Whether you are planning a corporate event or a wedding, food is an important aspect. It is what your guests will remember when it’s good, but something they will not forget when it’s not so great. When there is good food, there is more positive energy (twice as much when there’s good alcohol). Understanding the importance of food, how do you find a caterer who will prepare, present and serve the dishes that will have everyone talking about it forever?
The most common, universal advice also applies to finding a caterer. Planning nine to twelve months ahead secures your date. Good caterers have their calendars booked as far as three to five years in advance. If you want to have the perfect caterer, make sure they are available.
It’s a great idea to ask your friends and colleagues about caterers they worked with in the past. Additionally, speak with your favorite restaurants and see if they do catering. What can be better than having your favorite chef in your team? It’s a good idea to ask for referrals from any vendors you are working with such as your designer or event planner. There are many event spaces that also have on-site caterers; although you should keep that in mind, don’t make your decision solely based on that.Know your event
You will need to share details about your event with your caterer to get a more precise estimate. Along with the basic information to share such as the location and time of day of your event, you have inform the caterer the expected amount of guests and the formality of the event.
The meals can be served in different styles and this is something you will need to know as well. Each style has different rates.
Buffet- this is not different from the buffets you are familiar with. Food is set on long tables and your guests serve themselves. This is a good option for having a variety of food options.
- Food stations- various food option are set on several tables that are placed throughout the event space. Similar to buffet style, guests serve themselves. The food stations can have their own menus.
Sit-down dinner- Staff serve the dishes and your guests can select one of two meals (usually). As you can might imagine, these are generally more expensive than buffets.
Hors d’oeuvres- you can have these served by staff or have guests serve themselves.
It is best to call caterers before meeting with any. This will help you save a lot of time by allowing you to narrow your search down based on the conversations. You can ask for sample menus and pricing, which they can send to you via mail or email. The rates you see will most likely be on a per person basis.
Don’t just interview your favorite caterer based on your initial conversation, but meet with a couple of caterers before making your final decision, so you can compare them. If you have any ideas pertaining to the food, you want to find a caterer who will listen to them and is open to exploring them. You also want the caterer to be able to contribute some ideas of his or her own. If the caterer is disinterested or not open to entertaining any of your ideas, it’s best to keep looking.
Be sure to read reviews online and read the ratings of the Better Business Bureau. Ask for references and speak with their past clients. Look at their portfolio and make sure you feel comfortable and confident with your caterer. Your caterer should also be licensed with your state and/or local county department with a certificate/permit. Don’t forget to inspect their kitchen and staff. How clean is the kitchen? How is the staff handling food?
Try before you buy
Sample menu and wines to make sure they go well together.
Think about what you’d like to serve your guests and they could very well be some of your favorite dishes, but keep your budget and your guests in mind when deciding on the meals. Are any of your guests vegetarian, allergic to any foods (gluten)? You might also want to try the chef’s special dishes.
Compare the different caterers you met with and weigh the pros and cons regarding price, location, and ease of communication with each caterer. When you make your decision, meet with your caterer to go over all the details and sign the contract. Everything you discuss should be in writing including the fees (gratuity, set-up, equipment, and number of staff). Don’t forget to keep or request a copy of the contract.
If you do not have an event planner or manager, you need to make sure that the amount of staff you agreed upon are present so that you do not have any problems serving the meals. You also want to have someone save a meal for you because if it’s your wedding, you may be so overwhelmed with things to do and people to greet, you might not have a chance to eat.
We hope this helps you find a caterer, but if you have any tips or suggestions we left out, please share them with us. Also, stay tuned for the most important questions you need to ask your caterer.