Looking to hire a caterer for an upcoming Special Event should not be difficult when you have a checklist and do thorough qualifying. You have to make sure that you get someone who follows local catering standards for where your event will take place, who is reliable, and also experienced in catering the type of event that you are planning. A caterer should not just prepare great food. They must also provide excellent service AND presentation.
Every event has to be memorable, and a BIG part of being memorable is the food served at your event! It’s a huge part of your overall budget, so make sure it meets your and your guests expectations.
Basic tips to choose a good catering service:
- DEFINE YOUR FOOD NEEDS- Before you even reach out to any catering company, you need to decide on what type of meal or offering that you want served at your event. Is it a luncheon, plated dinner, buffet, heavy hor’d’oeuvres? Do you think you might need wait staff? Passed appetizers, bar service, champagne toast, action station, etc?
- GOOGLE- The best way to pull a comprehensive list of area careers around a radius of your event venue, is to use a search engine. With this list, you can go into each website to check the specialties of each caterer, menus, lead times, and individual limitations such as small parties, deliver and set-up radius, etc.
- ASK YOUR CIRCLE-Ask your friends, co-workers, professional area event planners, or venues for their recommendations. Most local venues have a list of preferred caterers that they will provide upon request even if you are not holding your event at their location.
- PROVIDE THE CATERER YOUR EVENT INFO-Any caterer is going to need the following: location of venue, number of anticipated guests, type of meal service. It’s also helpful to provide any theme and any presentation ideas or visuals. It does not hurt to provide them with inspiration catering presentation photos. Pintrest is a great source of inspiration for planning and catering displays. Use this resource as a starting point to define your wants for an event. If you are using an in-house caterer, the caterer or the venue staff may be more than willing to provide extra items such as—decor, linens, additional event planning resources, etc.
- REQUEST FOR QUOTE-Request for a quote before signing a contract. It’s good to know what particular items and extra services you will be receiving for a price. Ask to have a line item list that includes, labor, and rental fees, drop off, wait staff, set-up, etc.
- REFERENCES-Ask the caterer if they can provide references. Always check their online reviews through YELP, GOGGLE, etc. Any caterer should gladly provide you with references, or better yet, have them posted on their website for the public.
- CHECK THEIR LICENSE-Make sure their license is up to date with your city/county. It’s important that a caterer has a license. It’s up to you to make sure they are in good standing with the Health Department. See if the caterer has any bad records, violations, or complaints.
- SCHEDULE A TASTING-Ask the caterer to do a sample tasting of the menu, table setup/ presentation, and everything you need including service ware.
- READ THE CONTRACT-Always read the contract provided by the caterer before signing or giving a down payment. Compare the contract to the RFQ that they initially provided to you. Are there any variances. Remember that the caterer is your partner, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and point out any inconsistencies.
- Ask the caterer what can be adjusted to reduce your overall spend?
- What are typical delivery and set-up fees? Get RFQ’s from multiple caterers to determine this.
- Typical Deposit amounts? These will vary from caterer to caterer. 25-50% upfront is typically standard.
- Based on Consumption. For alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks, asking for charges to be based on “On Consumption” is wise. Always inspect what you expect. Have caterer provide counts of bottles, sodas, etc before, and walk through the count after of empties. You will still be charged a full bottle rate for any alcohol that is partial consumed.