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5 Tips for Outdoor Catering

Now that summer is underway, more and more events are being held outdoors. These warmer months are the perfect time for large events like weddings, picnics, and festivals. Taking on outdoor events can open up a number of opportunities for your catering business, but first, you must be ready to create dishes outside of a typical kitchen setting. Check out our top 5 outdoor catering tips to help you get prepared for your next outdoor event.

1. Get Familiar with Your Outdoor Venue

If you are able, visit the site well in advance of the event, so you can plan your outdoor catering setup and see the resources that are available to you. The venue layout could dictate what equipment you’ll need to bring, and it also could impact your serving plan. For example, if you’re working out of a truck that needs to be parked out of sight from guests, it’s important to know how far your servers will need to carry dishes and other supplies from your preparation space. A long distance or unmaintained path could slow things down and cause a holdup if you don’t account for it ahead of time.

If you are unable to go to the venue before the day of the event, be sure to contact the location’s representative and talk to them about the site plan. Remember to ask about even the smallest details that you might have discovered if you had seen the site. Asking about the terrain, electrical hookup placement, and light levels can easily be overlooked, but these details could influence how you are able to work on the day of the event.

2. Know Your Zoning Restrictions and Have the Required Permits

Especially if you are working in a temporary event space like a closed street or parking lot, there may be zoning restrictions for the event based on your local government’s policies. Zoning ordinances define how particular geographic areas, or zones, can be used and are principally used for differentiating between commercial and residential spaces. In many places, permits are also required for approval from the health department, fire marshal, and other officials. If you aren’t planning the event, make sure that you know what the approved plans are, so you can avoid fines.

3. Plan Your Menu According to the Space

When choosing your menu items, consider how the outdoor conditions could affect what your guests would like to eat. The available space, time of year, and even noise level can factor into what kinds of foods your customers could be looking for. For instance, if your eating area is right next to speakers that are playing music loudly, some patrons may not want to sit for very long and would prefer easily portable food to take to a quieter location. Customers in crowded eating areas may feel the same way. On the other hand, guests at an outdoor wedding are typically prepared to remain seated for a full meal, no matter the noise level or number of people present.

4. Have an Inclement Weather Back-Up Plan

One of the trickiest parts of outdoor catering is the weather. Precipitation can put your meal service out of commission if you are not properly prepared for it. At the same time, do not make the assumption that your event will be cancelled if the weather turns out to be less than ideal. In addition to providing shelter for guests, remember that your equipment will need to be protected. While preparing for your event, take the time to find out if the extension cords and generators powering your equipment can be safely shielded from rain. Many outdoor catering supplies are not completely weatherproof, so cover over your preparation area is a must-have in order to keep them safe. Failing to prepare a contingency plan could leave you scrambling on the day of the event and may hinder your ability to perform your duties.

5. Choose Equipment That is Compatible with the Event Space

Without the comforts of a kitchen, having the right outdoor catering equipment for your space can determine how smoothly your event runs. Below are some key components to consider when deciding how to create your temporary outdoor kitchen.

An Electrical Power Source and Hookups

Having an electrical power source is useful for any refrigerators or holding cabinets you may need for food preparation. Even if the venue provides them, consider having a generator and extension cords on hand to ensure that your equipment can be powered when you arrive on site. When purchasing a generator, make sure that its voltage is compatible with your equipment. You do not want to invest in a generator with a lower capacity than your equipment requires.

Liquid Propane or Natural Gas for Cooking

Decide whether you would like to work with liquid propane or natural gas as your heat source for cooking. Liquid propane is more energy efficient, so you may not need to bring as many heavy tanks with you to your location. On the other hand, natural gas is often more economical than propane. When selecting your power source, do not feel limited by which option your equipment is already set up for. In many cases, you can purchase conversion kits to make your supplies compatible with your selected source. Be sure to arrange for a professional to safely install your conversion kit in advance of your event.

Portable Cooking Equipment

If you cater outdoor events often, you may want to invest in mobile outdoor catering equipment. Supplies like portable outdoor grills and portable gas ranges are easily moved from one site to another. Additionally, many options are designed for simple setup, so you can connect to power and begin cooking.


Catering outdoor events can help your business to make the most out of the warmer months. Before you take on an outdoor event, refer to our top 5 outdoor catering tips to learn about what kinds of supplies and strategies are required for a successful event.

Posted in: Catering Tips | Seasonal | By Christine Potts
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