Updating Your Approach To Catering Equipment And Supplies To Match Today’s Menus

Tabletop design from H. Weiss Company
Tabletop design from H. Weiss Company

Wouldn’t it make sense that, as you look at your restaurant or foodservice operation, the largest potential profit centers deserve the most attention? There’s no question in my mind that catering should sit at the top of the list.

It gives an operator who usually is dependent on customers coming to them the opportunity to market and sell and create cash flow in and around peak a la carte periods. Think about it, what other segment of an operator offers the opportunity to book a party or an event and have the luxury of the customer’s deposit to make certain that you get everything just right on their behalf.

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss

We’ve noticed in working with our H. Weiss customers that there has been more change in catering fare than any aspect of the culinary landscape.

Whether you operate a country club or a hotel, the ability to know how many people you will feed in a relatively short amount of time, maximizes profits by enabling you to plan your food costs.

Let’s take a look at what’s hot in terms of menus. Why don’t you join me as we walk through a typical New York City area catering function.

The whole approach to the cocktail on the way in has changed. The tradition of just serving a glass of champagne or water as you walk in has been replaced by a signature cocktail. Infact in some cases it might acutally be infused water.

There’s a new practicality regarding a guest being offered a cocktail on an empty stomach. In many cases you will now see a martini type setup with the beverage being offered in a stunning vessel. As we get ready to eat, we are struck by the new reality of safety regulation.

The old days of chafing dishes are done partially because you can’t cook with open flame anymore. They are being replaced by induction ranges or warmers.

One of the prior issues with making a commitment to induction cooking was the tremendous amount of electrical power and cost that was required.

But now you have a well respected company like Vollrath bring a wonderful solution to the market. They offer an induction system that you can bank three warmers together, almost like Christmas lights with a single outlet.

Keep in mind that these new induction cookers require special creative pots that are made specially for use with induction cooking. They come in a beautiful array of ceramic, stainless or copper for a great look.

We are noticing that the upgrade in creativity and quality of catering fare is marked by much smaller batches of food.

Among the trends that we are seeing with our catering clients are passed hors d’oeuvres that are really being presented beautifully. From baskets to spoons, even a vertical tree looking piece with picks that you could pull off the item. Not the old fashioned oak leafs but more of a palm look that are very pretty. They are a little bit more earthy and garnished with flowers. We are even seeing creative caterers using shot glasses with soups.

Might even be a single shrimp served in a shot glass or a single item in baby martini glasses.

The food is a little bit more complex. No more fried shrimp to dip in sauce and put it in your mouth. Today it’s a composed bite that’s fully garnished. The guest puts it onto a spoon, or on a pick, or in a small glass and experiences it all in one taste.

The size of the portion has also changed. It’s small enough today to be a single bite. With two to three bites and cocktail and a napkin, it simply becomes too much to juggle. They use much smaller bites that you can take and just put down your throat. And they’re just prettier. They’re so much prettier than they used to be. Everything today is colorful in a very natural way. Herbs, flowers and a dot of color.

Finally the approach to desserts has seen enormous change. Today it’s all about small bites away from the table. So guests get a chance to come off the dance floor and enjoy everything from a mini ice cream sandwich to a bite of the wedding cake.

Enjoy the upcoming Fall and holiday catering season. Call or email and we would be happy to share our ideas.

Liz Weiss is the President and co-owner of Armonk, NY based H. Weiss Co. She is known nationally as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on tabletop design. The Michigan State graduate is also actively involved with WPO-Women’s Presidents Organization. Comments may be sent to eweiss@hweiss.net