what is a catering assistant?

As a catering assistant, your job is to maintain kitchen organisation and general cleanliness in the cooking and service areas. Additionally, you help with basic food preparation tasks, including operating slicing and chipping machines. On-shift, you have storeroom and stock duties, receiving deliveries and putting them away. You also take care of washing equipment and crockery, collecting rubbish, clearing tables and, when required, serving customers. 

what does a catering assistant do?

To be a catering assistant, you need physical stamina and the ability to work well with others under pressure. A catering assistant works as part of a kitchen team in a busy and fast-moving environment, so attention to detail is important, as is excellent spatial awareness to avoid accidents in the confined space of the cooking area. You work quickly and efficiently, lifting boxes, using potentially dangerous tools and equipment, and delivering prepared meals. 

Would working as a catering assistant suit your physical stamina and attention to detail? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a catering assistant role.

catering assistant jobs

catering assistant salary

According to ONS as a catering assistant, you earn between £13,000 and £20,000 a year. Two-thirds of catering assistant jobs are casual or seasonal, and most positions are paid hourly.

Your earnings as a catering assistant will depend on your employer's hourly pay rate, the number of shifts available, and the number of hours you work per week. There is often the opportunity for overtime, which will improve earnings, and depending on the type of kitchen you work in, there may be tips too. 

Smiling male looking straight into the camera with dishtowel on shoulder standing next to the dishwasher station in a kitchen.
Smiling male looking straight into the camera with dishtowel on shoulder standing next to the dishwasher station in a kitchen.

types of catering assistant

As a catering assistant, you can find work in a variety of organisations. Depending on the size of the company, you are either focused on a few repetitive tasks or have broader areas of responsibility:

  • cafes and pubs: small hospitality businesses need their staff to do a little bit of everything. As well as assisting the cook or chef by washing and preparing ingredients, performing basic cooking tasks, and managing stock levels, you also clean the serving areas and wash plates and utensils. In some businesses, you might take care of ordering supplies and receiving fresh produce. You assist the waiting staff in setting and clearing tables, serving meals and taking orders from customers during busy periods.
  • hotels and restaurants: as a catering assistant in a small hotel or restaurant, you take many of the same broad responsibilities as you would in a cafe or pub. In larger establishments, your tasks are more focused but still involve basic food preparation and cooking tasks, managing the stock levels on shift to ensure that ingredients are on hand, dishwashing duties and keeping the kitchen and service areas clean.
  • canteens and commissaries: hospitals, schools and military bases have large kitchens, so your main role as a catering assistant is to prepare large qualities of ingredients for cooking in bulk. In kitchens with a canteen, you serve diners from behind a hot or cold display station, while in a hospital, you might do rounds of the wards to take patients' meal orders.
  • event catering: as a catering assistant in an event management company, you help prepare food for transport and then for service. You work in the company's kitchen, maintaining cleanliness and preparing ingredients, and then help your team to pack up the meals to be delivered to the event. When on-site, you could be back of house, or you might be responsible for clearing tables and then packing away equipment at the end of the event.

working as a catering assistant

Want to know what it's like to work as a catering assistant? Then read on to learn more about your responsibilities, work environment, colleagues and schedule. 


education and skills

You don't need formal qualifications to work as a catering assistant, although a food hygiene certificate will help you when applying for positions. Good numeracy skills are of great advantage as your role will involve both stock control and customer services like billing. Proving that you have these skills can be easier with a secondary-level education.

Catering assistant is an entry-level position, but many employers offer the opportunity to advance in-house, and further development is available through apprenticeships and other hospitality-focused certification from organisations like City & Guilds.

skills and competencies

To be successful in a catering assistant role, a creative interest in food is beneficial. Although skills aren't dependent on your culinary experience, the hours can be long and physically demanding, so a natural preference for the environment can help you through the harder shifts. Basic requirements are:

  • an ability to work well under pressure
  • good communication and team working skills
  • enthusiasm and stamina
  • spatial awareness in terms of potential hazards
  • high standards of hygiene and cleanliness
  • good customer service skills
smiling female surrounded by fruits and vegetable in the kitchen
smiling female surrounded by fruits and vegetable in the kitchen


FAQs about working as a catering assistant

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