Side Hustle Spotlight: Food Caterer

Blog | November 22nd, 2021

With the 2021 wedding market booming, catering is a hot commodity. Capitalize on all that romance in the air by launching into a side hustle as a food caterer. 

Catering is one of the most accessible gig-based jobs to get into because the worker turnover rate is incredibly high. As seasonal events come and go, so do temporary workers looking to make a quick buck. This is especially true in college towns and vacation destinations, where there’s always some event that needs professional catering service. 

It’s a popular gig for students who fill in when they have time during the school year, quit during a break, then make themselves available again in the fall. If you are a people person, enjoy fast-paced work, and are willing to give up your weekends for cash wages, this might be the side hustle for you. 

How to Get Started

The best strategy to find gigs is by contacting local catering companies and event venues. During the peak seasons like summer and the holidays, most hospitality services are desperate for a reliable food caterer. 

You can also use job search engines like Facebook, Indeed, and Monster. When understaffed catering companies know they have a big event coming up, the owners will often post last-minute “help wanted” ads looking for temporary employees.

Training and Certifications

You won’t need any certifications to work as a food caterer unless you are responsible for driving a company vehicle. Because catering businesses travel to the event venue, they often expect workers to help transport the food and equipment. 

In that case, a valid driver’s license is an absolute necessity. 

Otherwise, most jobs as a food caterer have similar requirements that being a server in a restaurant does. Employers will look for a good work ethic and positive attitude, so put on your best customer service face during your interview. 

Catering is also a physically demanding job. You could be on your feet anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire evening while hauling around heavy equipment and carrying serving trays. 

Finally, flexibility is a must. Events are unpredictable, and your boss won’t necessarily give you an end-time. Be prepared to stay on the clock well past the end of the celebration to help out with clean-up. 

Expected Return

As a food caterer, you have the opportunity to make quite a bit of money, depending on how often you’re willing to volunteer for a gig. 

In most cases, a food caterer can expect to make an agreed-upon base pay, then split the event tips between the rest of the staff on duty. 

Currently, the national average base pay is $12.37 per hour, but it can dip as low as the minimum wage of $11 or climb the scale to $17.31. Those wages may vary based on the overall difficulty of the work and the number of employees on staff. 

If you’re bartending, your employer may offer the choice of lower base pay plus tips or a higher base pay with no tips. Be sure to ask about those options and try to predict which will be more lucrative.