Catering and event planning go hand in hand, so let’s look at how to choose a caterer for an event.
This article will cover…
- Initial consideration before looking at catering
- How to find a caterer and how to select the right one
- The qualities of a good caterer
- How to hire a caterer and what to discuss before the event
Ready to taste some samples? Bon appetit.
What type of catering is right for your event?
Before you dive into your research, consider the kind of event you’re putting on. It will go a long way to help you determine the kind of catering company you should be looking for.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How formal is your event?
- What kind of venue is it hosted in?
- What are the seating arrangements?
- How many guests will be attending?
- What kind of food are they expecting?
- Do they have any dietary requirements?
The three main kinds of catering service you’ll come across are:
- Reception service: the least expensive option, which typically includes drinks and finger foods that the guests eat while standing and talking to each other.
- Buffet service: the second-cheapest option, where guests serve themselves and can choose between a large variety of food and drinks.
- Tabled service: the most expensive option, where guests are seated at tables and waited on by members of the catering staff.
Tip: Read more about the pros and cons of each catering style to get a better idea of what’s right for your event.
How to find a caterer
There’s a wide variety of companies catering events. Let’s go through some key considerations for catering and event planning to help you narrow down your search.
The catering company will have to be able to accommodate the number of guests that will be at your event. The size of the catering company should match the size of your event.
It’s also a good idea to consider the location of your event. A local caterer might be familiar with the venue and will be less likely to experience delays due to a long journey.
How much money you have set aside in your event budget for catering will also help narrow down your search. Try to find a caterer with a good mix of value and price.
4. Venue limitations
Many venues have a list of caterers they prefer to work with. Choosing a caterer from their list can not only reduce the risk of misunderstandings, but you might even get a discount.
Tip: Use a catering directory to get quotes from multiple caterers with a single search.
How to select a caterer
You’ve done some initial research. Now it’s time to select a caterer for your event. Let’s go through some of the qualities of a good caterer so you make the right choice.
A good caterer will be easy to reach and will respond to your calls and emails promptly. If you’re experiencing issues with communication up front, then it’s also likely to be a problem down the line.
Tip: Read up on some of the lingo used in the catering industry to avoid any misunderstandings.
In addition to their communication skills, you should also note if the caterer is organised. Did you receive the proposal in a timely manner? If not, it might be a bad sign of things to come.
3. Experience and specialisation
Just like most event planners specialise in a particular type of event, many caterers will do the same. Make sure that your caterer has experience working with your kind of event.
4. Customer service
Your needs and expectations as a customer should be at the top of the caterer’s list of priorities. Make a note of whether or not a given caterer is paying attention to your specific needs.
You should check how flexible the caterer is in regards to the menu and serving of the food. See if they can accommodate any dietary requirements such as food allergies and gluten-free meals.
Tip: Look at this list of different dietary requirements along with detailed descriptions.
6. Customer reviews
Online reviews and personal recommendations are very telling when it comes to a caterer’s ability to carry out the job. Do your due diligence and research the caterer before hiring.
Tip: Use a website like Trustpilot to look up a catering company and read their reviews.
How to hire a caterer
By now, you should have a short list of candidates for your event’s catering. There are just a few more ways to qualify the right caterer and some things to remember when hiring them.
1. Past event photos
A picture says a lot about what you can expect from the food…unless you’re at a McDonald’s. Assuming you won’t be serving Big Macs, make sure you see images from past events.
You may want to check where the caterer gets their menu ingredients from. Are they local? Are they organic? Were they sourced responsibly?
Speak to your caterer about how and where the food will be prepared. Some food is cheaper to cook off-site, but other dishes have to be prepared at the venue.
You’ve seen the pictures, but what about the actual taste? A good caterer will provide you with a tasting, so you’re able to evaluate if the food lives up to your expectations before you hire them.
Tip: Read about what you can expect from a caterer tasting so you’re prepared.
6. Furniture and tableware
Not all venues will provide you with furniture and tableware for your event. However, some catering companies can include these in the price, so check if that’s an option.
Tip: If neither the venue nor the caterer can provide tableware, then contact a separate supplier.
7. Available staff
See if the catering company has the appropriate number of staff available for your event. You’ll typically need one server for every two tables. (Fewer, if you’re hosting a buffet.)
Tip: This article has a table that shows the server-to-guest ratio for most events.
8. Contract details
Make sure all details are covered when you review the catering contract. Are all deliverables listed? Is VAT included? Will their staff expect tips? Have you read the fine print?
Tip: Read examples of catering contracts so you know what to look out for.
9. Cancellation policy
Although you’re probably not banking on the cancellation of your event, it’s good to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Check the caterer’s cancellation policy, just in case.
You shouldn’t be a picky eater, but you should be picky when it comes to hiring catering companies. After all, the event is not about you. It’s about your guests’ experience.
It’s also worth doing research up front if you’re planning on putting on events in the future. Hiring catering for this event could be the start of a long-term business relationship.
You should now have a much better idea of how to choose a caterer for an event you’re planning.