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Maxed Out

Flexible Staffing Solutions to Avoid Event Peak Burnout.

While the catering industry is on the road to recovery, there continue to be obstacles in our new normal. One pressing issue that all caterers across the country—and the globe—have had to battle with is staffing. Owners and managers are working harder than ever to ensure that service standards are up to par with fewer staff than ever before. This past month, the International Caterers Association (ICA) hosted a roundtable event for caterers and staffing suppliers to discuss how to best remedy this staffing crisis as we continue to build back and approach peak season over the holidays. 

Three ways to staff your catering business

As we look ahead, there are three ways you can start to staff your catering business for events as we approach the holiday season—not only to ensure you have the team you need to execute flawless events, but also so you don’t burn out the team you have!

In-house, full-time staff

Team members are guaranteed a minimum number of hours a week. As business returns, they may need to work in a versatile role that includes both administrative and service roles to fill that 40-hour workweek.

In-house, part-time staff

Those on a permanent roster for event staffing.

Temp & staffing agencies

Banquet servers, line chefs, etc. hired via an agency for a specific event on an as-needed basis.

While we’d all love to be able to have a fully staffed team with an in-house roster of dedicated employees, it’s not the reality as our industry recovers.

How can you best use these options as you continue to build back? Use temp agencies you trust and when you can, invest in talent that will grow with your team.

Not all staffing agencies are created equal

Most caterers will have to utilize a temp staffing agency as bookings begin to increase due to the current staffing shortage. This helps avoid overtime and fills the gaps as needed. But it is important to remember that not all staffing agencies are created equal, and you want to hire an agency you can trust to provide you with skilled, professional, and well-trained individuals—or will allow you to provide the training required.

Tony Santos, chef and owner of Tony Caters in San Francisco. Photo courtesy Tony caters

A few caterers on the ICA Roundtable call discussed working with a staffing company called Instawork, a platform built specifically for the hospitality industry with a network of over one million temp staff for front of house and back of house staffing needs. The staff in their network are reviewed for qualifications with references checked to ensure greater reliability.

Marcia Selden Catering & Events shared that they offer quarterly training sessions with their local temp agencies to ensure the staff working with them are up to speed. Similarly, Instawork provides skill tests, training videos provided by individual caterers, and the capability to share diagrams, send uniforms, etc. to help take some of the work away from your catering team.

Long-term growth

If your business is starting to boom and you’re ready to take the next step toward growing your team, you must have practices in place to hire the right team members who will want to stay and grow with your business.

Tony Santos, chef/owner of Tony Caters in the San Francisco Bay Area, had a few tips they use for attracting and retaining talent in this fluid environment:

Implement pay increases

Unfortunately, minimum wage isn’t going to cut it anymore if you want team members to stay. Tony Caters recently increased pay by 20 to 25% to retain top talent.

Offer benefits for full-time employees

Full-time team members need to be offered benefits including an IRA, ample paid time off to recuperate and rejuvenate, healthcare, and more.

Add DiSC® profiles to your interview process

When hiring full-time staff, they have added this well-known behavioral profile assessment to ensure an individual is a good cultural fit for the organization. The assessments also provide insight as to which roles would be a good fit for certain individuals based upon their unique personality type.

Craft on-call lists for worst-case scenarios

Maybe you have old team members who were furloughed and got new jobs they enjoy. Perhaps you have college age employees coming back for a winter break. Add these reliable team members to an on-call list so you can reach out at times when you need additional help with staffing.

Ask friends, family, and the local community to join your team.

Tony Caters went out into the community and asked everyone they knew if they wanted to be a part of the team. Family, friends, college kids looking for a side hustle, fellow members at the local health club—you name it, they asked. These are the people you know you can trust, and it resulted in some fruitful hires!

These practices have helped Tony Caters to hire qualified team members who are in for the long haul. Put into place, these ideas can do the same for your catering business! 

Treat your employees how you want them to treat your guests

Most importantly, with all employees—full-time, part-time or repeat contract hires—you must remember to thank those who
show up.

To prevent burnout and show appreciation, ensure you are allowing days for rest, give them a party to celebrate milestones, and say thank you when you pass them on the floor. Treat them well, and they will treat your guests well! Your employees are the key to getting those return clients.  

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