prior to peak, interview within the initial two weeks of that month, onboard and train during the second two to four weeks and finally identify a few early season events for training with a scheduled training captain whose sole job is training the new employees on your company’s service expectations in live environments.”

Creating a reliable training system

From the beginning, staffing experts agree, your employees should have clear expectations of their roles, and they should be given a consistent, cohesive training path with wage increases that reflect their effort as they rise in rank.

“We have group orientation and training sessions for the basic skills needed to reach rookie level so you can work your first event,” Hegedus said. “From there we use a variety of methods to continue to grow each team member’s skill sets. We have designated trainers that will be sent on site to work hand-in-hand with employees, use Google forms for testing and providing videos for employees to watch. We also crosstrain in other departments as part of higher level positions such as event managers. We recently purchased a learning management system called Schoox to help us to improve the training process.”

User-friendly staffing software

Staffing software solutions, too, have helped many top caterers across the industry manage their event staff in efficient, more streamlined ways, such as allowing caterers to manage both their event staff and in-house staff on a single platform. This can help identify shift conflicts and project overtime, for example.

Other software programs—for example, Nowsta with its NowstaPay feature—offer wage-paying programs that let employees access wages as soon as the hours have been approved.

Employees heading to the wrong location for an off-prem wedding in a field? StaffMate Online offers sophisticated mapping and geofencing technologies, ensuring workers arrive at the precise event location every time.

Many ICA members have used staffing software solutions to streamline their hiring processes and help them combat all-too-common staffing frustrations. The ICA is here to inspire and help facilitate these important peer-to-peer interactions.

International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit