How to Select A Caterer

The planning that goes into pulling off an event successfully can sometimes be chaotic, stressful and costly. With food and beverages being one of the most important aspects of the planned event, it’s extremely important to find the perfect caterer for you!

Inviting a caterer to come and manage the entire aspect of food – from cooking all the way up to presentation – isn’t only stress relieving; it’s entirely flexible allowing you to have complete control over décor and food selection.

Getting Started With A Caterer

With so many catering companies out there, how can you find the perfect caterer for you? It might seem a bit overwhelming at first but think about which road is harder – interviewing a few caterers or finding the money and time needed to pull everything together all on your own? The first choice will probably get you a lot farther!

Whether you’re planning a corporate or social event, wedding or an ordinary company function, you’ve got to find a catering company who will help make a great, lasting impression on your guests that enhances the overall event.

The absolutely best way to find a reputable caterer is based on recommendations. Do you remember a time that you attended a wedding or an event that was catered? Was it service you liked or did you think to yourself, ‘I would never want this service at my soirée!’? Word-of-mouth is a caterer’s sure-fire way of getting noticed and keeping steady business since all of their occupation is based off of new and repeat clientele.

If you’re not having any luck by talking to friends or family, there’s always the internet which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! You can browse catering companies, view recommendations and see the location of their facility.

If you’re still having trouble finding someone who tickles your tastebuds, another option is talking to party/event or wedding planners. These people have quite the list of resources available when it comes to great contacts.

One important piece of advice is to always be a phone call away with your caterer. Because you have the grand picture already set in your mind of how the entire event will be orchestrated, you need to keep them in the loop. Chefs are extremely flexible in accommodating menus and your needs but they’re not psychic. While caterers usually recommend beginning planning three weeks before the event, you may want to start even earlier depending on the size of people in attendance.

How To Hire A Caterer

Catering is one of the bigger costs of your upcoming function but that doesn’t mean it’s unaffordable. It’s much cheaper than one person buying all of the supplies and utensils themselves but depending on how many people are planning to attend, it can account for a big chunk of your overall budget.

Because of this, it’s important to choose a caterer that’s best suited for your event and remember to keep a safety reserve within your budget! By mapping out every single detail well in advance for the event, you’ll be able to determine what constraints and allocations will be needed for your catering budget.

You’ll also be able to create a slot for emergency cash in case there are any last minute changes, extra people in attendance or any special accommodations that might need to be made at the spur of the moment – i.e., allergies, diets or specific religious requirements -in which case, you may need to pay a little more for the extra accommodations.

Another reason why it’s important to plan your budget ahead of time is because most caterers charge per head instead of having one set, all-around fee for two reasons: The first reason is that caterers have to pay their wait-staff hourly and sometimes events go longer than planned. The second reason is that food, beverages, linens and furniture may be charged separate from the actual cooking and baking.

As long as you keep a tight hold on your budget, everything will go as planned. With catering, it can be easy to get carried away with add-ons like desserts, decorations and extra dishes. If you’re a big spender, give your caterer an amount that’s a little less than what your actual budget is so you have that extra room for the fun stuff!

One great thing about caterers is that most invite people to come have a special ‘sneak preview’ to get an idea of their services and catering styles. Much like attending a wine tasting or sampling wedding cakes, many caterers offer their own test tasting.

You’ll be able to see what kind of desserts they offer, their meat selections, if they use fresh produce, whether the buffet style or plated-style better suits your audience, cleanliness, presentation and their waiters’ service.

Why not head out and see for yourself? You can take notes of qualities you like as well as dislike and have talks with your caterer to make sure that your needs are met.

You’ve Selected A Caterer, Now What?

Once you’ve found THE caterer, it’s time to get to know him or her since this caterer will become your significant other for the time being. Having a good relationship with the caterer will get you through all of the chaos smoothly. You might even find benefits you didn’t know existed!

Many caterers specialize in one specific thing, such as, cakes, entrees, seafood, pastries, etc. Let’s say, for example, you’re hosting the reception for a wedding and you find that your caterer perhaps makes wedding cakes. If so, then you’re in luck because you can have him or her do two jobs at a much lower cost for you and your event.

The more comfortable you are with your new relationship, the better both of you can work together planning from start to finish with less stress and maybe even have a little fun along the way!

The first thing you’ll need to do is go over the catering contract. Every caterer is different so be open and talk about your needs. A great caterer will be able to offer the appropriate suggestions to match any event, just be careful not to go overboard!

It’s important to cover every aspect when designing the contract. Some caterers charge per head but then lump all other costs into one large fee. Others may charge down to the nitty gritty for something as simple as cutting and serving a piece of cake. These details must be taken care of before the cooking begins so that it won’t come back to haunt you later on.

The second thing you must do is ask important questions that will cover all legal senses as well as liability. If possible, get copies to keep on file. For example, if you’re serving alcohol at your event, he or she will need a liquor license. You’ll also need to make sure all the health permits are a passing grade and that they’re insured.

Once the two most important parts of hiring your caterer have been completed, invite him or her to the venue of choice to begin the layout design and workspace they’ll need for their staff and catering equipment. After you’ve set the time and date for the event, the obvious next step is choosing the location where the event will be held. Location is extremely important, not only for your event but also for your caterer. Since many venues are already stocked with their own chef and catering crew, it’s an absolute must to first talk with the location’s manager to prevent any toes from being stepped on and to allow for kitchen usage.

You can now begin finalizing your menu and creating a timeline from prep work til cleanup time to ensure that no detail is overlooked.

Now all that’s left to do is to pay your deposit, sign your contract and whew! You can breathe easy again knowing that one of the biggest elements of your event is completed.