Caterer and Catering Manager

Caterers provide food and refreshments and, in most cases, the necessary cutlery and related catering equipment for luncheons, wedding receptions and other large gatherings. Catering managers are responsible for planning, administering and supvervising the organisation's catering operations and services.

More importantly, they often help clients to plan these social gatherings, choose the colour scheme and sometimes a particular theme, set reasonable limits on the guest lists and plan the details of the menus, while making every effort to stay within budget.

Caterers give directions to, and supervise, assistants who prepare and serve the food and refreshments, and they may also be involved with the food preparation themselves.

Caterers plan the arrangement of tables so that guests will not be crowded as they serve themselves (at buffets) or sit down to enjoy their meal. They ensure the tables are well laid and decorated. Caterers may also arrange flowers, candles, other table decorations and organise the hiring of bartenders and entertainment for these gatherings.

Some caterers own and often manage a mobile catering service or dining rooms, cafeterias or restaurants, in hotels, department stores, factories, schools, hospitals and private country clubs.

Catering managers lead teams of chefs and catering assistants. They are responsible for running the day-to-day catering operations and services in restaurants, hotels and resorts. They monitor the quality of the food and service and make sure that their outlets perform well. The most important part of the job is achieving good quality at low cost and maintaining high standards of hygiene and customer satisfaction. Typical activities include:

  • Planning menus in consultation with chefs
  • Ordering supplies
  • Hiring, training, supervising and motivating permanent and casual staff
  • Organising staff rotas
  • Ensuring that health and safety regulations are strictly observed, recorded and archived
  • Monitoring the quality of the product and service provided
  • Keeping to budgets and maintaining financial and administrative records

Travel is not normally part of the working day of a catering manager, apart from those working in location, catering such as the media industry or event catering (e.g. conferences, weddings and sports events). Opportunities to work abroad are possible, including in cruise liners.

Shift work and unsocial long hours are most common in hotels, restaurants and resorts. Catering service operations within business, industry and institutions are more likely to work normal office hours.

Promotion prospects are generally good for those with strong interpersonal skills and a high level of motivation, although much will depend on the individual and the organisation. There are opportunities for self-employment; catering managers can work toward managing their own restaurant.

Some satisfying aspects of this career include:

  • the possibility of being self-employed
  • offering quality food and service to the public
  • usually working in pleasant surroundings
  • meeting many different kinds of peopel

Some demanding aspects include:

  • working under pressure
  • working long and irregular hours
  • trying to please disagreeable customers
  • providing quality service while staying within the budget 

Personal Requirements

  • good business sense
  • enjoy food preparation
  • responsible, poised and self-confident
  • get along easily with other people
  • care about people and their needs
  • good organisational skills and able to make
  • initiative, courage and some artistic flair
  • set high standards and stick to them
  • able to supervise the work of others
  • physical stamina and common sense
  • able to take pressure and hard work

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate (matric), or equivalent with a Higher Certifcate pass or a Diploma Pass
Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics
Recommended subjects: Hospitality StudiesConsumer StudiesTourism
In addition, check the admission requirements to see if you qualify for the programme you want to do.

What to Study

The Hotel Industries Training Board (HITB) provides in-service training, including the following courses:

Hotel management (3 years)
Commercial catering and restaurant management (CBMT)
Supervisory course
Facilitator’s course
Professional cookery (3 years)
On-the-job instruction course

Several cooking and chef schools offer appropriate training, from one to three year courses. Some schools focus on innovative cooking skills, whereas others offer a more rounded approach to cooking, service and catering management.


  • hotels
  • restaurants
  • guesthouses
  • hospitals
  • schools, universities and universities of technology that have hostels and/or cafeterias
  • contract caterers
  • government departments
  • self-employment, with own catering business

Further Information

South African Chefs Association (SACA)
University of Johannesburg
School of Tourism & Hospitality
Cnr Bunting & Annet Road
Auckland Park 2092
Tel: (011) 482-7250

Getting Started

  • look for a part-time or vacation job in any aspect of restaurant work
  • take on work as a cashier, cook or waiter / waitress
  • speak to a caterer about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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