Choosing the Right Caterer for Your Next Event

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:

  1. 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? 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. SCHEDULE A TASTING-Ask the caterer to do a sample tasting of the menu, table setup/ presentation, and everything you need including service ware.
  9. 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.


 Additional Tips:


Contract Negotiations

  1. Ask the caterer what can be adjusted to reduce your overall spend?
  2. What are typical delivery and set-up fees? Get RFQ’s from multiple caterers to determine this.
  3. Typical Deposit amounts? These will vary from caterer to caterer. 25-50% upfront is typically standard.
  4. 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.

Trusting in Yourself. A lesson in Risk Taking.

Often at this time of year, I take a moment to slow my busy life, and still my mind to reflect on annual gratitudes. I think about where I was mentally, physically, and professionally the year prior.

This time last year, I had endured 8 months of slowly shifting my business model from 90% event planning and 10% custom prop fabrication and rentals to almost a complete 180 degree turn just to survive. The only business revenue I had coming in was for prop and soft seating rentals. My annual corporate event planning contracts were still on hold, and even virtual events were just a trickle.

I am a serial opportunist and perpetual optimist by nature. But, even I was nervous this time last year. I was doing whatever I could to stay afloat, including teaching yoga to help pay my monthly office rent at Arrive Coworking, and basically waiting for the ban on events to open (not knowing when or if that would actually happen). Tough spot to be in for sure.

Fast forward to January, and I had set my sights on forming strategic partnerships after working to build up a modest inventory of rental items. I was determined to have my business succeed while helping other event industry vendors at the same time. I met with no less than 20 vendors, venues and planners that month alone. It was exhausting, but I was hopeful.

One of the vendors that had I approached to help extend my rental inventory, came back to me in late March with an interesting proposal. After proposals and counters, they called me one day and told me they had decided to get out of rental business entirely. Before I could pick my jaw up off of the floor, they asked me to bid on their entire inventory. I vaguely remember answering “Yes. I’m definitely intetested.” While at the same time my stomach launched into a whole herd of stampeding butterflies of uncertainty.

This lead to a full month of negotiations, while I watched the price on these items go through the roof through my wholesale suppliers. I also had to get creative during this time with how I was going to pay for what was going to be the biggest purchase of my small business’s life. Reaching out for loans, checking interest rates and talking with my husband about our options lead me to one conclusion. If we were going to go all out with the huge addition of standard party rental items, we needed to go all in. We couldn’t do that with intention without investing in ourselves. So, we took some of our own savings and used it for the down payment and second installment of the purchase. BIG. SCARY. STEP!

From there things snowballed, all in time with events opening back up in June. We were so busy, and not prepared for the jump in business that resulted. But, it was awesome. Busy ( at least for me) is GOOD! We were able to pay the entire inventory off, and get back online with corporate event planning. And things just seem to keep rolling along even when I thought things would slow down during late fall. We have so much pre-booked for 2022, I am beyond grateful.

Of course, not everything was roses and sunshine in 2021. Some partnerships didn’t work out. A partnership with an AV vendor that I thought for sure would be an amazing long term symbiotic relationship, resulted in no business what so ever. I even had a contract pulled out from under me after letting the company know that I didn’t intend to renew with them once the remaining contracted events were completed. This resulted in a breach of contract and a huge legal mess that I’m still deciding whether or not to pursue. Hard choices for sure But! But, even with those negatives, they provided awesome learning lessons that have made my business (and me) even stronger.

With so much positive momentum being carried from 2021, I know 2022 will be bigger and better for LUXX. I can’t help but feel like a child again getting ready for a family camping trip, filled with hope for adventure and discovery and positive experiences.

So, here’s to you… taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone for 2022. I’d love to hear about the risks you took that paid off and those that didn’t. Comment below, or shoot me an email.

Did You Catch Us At This Year’s Harvest of Hope?

We had a blast at the Child Advocacy Center’s Harvest of Hope at the end of August. Thank you so much for asking us to participate. We provided design services and decor for their annual fundraising event at Junto Winery. This event raised $81,000 to support the critical services that the Child Advocacy Center provides to victims of abuse, neglect and child trafficking.

Every Day is a New Opportunity to Change Your Reality

Hybrid Shifts Models in the Post Recovery Era — IAEE Blog Station

Due to COVID-19, the exhibitions and events industry has experienced an eye-opening realization for many who thought “LIVE” was the only way to produce events. Read President and CEO of The Deondo Company David Liddle’s thoughts on why this era will bring new thought and business process in the redesign of future events.

Hybrid Shifts Models in the Post Recovery Era — IAEE Blog Station

Is Your Company Missing The Mark By Not Understanding How to Measure ROI On Your Events?

