Tour Caterer

 12 July 2012

Tour caterers provide an important role during live tours – preparing and serving meals and drinks for the artists and crew. This includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks.

Tour caterers need to be very flexible in order to fit around the needs of artists and crew.
Tour caterers need to be very flexible in order to fit around the needs of artists and crew.

What is the job like?

Tour caterers usually work to tight budgets to provide as high as standard of catering as possible. You could be working in any sector of live music including popular and classical music.

The work includes:

  • Transporting kitchen equipment, including large items such as cookers as well as smaller items to venues
  • Setting up a hygienic and safe kitchen back-stage or elsewhere
  • Working with fresh ingredients to provide healthy and nutritious meals which are often served in shifts
  • Meeting the dietary requirements of artists and crew
  • Working as part of a team with other catering staff
  • Providing the hospitality rider for artists on their dressing room – to include a wide variety of hot and cold drinks and snacks  
  • Washing up and clearing away, and packing up all the equipment into flight cases at the end of a concert, ready to be loaded onto the lorry and transported to the next concert.

Tour caterers need to be very flexible in order to fit around the needs of artists and crew and you will be expected to work evenings and weekends. You will travel around the UK and possibly overseas to different venues.

The work is quite different to other areas of the hospitality industry. For example whilst on tour, crew and artists are working to very tight deadlines and need their food provided quickly and at unusual times. The working day can start at 6.30am with breakfast preparation and not end until 10pm when all the clearing up is finished. Of course you will have breaks during that time, but the working day is inevitably a long one.

How do I get into tour catering?

Catering is a great career option for anyone who is very practical and also enjoys working with others as part of a team. If you are a creative person, your skills can also be put to good use in tour catering.

Employers in this sector greatly value experience – look for opportunities to work with a tour caterer or festival. You would normally need to be at least 18 to work in tour catering.

You need to be very mature and responsible to work in tour catering. Yes, you will probably see famous people at close quarters – but discretion at all times is vital.

A driving licence is an advantage, as tour caterers often drive their own vans to events.

What training and qualifications should I take?

Apprenticeships in catering can be good option for this career. Visit the Apprenticeships website for catering opportunities under Retail and Commercial Enterprise.

Intermediate-level apprenticeships offer training in a variety of roles which include chef and kitchen assistant. At the advanced level it is possible to train as a more senior chef, specialise in a particular role, e.g. pastry chef or train for management roles.

Whilst most of the apprenticeships on offer may not be within the live music sector, the skills, training and qualifications you will acquire provide a sound background for progressing to tour catering later on.

Academic entry qualifications for apprenticeships can vary, although most employers will look for a good standard of general education. Food technology GCSE is a relevant subject and practical experience gained whilst cooking for family and friends is helpful.

Possible courses include:

  • Certificate in Food Hygiene
    No entry qualifications, and probably one of the most important qualifications you can have to work in the food industry!
  • BTEC Level 1 Introductory Certificate/Diploma in Hospitality, Travel and Tourism
    Entry usually with 3-4 GCSE passes
  • BTEC Level 2 Certificate/Diploma in Hospitality
    Entry usually with 2 GCSE (A-D) passes or equivalent
  • BTEC Level 3 Certificate/Diploma/Extended Diploma in Hospitality
    Entry with 4 GCSE (A-C) passes or equivalent
  • Diploma Chef and Restaurant VRQ Levels 1+2
    Entry normally with 4 GCSE (A-D) passes (success in this qualification can lead onto a level 3 award)
  • HNC/D Hospitality Management
    Entry with a minimum of 1/2 A levels or equivalent
  • Foundation Degree – e.g. International Culinary Arts
    Entry normally with 2 A levels or equivalent. This course lasts two years and successful students can then progress to the top-up degree.

There are also many BA/BSc Hons degrees available in catering and hospitality management, e.g. Culinary Arts Management, Hospitality Management and Professional Cookery. Entry is normally with a minimum of 2 A levels or equivalent.

Look at the UCAS website for course listings for both catering and hospitality.

What can I earn?

 typical starting weekly wage for an intermediate apprentice outside London could be £104 per week. This could increase to around £170 per week or more with experience during the apprenticeship.

Someone starting out in tour catering might earn £14,500 to start. A supervisor could earn between £16,600 and £20,800 and a qualified chef £20,800 to £27,000, all based on a 40 hour week.

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