Throwing a party or organising an event is no cakewalk and we know that. The toughest part is choosing an event caterer. There are so many things to consider. Food quality, presentation, venue ambiance and wait staff are just a few. These are important aspects and they can make or break an event. And, getting the right balance is hugely important. So, with that in mind, here are the seven things to consider when choosing an event caterer.
Requirements and Expectations
Start with imagining the perfect event in your mind. What are the different components that make an event perfect for you? Soft lighting, comfortable food, exotic cocktails, live music? Jot down all your expectations and requirements before presenting it to the potential caterers. Don’t forget important aspects like meals for children and guests with special dietary requirements. Carefully study the proposals of various event caterers before zeroing in one.
Bonus Tip: An average event caterer will agree with everything you say. An awesome event caterer will ask questions to learn more about you, the event and your expectations.
Horses for Courses
Different caterers specialize in different types of events. It might be difficult for caterers of formal events to cater a summer BBQ event. People sometimes make the mistake of hiring the same caterer for totally different events. It comes off sometimes while other times, well. Ask the caterers if they have experience in serving at your kind of events. Verify their claims by checking out their profiles, websites and social media handles. If there is no online footprint then ask them for some sort of proof.
What to serve
Ah, the heart of any event is food and beverages. Morbid staff and dull ambiance can be overcome with mouthwatering food. And, with food, there so many possibilities. Most caterers have standard menu options that they specialise in. Check out the various menu options and see if any of them resonates with you. If you want to provide specific food experience like Organic Food, Japanese Theme, Seasonal Delicacies, etc. then mention it. Again look for experience. You don’t want an Italian caterer catering an Asian Fusion themed event. The same logic applies to beverages. Will you be mostly serving alcohol on the rocks, wine, and beer or you need an excellent bartender who could mix mean cocktails?
Bonus Tip: Ask if the caterer can prepare special dishes for people with dietary limitations like vegan, vegetarian, gluten and dairy allergic.
Tried and tasted
The menu has been finalised. What is the next bit? This is the most exciting part for some people. Tasting. Schedule a tasting session with the caterers and taste all the different items on the menu. Don’t hesitate if you don’t like a certain dish. Ask the caterer to prepare it according to your expectations and taste it again. Food can be an event spoiler if proper diligence isn’t paid. Make it a point to do food tastings with at least three different caterers. Pay attention to the visual appeal of the food along with the taste. If wine will be served with food then try various wine and food pairings before finalising. Some caterers charge for tastings. It is worth paying for the tasting sessions over jeopardising the event.
Bonus Tip: If you can’t decide between different options then taste all the options before deciding.
Organising events is an expensive affair. Venue costs, invitations, decoration, music, photographers, and caterers can all lead to big numbers. Have a ballpark figure in your mind before shortlisting caterers. You don’t want to spend too much time speaking with caterers who are out of your budget. Put forth your budget and ask the caterers if and how they can cater within that budget. Get detailed costing of everything including any additional charges including VAT.
Bonus Tip: It is always better to nail down a per head budget.
An oft-overlooked aspect of catering is the staff. Is it a self-serve event or you require waiting staff? What should be the staff-to-guest ratio? (We suggest one waiter for every 20 guests) Do you need staff with special training? Ensure that the staff is courteous and thorough with what will be served. Speak with the on-site catering manager to understand the game plan. Talk to the bartender about drinks and other matters. If the chef will be present at the event then make sure that he is flexible and open to last-minute special requirements, if need be.
Contract and Cancellation
Now to the most boring part of the ordeal. Drafting a contract and a cancellation policy. Many ignore these two things and later regret. A well-drafted contract comes to your rescue in case of dispute. It should contain the following specifics – food, beverage, services, date, time and location. Iron out the details like the menu, number of servings, drinks, cutlery, accessories and staff among other things. The contract should also have a total cost including VAT and service charges.
Cancellation is a spotty matter and hence it is important to spell out the details. Agree on cancellation terms ahead of time. The cancellation can occur at both ends, hence, jot down the procedure and penalties if it happens. The procedures and policies might differ for both parties. Add the cancellation policy to the contract. If possible, ask a pair of legal eyes to give it a look.