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Catering Logistics for Summer

The beautiful weather in the summer provides the perfect backdrop for an outdoor event, but for caterers, this also presents a number of obstacles to providing safe and appealing food for guests. From unpredictable weather to the logistical challenges of backyard events, you need to plan carefully to ensure that your event goes off without a hitch.

Our experts reveal some of the top considerations you’ll need to keep in mind when planning outdoor events this summer.

Ensure that you are logistically sound

Outdoor venues aren’t always as event-ready as indoor spaces, so you’ll need to ensure that everything is set up properly before the celebration. One mistake could mean the difference between a lavish array of delicious food and a table full of spoiled ingredients.

“Always plan for rain so you are set up for success and have a way to move people from place to place,” explains Robin Selden of Marcia Selden Catering. “Most of our off-premise summer events are in beautiful tents at people’s homes. In addition to a rain plan, we must be sure that we have the appropriate power. Commercial ovens, refrigerators, freezers, coffee makers, musicians, AV, and lighting need dedicated lines to operate.”

She adds,” Another very important detail is to make sure to order a dumpster and large recycling receptacle, as it’s likely the homeowners won’t have enough room in their household’s garbage to hold the amount it takes to create a tented event.”

Staff the event properly

Your staff members are just as important as the food that you serve, so you need to ensure that they are well cared for in the summer heat. Letting your team suffer in high temperatures is not only poor leadership and damaging to morale, but it also risks the integrity of the dishes you serve to guests.

“Do not understaff an event,” stresses Lon Lane of Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions. “With heat and humidity, you need proper staff and proper staff attire. An understaffed outdoor event in the summer can be a disaster if the staff is overworked and get overheated. Plan bars and food tables to be under a tent or in the shade.

“Have plenty of water for staff and plan for a hydration station for guests as well,” he continues. “Waters only — but mix it up with flavors, like citrus, strawberry, cucumber lime, or herbs like basil, mint, and dill.”

Get innovative with storage and serving solutions

Each outdoor event is different, so you will face different challenges throughout the summer. Be prepared to think on your feet and come up with new solutions for food storage and serving.

“Any type of food can be served at a summer event, as long as it’s properly served,” says Meryl Snow of SnowStorm Solutions. “Obviously, you don’t want to place an item on the buffet in the full sun with mayonnaise or cream-based sauce. Butler that item instead.”

“Caterers today are savvy and can accommodate any menu selection with the proper planning and preparation,” Snow adds. “Yes, even gelato can be served in the smoldering heat — just order extra dry ice.”

Consider your ingredients

While any food can be served in the summer with the right amount of preparation, there are certain ingredients that are a better fit for the heat and will save you the added pressure of planning around a delicate ingredient.

“Food safety should always be one of the top things when planning an outdoor event,” states Adam Gooch of Common Plea Catering. “Planning and being mindful that cold food items need to be kept cold is very important. I think the three big no-no’s are fresh raw fish, creamy salads, and charcuterie meats.”

He continues, “I know sushi would be refreshing at a wedding in the heat of July, but it’s a no-win item. That’s when you should think about having a poke bowl station where you build the bowls to order and have things on ice to ensure the fish remains cold. Creamy coleslaw is a great summer food, but does not make for a good result at a hot summer event. Think about changing up and using a fresh herb vinaigrette to enhance the flavor.”

The seasonal weather does not need to hinder a great summer menu; careful planning and collaboration with the venue will help keep your guests satisfied and refreshed from start to finish.


Trip Wheeler is the President of SB Value, a group purchasing program designed to reduce catering, kitchen and food-service costs by leveraging the collective buying power of thousands of companies.

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