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Discover Catering

By Don MacDowall

For some people before, during and after a busy day nothing can be more important than food. There are several ways you can feed your group and it’s a decision that has an impact on the cost as well as the health of the group.


Full Catering

This option allows you to use someone else’s skills and experience and avoids tying one or more members of your group to the kitchen. It also leaves responsibility for quality, quantity and timing to experienced people.

  • All meals and snacks would be provided by the venue.
  • You may need to help with setting tables, cleaning up and dishwashing. Check how much of this (if any) is your responsibility, some sites will do it all for you.
  • Be clear which meals will be the first and the last provided by the venue.
  • Cordial, coffee, tea and snacks may be provided; do these suit your needs?
  • Provide full details to the venue of personal preferences (such as vegetarian) special dietary requirements (such as blended food for some people with cerebral palsy), religious obligations or cultural preferences which may affect food selection and preparation.
  • What effect will your program have on meals? Do some lunches need to be packaged and taken with you? Would a BBQ which you cook yourself give greater flexibility?
  • Some venues can offer a variety of meals and service to suit your needs – cooked or continental breakfast, table service or DIY, liquor licence.



This may allow you to provide a less expensive event or better meet the particular dietary needs of the group. Get someone, preferably with experience, to take responsibility for this task otherwise it may be false economy. Some experience is desirable – particularly for larger groups – in menu creation, quantity calculations, food purchasing, cooking and kitchen management. Investigate economical food suppliers (close to home or close to the venue – which is best for you?).
Some meals, biscuits, snacks or treats may be brought from home. Family camps may have smorgasbords in which each family brings a small portion and contributes it to the communal meal.


  • Do you know and can you adequately cater for, the preferences, allergies or dietary needs of the group?
  • Check the proposed venue permits self-catering.
  • Check the adequacy of cooking and serving equipment for your likely menu. Also check the suitability of the storage facilities including refrigerators and cool rooms.
  • Match your menu to the equipment available then keep it simple.
  • Match the menu to the season, age and tastes of the group.
  • Hot weather + young children = plenty of drinks
  • Serving “cafeteria” style helps avoid some problems with likes and dislikes.
  • Let groups make their own sandwiches – you avoid soggy bread and save time making them and people can choose to leave out items they do not like.
  • Have plenty of snacks and fresh fruit available
  • Have plenty of liquid available for consumption especially in warmer weather.
  • Plan a menu that can stand up to the inevitable delays that will occur.


When we’re away from home, in new surroundings and out of our routine we may overlook basic hygiene. This is important for everyone but doubly so if you are handling food and utensils.
Washing hands as well as proper food storage and thorough cleanup of dishes and cooking utensils are critical if you’re to avoid the unpleasantness of stomach upsets or even food poisoning. Your health, and that of other people, is not a trivial matter.


Unsatisfactory food handling can cause stomach upsets and even food poisoning. Careful planning and observing the basic principles of food handling and storage should prevent these problems.

High risk foods that may cause problems are:

  • poultry
  • meat – cooked and uncooked
  • mince
  • burger patties
  • sausages
  • rolled roasts
  • stuffed meats
  • rabbit
  • seafood

Prepare only sufficient high risk food for immediate consumption. Surplus high risk food should be discarded, not used for other meals.


Wash hands thoroughly before food preparation and after;

  • smoking
  • using the toilet
  • using a handkerchief
  • handling garbage or food scraps
  • handling raw or uncooked food


  • keep food when cooked at 60°C or above until served, or chill quickly
  • refrigerate or freeze food that is to be prepared well in advance
  • reheat food as quickly as possible until steaming hot
  • cook or reheat packaged food according to label directions


  • refrigerate chilled and frozen foods soon after purchase
  • keep cold food at 5°C or less (i.e.. in the refrigerator) as much as possible
  • thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave – not on the kitchen bench


  • allow for air circulation around food
  • keep perishable foods (high risk) in the refrigerator
  • always store cooked food above uncooked food


  • scrape and pre-rinse utensils prior to washing
  • use hot water for washing and rinsing
  • with large loads, change wash and rinse water frequently
  • air dry utensils, if tea towels are used they should be kept clean and changed frequently


  • keep flies out of food preparation, storage and dining rooms
  • keep food covered or in suitable containers
  • keep food scraps stored in refuse bins with close fitting lids stored outside of the food preparation areas are regularly emptied and cleaned


Food Safety Information Council

Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia