Can You Make Money In a Catering Career?
Most people don’t go to culinary school because they’re after an easy fortune or instant fame. Professional cooking, with its long hours and often back-breaking work, is very much a labor of love, and people enter the field because they are passionate about food. Money usually comes second.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Although you aren’t likely to strike it rich right away, a career in catering can be a great way to enjoy your love of cooking while also making a decent wage and enjoying great benefits.
Why Choose Catering?
Catering companies can be part of private restaurant businesses, a hotel or hospitality company, or a package of wedding services. They can also be run out of a successful bakery, or even just as one guy working out of a van. And as is the case with traditional restaurant work, you’ll find everything from five-star cuisine to cheap and easy catering solutions for small parties.
The money in catering is good because it lacks a lot of the prestige of working in a restaurant—and because most catering companies doing the hiring are attached to large hotel chains or very successful restaurants that can afford to offer higher rates of pay.
Working in catering also requires a bit of flexibility on your part (you might have to work all weekends and evenings to cover weddings and private parties, or work every holiday in which brunch plays a role), so rates of pay are higher to make up for it.
The average salary for working in catering is $37,000 per year—well above the national average for entry-level cooks at around $22,000 per year. Although salaries will necessarily vary due to location, employer, industry, and other factors, most culinary professionals just starting out will encounter higher rates of pay here than they will in traditional restaurant jobs.
Of course, working in “catering” means quite a bit. You could just as easily be making omelets to order on a buffet line as you could be managing a catering staff of hundreds. You might be an executive chef planning menus or a hospitality manager who helps plan weddings and large events.
Depending on your level of responsibility, you could earn anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 per year. As is the case with any type of culinary career, your education and personal goals will influence this number, as well.
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.