Catering Coordinator Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Learn about a catering coordinator's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a catering coordinator career.
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Pros and Cons of a Catering Coordinator Career

Catering coordinators must combine customer service and management skills to make sure groups large and small have an excellent dining experience. Check out the pros and cons of being a catering coordinator to see if it's the right career for you.

Pros of a Catering Coordinator Career
Does not require a 4-year degree (58% of workers have a high school education or less; 28% have some college)*
Relatively high wages ($53,500 mean annual salary as of 2014)**
Can be self-employed**
Can work for a variety of establishments (restaurants, banquet halls, hotels, hospitals, etc.)**

Cons of a Catering Coordinator Career
Employment in decline (projected 2% growth from 2012-2022)**
Erratic or long workweeks (12-15 hours per day, sometimes beyond 50 hours per week)**
Stressful work environment (coordinating the work of others; dealing with unsatisfied customers)**
Requires physical stamina (heavy lifting, being on your feet, enduring long hours)**

Sources: *O*NET OnLine, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

While they may be involved in some aspects of food preparation, catering coordinators are primarily managers, tasked with overseeing and arranging the meal service for all kinds of events. Their primary goal is to ensure a good dining experience for clients through attention to detail and careful planning. After conferring with a client, the catering coordinator plans the menu, orders food and supplies, arranges for the right staff members to deliver or serve the meal and even oversees the clean-up. They are also administrators responsible for hiring and scheduling staff, keeping financial records and complying with food safety regulations. For a caterer, a satisfied customer is crucial to generating a profit and achieving a great reputation that leads to booking more clients.

Career Outlook and Salary

Although the National Restaurant Association reported that the restaurant industry as a whole will add 1.7 million jobs between 2015 and 2025, the outlook is a little less promising for catering coordinators and other food service managers (www.restaurant.org). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 2% growth in these management jobs between 2012 and 2022. As restaurant groups and owners continue to downsize management positions (www.bls.gov). Salaries for food service managers varied slightly from one type of establishment to the next, but the mean salary overall was close to $53,500 per year as of 2014.

Career Paths

Catering coordinators can find work in restaurants, hotels and convention centers, banquet halls, schools, hospitals and many other venues with crowds large and small. Many catering coordinators work on-site, planning and executing catered events that take place in the same facility in which they work. Others travel to different venues to cater specific events, like weddings and parties.

The BLS noted that 42% of food service managers were self-employed in 2010. Catering coordinators who work independently and run their own catering companies might be required to set up or arrange delivery of food to outside locations after preparation. Like other food service managers, these catering coordinators are responsible for the management and administrative tasks involved in making sure the catering business runs smoothly and efficiently.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training

A position as a catering coordinator typically requires at least a high school education, but that doesn't mean you can expect to be hired for this job right after graduation. Typically, catering coordinators and other food service managers work their way up to management positions, starting as dishwashers, bus persons, servers or line cooks in order to gain industry experience and relevant safety training.

In addition to on-the-job training, managers can complete training or degree programs at vocational schools, community colleges or other institutions. Students can choose to focus on the business of restaurant and hospitality management, or they can take a culinary arts track that emphasizes food preparation methods. For either path, topics of study and training often include food safety and preparation, cost control and hospitality management, which are vital skills.

Useful Skills

Whether training and experience are acquired on the job or through postsecondary education, catering coordinators usually need at least 1-2 years of food service experience as well as an equal level of supervisory or management experience, according to April 2012 job postings on CareerBuilder.com. Additionally, the BLS and employers frequently cited the following skills as essential for a catering coordinator or management career:

  • A commitment to customer service
  • Excellent organization and planning skills
  • Demonstrated personnel management abilities
  • Ability to solve problems in a stressful environment
  • Creativity
  • Facility with Microsoft Office applications

What Do Employers Look for?

A mix of opportunities exists for catering coordinators who have the proper food handling training, management experience and job skills. Employers typically want both in-house food service providers and coordinators who can handle primarily delivery-based catering (and who have a valid driver's license). Here are some job postings from real employers from an April 2012 search on CareerBuilder.com:

  • A Memphis corporate catering company specializing in organic and healthy options looked for a catering supervisor to handle catering orders. In addition to coordinating food preparation, delivery and set-up, the position included managing serving staff when needed and assisting with billings and bookkeeping. Candidates were required to have two years of experience in a management role.
  • A Florida hospital needed a catering supervisor to coordinate food services for catered events and the offerings in the doctor dining rooms. In addition to meeting with customers, planning, ordering and billing for food purchases, the position also required involvement in food preparation. Applicants were required to have a high school diploma and computer skills. ServSafe Certification was preferred.
  • A San Diego dining services company sought a catering manager to supervise both on-site and off-site catering events in a hospitality setting. The employer expected a manager who could coordinate every detail, from ordering to delivery to clean up. Since additional skills, including costing and budgeting, human resources functions and marketing campaign planning were required, the employer specified a preference for applications with a culinary or hospitality degree and five years of experience.

