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Juicy Staff Management Tips for Caterers

Staff management is a loaded, widely debated topic that appeals to business owners in all industries. Catering and event business leaders realize that their industry requires forward thinking when it comes to staff recruitment and retention practices and culture philosophies that are driven from the staff themselves. In such an energetic, fast-paced arena, such as the event world, caterers continue to look for tailored solutions that fit their specific workplaces and unique teams of people.

This month, we asked a of a few of our rockstar for their insights and best practices to share on retention and recruitment. Those members were: Reed Haggerty, COO of D Squared Hospitality/Tuxedo & Tennis Shoes Catering, Anthony Lambatos, owner and CEO of Footers Catering and Events and Steve Sanchez, chief sales and marketing officer of the JDK Group. Read on for their best staff management tips!

How do event staff applicants hear about your company?

Reed: Referrals are our number one go-to. We set up a program with referral bonuses for our staff, dependent on how long people work for our company. The first referral bonus is given after someone has worked three shifts in 30 days. That bonus is 50 dollars, and it goes up from there.

We also look to online advertising using sites like Poached.

Anthony: We also rely on referrals. Referrals don’t just come to you. You have to ask your team. This puts them in a different mindset because you’re asking them to help.

We’ve also developed strong relationships with universities, getting involved with instructors and being a panelist in their classes or having them do field trips to your location. Catering isn’t always “sexy” to a college student. So there is so much more we can do to educate and promote how great of a career you can have in catering. I’m very passionate about this. We try to be very proactive.

Photo courtesy of the caterer, JDK Group

Steve: We are led to a majority of our staff through peer-to-peer referrals. There’s something authentic about a relationship and working with your peers and friends.

We rely on marketing to drive our staff online, using job sites like Indeed. We adjust our job descriptions, make them fun and give people a better understanding of the job.

We recently made Snapchat ads that were very well-received. It drove a lot of online searches to our employment page. A lot of traffic on our page comes from online advertising.

College job fairs are also great. Our internship program gets our interns to work those events too.

Speaking of our internship program, a lot of our teammates were past interns. We really start to see the value and growth in young people. We have a program for all divisions: sales and marketing, operations, kitchen and warehouse. This has gotten more applicants interested in these career paths. It’s helped grow a lot of people into full-time positions, which is great.

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What’s your go-to job interview question for event staff?

Anthony: We have a deck of cards that are assigned values like “teamwork,” “integrity” or “passion.” As they come into the interview, we give them the deck of cards and ask them to pick out the five that they most live their life by. We like to ask questions they’re not necessarily prepared or rehearsed for. It tells us a lot about who they are as a person.

Steve: Anyone can tell you what you want to hear. We try to identify if someone has resilience, if they’re passionate and if they have a willingness to learn and grow. We like to ask about failures, their response to them and how they’ve overcome failure.

We also ask the questions: What is an ideal manager? What is a non-ideal manager? What are you going to bring to the table? And what challenge might they have working for us?

How do you work with employees to build a positive company culture?

Steve: We are all about fostering positive reinforcement from peer awards where our team can nominate each other to team outings.

Anthony: Culture something you have to talk about every single day. We have a culture club at our company. This is different from party planning. There are more ways to enhance culture outside a company BBQ or party. It’s more about relationships and recognition. It has been very successful. Creating an intentional culture drives the genuine need for our team.

What’s the most important way to improve employee retention?

Reed: Making sure that people working for you out on the front lines are recognized for all the hard work they do. A quick note of recognition goes a long way.

We also put together an annual employee survey about philosophies and what they want to improve. Our open door policy helps us figure out what needs to be done to get them comfortable.

Anthony: We have something called a Jimmy Buck program. Employees can earn swag and gift cards for going above and beyond.

We participate in Tuesday Testimonial Day, where we sit together and read out client reviews that mention team members by name on WeddingWire or the Knot. And we host an annual core value awards, where we give out nine different core value awards.

Finally, once a month, we ask everyone to write notes of gratitude to each other.

How do you position yourself as the preferred employer?

Reed: We’re friends with our competitors in Seattle. We share staff. We are also very organized, and this makes a difference. We like to send out shift details 48 hours ahead of time. Other reasons are that people want to be here. And the pay scale.

Anthony: We also like to send event information in advance. They like to know what’s expected for them. We want to make sure the “Why” is clear. More pride goes into the event.

Not to mention, we get a lot of points for how fun it is to work for Footers.

D Squared Hospitality/Tuxedo & Tennis Shoes Catering, Footers Catering and Events and the JDK Group are proud members of the ICA. For more information, visit

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