Choosing a Catering Service

CuisiniersWhat do weddings, corporate events, black tie functions, and social gatherings all have in common?  That’s right – food!  (If you said “alcohol-provoked good times”, it’s OK – that was our second answer.)  One of the most important decisions when planning any event, large or small, is the selection of a caterer.  As with any buying decision, it’s important to do your homework and research as a consumer, before committing to one caterer or another.

Advanced planning is key with any event and communication is going to play a vital role in making your event a success.  It is important to establish clear needs and wants early on in the catering interview process.  Here are a few questions to be thinking about that can help establish exactly what the needs of your event are:

  • When and where is your event?
  • Is it an indoor or outdoor event?
  • Is there a kitchen on site?
  • What is the style and/or theme of the event?
  • How many guests are you planning to invite?
  • What do your guests prefer to eat?
  • Will alcohol be served at the event?
  • Do you want your food served buffet, traditional, or family style?
  • Cloth or paper napkins?
  • What kind of drink ware and plates are wanted?

All the above questions are going to effect cost, so it’s important to have a clearly defined budget in mind.  In addition to these items, it is important to be aware of what each specific catering service would be providing for you.  Some catering services provide decorations, linens, tables, and chairs, while others provide food only. You also need to be clear with all menu selections and portion sizes, and inquire if the caterer is willing to be flexible.

Some caterers are style-specific, meaning that they specialize in one type of event or another.  Keep in mind, however, that just because the company only offers weddings, doesn’t mean they are the best at them!  In fact, many of the best caterers offer a variety of event types, and can adapt well to various styles of events.

Above all else, the food selection and quality is vital.  Questions like “fresh or frozen food?” need to be brought up for discussion with each caterer that is interviewed.  Be sure your expectations are clear to the catering service and that you both share a similar vision and quality standards.  Sample taste tests are always a good way to ensure your getting what you want.

Finally, inquire about the staff that would be serving your guests.  A friendly wait-staff with speedy service can go along way towards the success of an event.  You’ll want to ask for references from each caterer and follow up with questions of whether the staff and food met their previous clients’ expectations.

Catering can make or break an event, so be sure to spend the time you need to make a selection you’ll be happy with!  And remember – entertain deliciously!