Maintaining Quality Standards in Outdoor Catering
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Maintaining Quality Standards in Outdoor Catering

28 November 2013

Outdoor catering providers have to deal with risk by taking adequate precautions and prepare for various situations well in advance for food safety. Unlike traditional restaurants, for outdoor catering the food is handled or transported with an exposed risk of bacterial contamination. This is a major quality control factor.

Caterers need to keep a watchful eye on employees to make sure safe food handling practices are adhered to at all times. Some important tips for caterers to maintain food safety standards and quality are below:

Temporary Permit

The caterers must obtain temporary permits as valid food handlers from the local health department before handling any outdoor catering event. This permit will establish the event location as a place of business for the caterer and assure that the food handling, preparation and serving practices are in compliance with health codes of that area.

Safe Food Preparation Practices.

In outdoor catering, most of the food is prepared ahead of time at a central place and then transported to the event or made at an on-site kitchen. All food must be cooked at the recommended temperatures to maintain the desired safety for health care.

Transporting food in insulated carriers is essential to be sure that it is served in the appropriate temperature.  All food needs to be maintained at the correct temperature before transporting them to the catering venue.

Sometimes there is a need to reheat foods to the appropriate temperature. In the US, the FDA Food Code stipulates food to be reheated in an internal temperature of 165 °F for 15 seconds to be safe. Food items cooked off-site then chilled for transport have to be reheated appropriately to maintain the norms for food safety.

Hand Washing Facilities

Employees in a food service operation need to have access to hand washing stations. If the catered event is indoors, there should be hand washing sinks close by. In outdoor catering it is the responsibility of the caterer to bring mobile hand washing stations to provide the employees with a place to wash their hands.

Outdoor Catering - Hand Washing


There must be provision for dish washing equipment. If it is a one-day event, caterers still need access to commercial dishwashers to clean all food contact surfaces and utensils after the event.

Two Hour Rule

There is a two-hour rule that all potentially hazardous food has to be kept above 140 °F for hot food and cold food at or below 40 °F for proper food safety. Any food outside this range beyond two hours needs to be disposed.

Outdoor Hygiene

In outdoor catering services, all staff must be alert to maintain consistent food hygiene. There will always be potential hazards such as flies and vermin, so it is vital to cover all displayed food and dispose waste in a separate container with a lid. Wind guards need to be used on windy days and the set up of food tables should always be underneath a tent.

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