This is a great article outlining new technology that allows your company to effectively measure ROI on the events that you participate in as well as events that your company produces.

6 Ways to Drive Success with ROI Technology

One of my biggest priorities as a corporate event planer, is showing clients how to calculate ROI for events. Sometimes it is easier than others. It all just depends on the type event and the type of marketing or promotional campaign that accompanies it.

Back in the day, I loved, loved, loved Street Team and Guerrilla Marketing events for my clients. The numbers were always super impressive when I sent along my wrap up report……..”US Open of Surfing attendance- 494,000 people, 15,000 pieces of collateral distributed over 3 days, 10 person promo team, over 1.2 million impressions.”

Wow! Sounds AMAZING, right? But, what was I really pushing? Brand awareness not sales conversions. There’s a big difference. That’s not a bad thing. BUT….it is if that wasn’t my client’s objective.

When we as event planners talk about ROI for our clients, the first step that we need to take is to define the clients objectives. What are your goals for an event? That will give you a clear answer to whether the event met or exceeded ROI when we provide your wrap up report. What? Not getting a wrap up report for your events? ASK for one. Make it a requirement.

The above article shows some great new technology to help us show ROI for our clients. This ROI could be based on attendance objectives, revenue goals, direct sales conversion, or simply brand engagement. But, I strongly recommend that whether you are an event planner or a company that executes events, you understand the latest technology and where events are heading.

That’s all for now!

The Early Bird Catches the Worm!

alarm clock black coffee book caffeine
Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on
Getting Up Early
This is not always a popular subject with Event Planners. There are so many studies that talk about late night creativity, that most planners mistakenly believe that in order to be more successful, they should be a “Night Person”. But, is that always true? No way! While creativity is incredibly important in our field, If you think about it, most event planners are actually running their own business. Even those employed by agencies or companies are typically their own little island in the sea of corporate business. So, embracing the traits found in successful entreprenuers and working smarter is actually going to be the way to go. What is one of those traits? Yep, you guessed it! Getting up early.
But Why?
Getting up early allows you to plan and organize your day before the rest of the world arrives at their 8-5 job. I use the early morning between 6:30 and 7:15am to check out my “To-Do” list that I made at the end of the previous day. I schedule the tasks in Outlook for the day according to their priority and time. I then double check, my event timelines to see if there is anything that I need to add for the day, or something that I may have missed. Now that my task list for the day is looking good, I then will check my e-mail. I am usually at the end of my first cup of coffee at this point. 
When that’s done, typically around 7:15am, I allow myself time to check out industry sites for the latest trends. Just because you may be in a small or mid-sized market, does not mean you need to be oblivious to what is going on in the LA, NY, and Miami event scene. I use this time to check out events, new suppliers, AV equipment, pricing, etc. I typically get some of my best ideas and inspiration during this time.  I have a folder that I keep future ideas and inspiration images that I find for future use. I find that by adding this “Pre-work, work” time between 6:30- 8am It helps make me more efficient and keeps me on task. 
By 8am, I am ready for my second cup of coffees, and to start my work day calling suppliers, sending bid requests, managing my tasks for the day. 
If you notice, I haven’t mentioned anything about Facebook, or Instagram. That’s totally intentional. I DO NOT check social media before work. Social Media is a distraction, and can suck away valuable productive hours. I will log in as part of my task list to check my company pages, respond to direct messages, and do any event posts that need to be done. But, I try to avoid it at all costs. It’s way too easy to get wrapped up into comments my friends are making, and mindless posts.
How do you organize your day and keep on task? I’d love your feedback!

Finding Engaging Speakers in a Small Market

As an event professional for most of my career, the age old struggle of finding an engaging speaker rears it’s ugly head for me just about once a year. Now that I am located in a small market, the task is not as simple as it used to be. I have clients that want that perfect “Wow” speaker, but don’t have the budget, or worse, have their own “Amazing” speaker ideas without even knowing if their choice is a professional speaker. The struggle is real.

I have found some fantastic and truly engaging speakers that I have worked with that didn’t break my client’s budget. But, how do you find these gems in a small market? The answer is to first start within your own networking circle of professionals. Ask around, and for goodness sake ATTEND events in and around your area to see who is making the rounds. I use google A LOT when putting together my speaker recommendation lists. I do my homework by watching videos and reading bios along with visiting my local speaker’s bureau for a fee range on some of the regional speakers in my area.

Another great tool in my event planner tool bag is BizBash. Almost every year they release a top speakers/entertainers list gathered together from some of the top event planners in the country.  Click HERE to see the latest. While most of these speakers might be outside of my local clients price range, I usually include one or two from this list  along with some similar local options that I have researched just to keep things in perspective with client expectations.

The bottom line is that you need to do your homework and inspect what you expect. Have some feedback or questions? Hit me with it below.

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