Standing Out

College Education

Although multiple sources emphasized the overwhelming importance of practical, real-world experience as essential preparation for a career as a catering coordinator, the BLS also noted that earning an undergraduate degree could boost a candidate's job prospects and provide the range of business and management skills needed to perform the job. Bachelor's degree programs in hospitality management, restaurant management or a related field often cover restaurant industry topics, such as food purchasing and production, sanitation and cost control. The business component of the program can cover accounting, marketing, human resource management, law and leadership. An internship in a hotel, resort, restaurant or other venue can round out the experience, providing a glimpse into the real world of managing catering services.

Professional Certification

Restaurant industry employers may also give preference to applicants who, after gaining work experience and training, also acquire professional certification as an objective measure of their capabilities. The National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) confers the Certified Professional Catering Executive (CPCE) title upon individuals who have the required experience and pass a competency exam (www.nace.net). Other restaurant industry certifications include the Certified Food Manager (CFM) and Certified Food Executive (CFE) designations from the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA) and the Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) certification from the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

Alternative Careers

Chef or Head Cook

If you're interested in the range of employment settings in the foodservice industry but crave a more hands-on career, perhaps you'd like to become a chef or head cook. Like a catering coordinator, a chef or head cook needs a high school diploma or GED and industry experience; many work their way through restaurant and kitchen positions to get on-the-job training. Additionally, chefs and head cooks can learn the trade through vocational programs, 2-year or 4-year college degree programs, apprenticeships and internships; O*Net OnLine reported that 27% of chefs and head cooks held an associate's degree in 2011.

Although the employment outlook for chefs and head cooks was only slightly better than that forecast for catering coordinators (a one percent decline from 2010-2020), experienced chefs with creative flair and a knack for business can distinguish themselves from other applicants. Average yearly pay for a chef or head cook was around $47,000 as of 2011, but could be much higher at upscale and luxury dining establishments. Of course, there is also greater competition for more lucrative positions.

Meeting, Convention and Event Planner

If you want to take your strong planning, organizational and business management skills beyond the banquet hall, a career as a meeting, convention and event planner might be a good fit for you. These detail-oriented professionals, who typically hold a bachelor's degree, coordinate all aspects of conferences, conventions, meetings, social events or other gatherings. It may be stressful to juggle the responsibilities of multiple events at once, but the financial rewards can be encouraging. The average yearly pay for these professionals was close to $50,000 per year as of 2011. This particular occupation is also experiencing explosive employment growth, with BLS projections of a 44% increase between 2010 and 2020. This growth was attributed, in part, to organizations recognizing the value of providing professional planning services in bringing people face-to-face.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
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    2. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Culinary Arts
      • Diploma Program - Pastry Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Caterer
  • Campus and Online Programs
    4. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Culinary Arts Management (BS)
      • Culinary Management (BAS)
      • Culinary Management (BS)
      • Food & Beverage Management (BS)
      • Hospitality Food & Beverage Management (BS)
      • Culinary Management (BA)
    Associate's
      • Restaurant & Catering Management (AAS)
      • Culinary Arts (AAS)
      • Culinary Arts (AS)
      • Culinary Arts (AA)
      • Baking & Pastry (AAS)
      • Baking & Pastry (AS)
    Certificate
      • Culinary Arts (C)
      • Baking & Pastry (C)
      • Professional Baking & Pastry (C)
    High School Diploma
      • Culinary Arts (D)
      • Art of Cooking (D)
      • Baking & Pastry (D)
  • Milwaukee, WI

    Milwaukee Area Technical College

  • Missoula, MT

    The University of Montana

  • Big Rapids, MI

    Ferris State University

  • Chula Vista, CA

    Southwestern College

  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • High School with Culinary Arts Professional Pathway
    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management

Which subject are you interested in?

Virginia College

  • Diploma Program - Culinary Arts
  • Diploma Program - Pastry Arts

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Caterer

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Culinary Arts Management (BS)
  • Restaurant & Catering Management (AAS)
  • Culinary Arts (C)
  • Culinary Arts (D)

What is your highest level of education?

Southwestern College