Catering Equipment and Supplies Buying Guide
Whether you run an established catering company or you’re just starting a catering business, we’ve got the foodservice equipment you need and the expertise to help you make the best choices. Let’s start with a list of catering essentials.
While white is always in style for dinner and tabletop items, you’ll be amazed at the many attractive choices available, from faux wood chargers to dishes in matte earth tones and flatware in shades of black or rose gold. When making a decision, think about your clientele, and about the ease of carrying, washing and storing the items you’re considering.
Hot and cold beverage dispensers are a must for group events and buffets. Equipment choices are as varied as the liquids they hold, from hot coffee and tea to soda, fresh-squeezed fruit juice, iced granita and alt-milks. Sizes vary dramatically; coffee urns alone can serve from 12 to more than 100 cups of coffee at once.
When choosing an urn for hot beverages, first decide how you’ll use it, the number of people you plan to serve and your budget. A double-wall stainless steel urn provides excellent insulation, keeping the exterior cool and the liquid inside hot for hours.
Cool-touch handles make the urn easy to lift from one place to another. Interior and exterior water indicators let you pour the exact amount of water you need. Newer models have a fixed filter so you won’t need paper coffee filters. It should be removable and dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. Accessories include a filter basket, stem and faucet.
Choices also abound for serving coffee at the table, from insulated stainless-steel pots to carafes with a white or black plastic swirl that keep coffee or tea hot.
Transfer food safely and easily from your commercial kitchen to the catering venue with rigid front-loading food pan carriers. These insulated carriers hold five or 10 pans and keep food hot or cold, ready to serve.
For take-out and delivery, choose insulated bags in different colours to make your operation more efficient.
Display and Décor
Since we eat with our eyes first, creating appetizing displays of food is an important part of a caterer’s job. Create differing heights for visual interest with cake stands or risers, serve salad or breakfast fixings in angled bowls and add drama by displaying light-coloured canapés or individual desserts on a rectangular black platter. Clear covers in varying shapes and sizes let guests know you take food safety seriously.
The type of disposable serving items you choose can set the mood for your event. Clear plastic items let the food shine through, while colourful paper or plastic drinkware, cutlery and plates add a festive or more casual feel. If your customers are eco-conscious, consider sustainable options such as unbleached paper napkins and bamboo or compostable plates, bowls and cutlery.
Chef stations are popular for catered events from breakfast to dinner, which means hot food tables should be at the top of your equipment list. Some models come with an optional side cutting board. Other popular accessories for à la minute cooking include induction cookers, portable grills and outdoor burners. Buffet stations are ideal for self-service, holding hot or cold food at their ideal temperature.
Back in the kitchen, holding cabinets for cooked food are a lifesaver, allowing operators to be prepared for the busiest dinner rush. If you make your own bread, consider a combined holding/proofing cabinet, which can save valuable space. Choose from a variety of heights, starting with an under-counter cabinet for a small operation.
Stainless steel chafing dishes, round or rectangular, are the centrepiece of a hot food buffet, adding a touch of elegance that harks back to the grand old days of hotel dining.
A pan of water under the chafer is usually heated by a flame to keep food at the proper temperature during service and prevent over-cooking. Our chafer selection offers shapes and sizes to fit any budget and party size. We also sell accompanying tongs and other serving utensils. Remember to add fuel holders and fuel to your list.
Stainless steel food pans are another catering essential. Not only do they keep hot food hot in steam tables and chafing dishes, but you can use them for baking, roasting and poaching. These versatile pans, available in many shapes and sizes, pivot easily from fridge to prep line, holding cabinet to service. Perforated pans are great for draining, steaming and cooling down foods quickly. If you’re serving ice cream, you’ll need a few insulated pans.
Waiting and Bussing
Catering carts are a kitchen workhorse, allowing staff to transport everything from heavy pots of food to stacks of dishes from one end of the kitchen to the other. Three-shelf open carts are the most popular design. Surprising sturdy, some hold up to 500 pounds. Optional casters make them ready to roll, and accessories include rubbish bin and cutlery trays, which keeps flatware separate for easy access.
Folding tray stands are another versatile catering essential, especially for banquets. Staff can bring out a tray of orders and serve them right from the stand. Cover it with a cloth for an instant appetizer station, or as a convenient place for guests or staff to leave dirty dishes. Keep deep bus pans on hand for the bussing crew and provide vinyl aprons for messy prep and clean-up jobs.
COVID-19 has created a whole new level of cleaning challenges to keep staff and guests safe. First up, masks for staff. Choose from individually-wrapped hospital-grade KN 95’s or triple-ply paper masks to stylish clear plastic masks. We even offer forehead thermometers and floor markers in English and French to remind everyone what “six feet apart” looks like.
Handwashing stations and dispensers for hand sanitizer are also part of our new normal as guests gather to eat and socialize. And you’ll need waste containers and recycling containers.
Written by Cynthia David