When you talk to people who’ve planned weddings, you’ll find that they often present their caterers with a laundry list of requests. While this might not be your style, you should still make sure that the guests at your next event feel like you’ve taken the time to find the perfect match. Catering services can help set the tone for any event so you need to know how to weed out the wheat from the chaff.
Here are four things to look for when choosing a top-tier caterer.
1. Have a Taste Test
The most vital element of your catered event is clearly going to be the food. While people say they love chatting and networking, it’s really just the food that’s going to keep them around for a while. When booking a catered event, quality food is going to set the tone for how people feel and the mood that people are in.
When you check the caterer’s food, you get the chance to taste it for flavor but also see how the food is going to be presented. This is an opportunity for you to meet everyone and find out how flexible the chef is. You might have notes on the flavor or you might need to have certain items made to be vegan or gluten-free.
Find out whether or not the food is going to be prepared on site. There could be some space or logistical limitations on what can be done in the space you’re in, so it’s good to know in advance.
If food is cooked ahead of time, you need to find out how it’s going to be transported and kept at the ideal temperature. The quality of the food is going to be impacted depending on how it’s kept and when it’s served to your guests. Food that sits around for hours is going to leave your guests nonplussed.
2. Check Their References
Before you call anyone up, you should check to see what people have said online. While most catering websites are going to show you some of the things that happy customers have said, you’ll need to know about those three and four-star reviews. Those have information that can inform how you deal with the catering service and what you can expect.
If you’re going to a catering service mainly on price, don’t expect the five-star services that you’d get with a more expensive option.
Reviews and references help you to learn what the caterer does best and what their weaknesses are. If their weakness is drink service and you’re planning to hire your own bartender, then you’re in the clear. If your main event is drink service, you might want to go to someone else.
If you can find direct references or if the caterer provides them, ask the references how many times they’ve worked with the cater. Ask them what they would change about the caterer or how they’ve changed their events after working with the caterer. If they can list strengths and weaknesses, you’ll learn quite a lot.
3. Ask For Photos
When you’re running any kind of event, you know that aesthetics matter. When a caterer provides photos from past events, you can see how they set up their events and what kind of service ware they use. It’s important that your guests have a lot of room to move, that there are multiple service stations, and that you don’t see trash piling up.
See if they’ll be willing to adjust their style for you if necessary or see that they have elements to match a color scheme you’re looking for. It’s likely that they’ll be able to meet your needs and make your event look the way that you want it to.
These photos will help you to explain what you like, what you want to repeat, and what you don’t. You can talk about adding or adjusting elements with something concrete in front of you, erasing a lot of miscommunication.
Look at what Boos Philly has on their site for some examples of what kinds of images to look for.
4. Consider Who is Coming
Your guests are your main focus when you’re running a catered event. However, you need to know how many people are coming before you can make any real judgments. If you’re having an open invitation event, you need to find some way to determine how many people might show up.
If you pay for 200 plates and only 20 people show up, you’ll be pretty embarrassed when you have to deal with that big bill. If the opposite happens, you won’t be able to magically make 20 plates stretch out to 200 people. It’s important to have a fairly accurate estimate so that you don’t overspend and that you don’t underserve.
You want to have people stick around at some events to mix and mingle. For auctions and art sales events, you need to have people loosen up with a couple of rounds of drinks to get them to open their wallets. If you run out of food and drink, you’ll send people packing to the next event.
You also need a good sense of potential dietary restrictions. More and more catered events are avoiding shellfish altogether because of how allergic some people are. You’ll find nary a peanut at most catered events these days as well.
Make sure the food, decor, and drinks all match the vibe you’re going for. If it’s a casual luncheon, you don’t need to overdo it. If you’re working at a black tie affair, don’t serve messy food or cheap beer.
Catering Services Help Spread The Word
Whether you’re trying to raise awareness for a cause or promote a new product, your catering services are going to help you spread the word. When people recall your event, they’ll have a good taste left in their mouth as they share the event with friends and colleagues.
If you want to make sure your guests drink responsibly, check out our guide for helping them stay safe.