The U.S. catering industry is ranked 10th in the Food Services and Accommodation industry. This also means that several caterers continue to deliver high-quality services to meet the demands of their customers.
One of the most important details of any successful event is the food. To ensure you have good food and quality services, you need to know how to choose a catering company. Since choosing the right catering company can be challenging, it is best to know what to look for.
Here are some tips that will help you hire a caterer that will meet all your needs and also exceed your expectations.
Table of Contents
- 1 Know the Type of Catering Services You Need
- 2 Understand Your Guests
- 3 Know Your Budget
- 4 Pricing and Payment
- 5 Know the Menu
- 6 Availability
- 7 Willingness to Provide Tasting
- 8 Venue Familiarity is a Plus
- 9 Check Reviews and Ratings
- 10 Ask for Certification and Insurance
- 11 Choose a Catering Company With Experience
- 12 Quick Response Time
- 13 Ability to Handle a Corporate Event
- 14 Presentation and Dining Services
- 15 Look for Flexibility
- 16 Availability of a Written Contract
- 17 Use These Tips to Choose a Catering Company
Know the Type of Catering Services You Need
One of the first things you need to know before looking for a catering company is the type of services you need. Caterers offer two main services drop-and-go and full services. In drop-and-go services, the caterer prepares the food for their preferred location and delivers it to your event.
They will also provide the dishes and silverware you need. However, the catering company will not serve the food, bus the tables, or clean up the mess. Though this type of service is cheaper, you will have to look for extra staff or volunteers to serve your guests and clean up after them.
The other option is the full-service catering. This service is like renting a restaurant. The caterer will prepare the food, provide silverware and dishes, serve the food, and clean up when done.
Full catering service is available as a buffet or pre-ordered plated meals. With this service, you will not need any additional staff. Knowing the type of services you need will help determine your budget and venue.
Understand Your Guests
The kind of guest you are hosting will determine your menu selection and the catering company to hire. It can be a disaster for your business to order a taco bar for your guests and find out that none of them like Mexican food.
One of the best ways of knowing what your guests like is by asking them to include their preferred food with their RSVP. Suppose this isn’t an option. In that case, you can pick a menu according to your location. Ensure you have at least a vegetarian menu option.
Also, the demographics of your guests can help you determine their preferences.
Know Your Budget
Your catering budget will also determine the company you can hire. To get the best services from a company, you need to ensure that you can pay the bill. If you are on a tight budget, you may have to choose a drop-and-go service.
Once you have a budget, you can start comparing catering costs, negotiate with different companies, and find the company that offers the services you need and can accommodate your budget.
Pricing and Payment
Catering companies do not offer a standard price. The catering charges will depend on the services you need, menu, and location. These prices differ from one catering company to another. This is why it is crucial that you have a budget.
Once you have a budget, know the company’s pricing, compare the prices and pick a caterer that can accommodate it. Also, keep in mind that some catering companies require upfront payment or installments.
It is good to know the payment options a caterer offers. Note that upfront payments require trust. Before committing to paying upfront, know more about the company and if they are able to deliver what you need.
Ensure you have everything in writing, including how much they will charge for last-minute additions or changes.
Know the Menu
Suppose you already have a menu you prefer. In that case, you need to ensure that the catering company you choose can provide what you need. Several catering companies have a standard catering menu and various menus that a client can choose from.
Some caterers are flexible enough to accommodate a client’s budget and menu preferences. The right caterer should have several menu options and should be willing to customize the menu according to the guests.
Some caterers also provide ice cream catering and rental services for corporate events and large venues. This way, your guests will have a large selection of ice cream to choose from for that perfect dessert option.
The company you hire should be available on the day of your event. Therefore, before you make a final decision or sign any contract, confirm if they are available or not. It would be best if you also avoid double booking.
Know when they are free for consultations and double-check to ensure availability. Knowing a caterer’s availability will help avoid last-minute cancellations.
