Stress Free Guide to Hiring a Caterer

caterers_happyThere are a number of things to consider when planning an event no matter whether it’s a small and intimate get-together of 20 people, or a large full-scale summer wedding with hundreds of guests. With so many things to consider, it can be hard to figure out which company to rely on when it comes to the catering. Often we’re tempted to let the price quotations dictate the decision. But stepping away from cost, how can you really tell which catering company will deliver on the service and quality of food that they say they will? Use this stress free guide to hiring a caterer to conquer this source of stress and frustration.

Consider the Caterer Early

With a multitude of on-going tasks taking up your time and your attention span, you’d be forgiven to leave such details as which catering company to use to the last minute. However, by doing this, you not only leave yourself minimal decision to have all of your questions answered before you decide, but you also add to your own stress levels as a result of the feelings of rushing the decision without time enough to really consider all the options. It’s important to treat the decision of a catering company as an important one. By planning early (as in booking a caterer at least 10 to 12 months before the events) you not only ensure that the caterer you choose will be able to work at your event, but you also give yourself the time to sample their food, research any reviews given by past customers, and settle the details in such a way that you’re completely happy with the end result.

Consider the Catering Options

There are generally two types of caterers: in-house caterers, who work exclusively at a venue which may be hired for events, and off-premise caterers, who provide mobile catering services at the venue of your choice. Within these two types, there are often different options for the way that the meal can be served. These include:

  • Buffets – often the meal will be set out on long tables and guests are able to serve themselves. This is quite a popular catering option that combines the formality of a catered meal with the comfort of self-service.
  • Sit-down dining – this option is often more expensive than the others because it requires the hiring of wait staff who serve the set courses of the meal to your guests.
  • Food stations – a variety of foods are set out on tables which are dispersed throughout designated areas of the room. Guests serve themselves as with the buffet option, but each designated area has its own theme/menu.
  • Hors d’oeuvres – offering little mouthfuls of food, as opposed to full platefuls, this option allows the hors d’oeuvres to be served around the room while guests mingle or set at tables for guests to serve themselves.

It is important to consider each option and discuss with a potential caterer what will best fit the style and formality of your event.

Interview, Interview, Interview

As with any important decision in life, such as hiring employees or reviewing individuals for a promotion, an interview is a vital aspect to the process of making a final decision for a catering company. Call several companies and set up an initial interview. Doing this allows you to compare prices, services and menu varieties so that you can make an educated decision with confidence. A plus for any caterer is their willingness to include your individual tastes and style into the menu. They should also be able to propose some unique suggestions to suit your unique event. This entire process allows you to find a caterer who will not only fit your needs, but also give the attention that your event deserves. More reputable catering companies are capable of providing you with a past portfolio of other events that they have catered, which will give you an idea of the caterer’s style, work and talents.

There are a number of questions that you can ask a caterer, and it’s probably best that you bring a notebook with you so that you can write down important notes. Some of the more vital questions that you ought to ask include:

  • What kinds of events are their speciality and how long have they been in business?
  • What are their menu options?
  • Do they offer a taste testing for you to sample their food?
  • What facilities do they require to fully cater an event?
  • Do they serve liquor and/or other beverages as well?
  • Is the corkage free?
  • Are linens, china, stemware, utensils, barware, tables and chairs provided?
  • Can they cater for guests with special dietary needs?
  • Is a children’s menu available (if needs be)?
  • Does the price include the services of the wait staff?
  • What kind of deposit do they require for their services?
  • When is the balance due?
  • When is the final head count required?
  • What is their cancellation policy?
  • Is there a separate set-up and clean-up fee?
  • Are there any other fees not included i.e. travel fees?

Decision Time

Once you’ve reviewed, interviewed and quizzed several caterers, you ought to be able to sit down and compare the notes you’ve made for each. You’ll find it a lot easier to make a decision as to which caterer to use having gone through these processes. Consider which caterer gives you more bang for your buck; which caterer really considered the individual requirements of your event; and which caterer attended to your queries professionally and with interest? Once you’ve made your decision, set up another meeting with your chosen caterer. This second meeting will allow you to finalise the details of the meals for your event. It’s important to compile a contract with the caterer that includes such details are the date of the event, the location, the time for setting-up, the menu selections, additional fees, gratuity, the number of wait staff and how long their services will be required. When it comes to the contract, it will serve you well to include as much information as possible, even if it serves only to clarify your expectations of the caterer.

By taking all of these tips into account, you will be able to take care of the catering of your event, and therefore, one of the most important aspects of event planning. You will also do so in a stress-free way that will see you feeling relaxed and rewarded once everyone is raving about the wonderful meal they had at your event.

Author Bio: Robyn Porteous is the creative content manager for a specialist hog roast and hog roast hire company that has been filling the bellies of satisfied customers in and around London since 2006. More of her writing can be viewed on her Google+ profile.

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