Sample: Buffet station diagram

Catering: Planning the Event

Caterers and other event planners today have many useful tools to assist them in planning the perfect event. One product, called Room Viewer, automates the process of drawing up floor plans for events and parties. Whether indoors or out, no matter the shape or specs of the room, this computer aided design (CAD) software helps the caterer utilize the space to its best potential. According to the TimeSaver Software Web site, Room Viewer can enhance the work of:

  • Meeting Planners
  • Facilities Managers
  • Caterers
  • Special Event Planners
  • Rental Companies
  • Production and Audio Visual Companies

The client services department at Joel uses Room Viewer to lay out an entire function, from the buffet tables to seating arrangements to floral displays. Not only does the software help in the planning phase, but it's useful during the execution of the project, too. Caterers can make print-outs showing exactly where everything should go (even down to the placement of utensils) so the catering staff will have a precise map of the event. These print-outs are especially helpful when caterers work with outside vendors, such as equipment rental companies that supply everything from tables and chairs to linen and china. Each vendor is given a printed diagram of the event plan to use for planning and setup.

In addition to CAD-based software programs, there are many business-management software packages specially suited for catering and the food-service industry. A quick search on the Internet provided this list:

  • Caterease
  • CaterPro for Windows
  • CaterPlus
  • CaterTrax
  • Event Master
  • Maestro Sales and Catering
  • Party Perfect
  • Visual Synergy Systems
  • Total Party Planner
  • WinEASI Catering Enterprise

These programs are very versatile and, once you understand how to utilize them, they're incredible time-savers. For example, the folks at Joel use the Visual Synergy products to manage databases for recipes, marketing, client lists and vendors. Caterers might also use the software to maintain purchasing records, produce receipts and create event calendars. This kind of software really helps keep everyone in the company well informed, because it makes it easy to share information across the board. From the planning stage to execution, each part of the team can work from the same documentation.

Photo courtesy Joel Using a caterer for a dinner party at your home gives you more time to spend with your guests.

The Synergy International Web site explains in greater detail what their software can do. Two software packages that are particularly useful for catering businesses are "Visual Synergy Small Business" and "Visual Synergy Enterprise." Some of the handy features of these products are:

Visual Synergy Small Business

  • Full Sales & Revenue Management Tool
  • Event Calendar Management and Event Schedule Reports
  • Customer Marketing - Tracking and Reporting
  • Revenue Management for Food, Beverage, Equipment, Staff & Miscellaneous items
  • Packing Lists for Production and Warehousing
  • Event Staff Scheduling and Reporting
  • Proposal/Contracts & Invoicing

Visual Synergy Enterprise

  • Proposal & Contract Creations
  • Sales Prospects & Contract Management
  • Recipe Costing & Purchase Orders
  • Inventory Tracking & Reservation Priorities
  • Custom Report Writer
  • Track Event Profitability
  • Event Labor Scheduling & Management