An American is credited for creating the catering industry. Since then, catering has become an American standard and expectation. From Chick-Fil-A to McDonald’s, even fast-food chains are getting into the action.
Are you looking for a caterer? With such a slew of options and services, it can be daunting if you’ve never hired one before. And choosing the wrong vendor could downright ruin the event.
So what’s the secret to hiring a caterer? This guide will cover everything you need to know to find and vet the perfect one.
- Plan the Event First
Catering services vary in professionalism and scope. A wedding caterer might cook food on-site with focused menu options, which will be a much different offering than that fast-food gyro place you like.
That’s just one reason why it’s important to pin down the details before searching for a quality caterer. In general, there are three places to start.
First, you want to know how many guests you’re going to feed. The size of an event will determine how much food and staff you’ll require, as well as how much you should expect to spend.
You likely have a location in mind. Whether it’s a catered lunch at the office or a seated dinner at a wedding venue, the scene will impact your ultimate decision. If you want fresh food created on-site, you’d better hope the venue has a kitchen available, or else you’ll need a catering service that can bring their own equipment.
Once you’ve got a handle on these ideas, your caterer event is almost ready. You just need to decide on the type of catering service.
If you’re not sure of the options, here are a few examples:
Seated Dinner: An event with a menu and a restaurant experience. Typically done at weddings and formal ceremonies.
Buffet Style: Your caterer will bring premade food or cook it on-site. All the food is available in the same location and your guests serve themselves.
Cocktail Catering: Professional bartenders and staff will provide alcoholic drinks to your guests.
- Search Reviews of a Potential Caterer
Reviews don’t always tell the whole story, but they’re a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff. You can find reviews on places like Yelp, Google, and the caterer website.
Look at the overall score and the general sentiment. While you may find the errant 1-star review here or there, don’t focus on them unless they’re the norm, not the exception.
For an additional way to screen potential caterers, contact their references. If even their references can’t recommend their services, you’ll want to steer away.
- Ask the Big Questions
Once you’ve picked out a caterer, it’s time to take a deeper dive. Discuss everything included in their catering services. Coverage can vary.
You might get stuck cleaning up after the service or have to provide silverware. Not knowing the fine print can lead to some trouble during the event.
Some of your guests may have diet restrictions. Will you cater for them, too? It’s a good idea to ask if vegetarian or gluten-free dishes are available, so none of the guests feel left out.
Refer to this post for more questions to ask a caterer before hiring them. A catered event can be a lucrative expense, and you want to make sure you get what you pay for. Any caterer should be happy to answer your questions.
- Enjoy a Food Tasting
The best part of interviewing a caterer? Trying out their offerings. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but nothing is more important than the taste as far as catering is concerned.
If it’s for a prestigious event, a food tasting is a regular part of the deal. You’ll work through their menu to choose your personal favorites and create a customized selection tailored to your taste.
For cheaper, smaller services, flavor is just as important. You might not have a formal sit-down with the manager, but you should take a personal visit and work through some of their menu.
- Don’t Forget About the Staff
Catering handles two very important services. Chief among the pair is, of course, the food. But a catering service is a service after all.
In addition to the meal, you’ll be paying for staff members. The caterers will handle food creation, distribution, and cleanup. No matter how amazing the food is, it can’t make up for poor service.
Professionalism is key. Pay close attention to reviews that discuss staff members. And when you’re visiting in person, don’t disregard the way the staff conducts itself.
- Consider the Cost
Cost matters when you’re deciding on a vendor. Maybe you love a vendor’s meat dish — but the other caterer is half the price and almost as good. You’ll have to battle with the conflicting nature of cost and quality to come to your final decision.
Unexpected fees are common. For example, how much do you tip a caterer? Yes, it’s expected that you tip a catering service. You could be charged extra if more guests arrive than expected. Or maybe tax wasn’t included, so you’re paying at least an extra 10% more than you thought.
Work through these details, pay attention to the fine print, and decide which vendor is worth the price.
A quality caterer is an important component of any event, be it corporate, social, or ceremonial. You’ll know you’ve hired the perfect vendor if it feels like they aren’t even there. They’ll take care of the food and service so you don’t even have to think about it.
But an event isn’t just about the caterer. Do your due diligence, but remember that food isn’t the most important part of your ceremony. It’s the people you’re with. Did you enjoy this content? If so, search our blog for more.