Willingness to Provide Tasting
You need to know if a caterer can deliver precisely what they are offering. The best way to do this is to schedule food tasting. Do not shy away from asking a catering company to prove if they can deliver what you need.
To have confidence in a caterer, you need to sample the food that will be prepared on the day of the event. Food tasting is standard in the catering industry and several catering companies will be ready to offer it.
Avoid caterers who cannot provide food tasting or who only give you a generic sample. Request the caterer to prepare the exact food items on your menu, especially the customized options. Also, ask to know how the food will be presented and how the staff will be dressed.
Venue Familiarity is a Plus
The caterer you hire should be familiar with the venue and the space. Knowing the venue of the event and the space available for the caterer and their staff will help prevent any potential issue or disaster.
Since you are hosting a corporate event, the chances are that you may be using a formal venue. Suppose you are hosting the event in a historical site or museum. In that case, you need a caterer who is familiar with the restrictions or such venues and can accommodate them.
For example, some historic house museums do not allow live plants, flowers, or red wine inside them. Other venues have restrictions on the disposal of water and food and the type of meals that you can have.
Choose a company that is familiar with the venue’s restrictions or is ready to accommodate them.
Check Reviews and Ratings
While getting references from other businesses is ideal, you also need to check the company’s online reviews and ratings. The right caterer should have several reviews and ratings.
What previous clients are saying about a company is crucial. Reading online reviews will give you a clearer picture of the caterer and this will help you know if they can meet your needs. Note that though a caterer’s experience is crucial, knowing what they can deliver is more important.
Therefore, choose a caterer with several positive reviews and a high rating. To know this, check the company’s website for customer reviews and reviews and ratings websites like Yelp or Better Business Bureau. If possible, you can also reach out to some of their previous customers and learn more about the company.
The caterer should be willing to provide the phone number of some of their previous clients for reference.
Ask for Certification and Insurance
It is ideal to ask the catering company you want to hire to provide proof of their certification. Food health and safety are vital and it is just okay to double-check and ensure the company’s food handler’s certifications are up to date.
Having this certification is proof that the catering company maintains food health and safety standards and will keep your guests safe from food poisoning. Since you are hosting a corporate event, a case of food poisoning can be damaging to your reputation.
Therefore, ensure the caterer you hire can maintain high standards of hygiene. The right catering company should have sufficient insurance coverage. This will protect you from liability should an accident occur due to the caterer’s fault.
Choose a Catering Company With Experience
Though how long a company has been in business is not critical, the kitchen staff and chef’s experience and background are vital. For example, if you want Japanese cuisine, the chef should be familiar with making it.
Please get to know about the chef’s experience and bona fides because they are responsible for the outcome of your menu. As you meet the caterer or schedule a tasting, know more about the chef and get ideas on how to make your menu better.
If the chef or caterer isn’t able to explain what they will be delivering or give suggestions on the right wine, dessert and more, they may not be the right fit. Do not forget to know if the kitchen and dining staff are familiar with handling corporate events.
Quick Response Time
How a caterer responds to your questions and their interest in your needs determines the services they will deliver. The right caterer should respond to your phone calls and emails as soon as possible. Note that a slow response time is a sign of unreliability.
They should ask to know more details about your event, guests, menu, goals, theme and more. The more informed they are, the better. If a caterer isn’t asking questions, they may not deliver what you want. This will affect the outcome of your event.
Ability to Handle a Corporate Event
Not all caterers can handle every type of event. Some caterers can handle birthdays and weddings perfectly but may not be the right fit for a corporate event. To determine if the catering company can handle your event, check their previous clients.
Additionally, check the maximum number of guests they can handle. Ensure you are specific about what you need, your guests and the venue. The caterer you hire should be able to handle all aspects of the event, especially when it comes to the menu and staff.
Presentation and Dining Services
Apart from staff experience and the right menu, the catering staff should be dressed for the occasion. The way the servers, bartenders, and any other staff present themselves will have an impact on your reputation.
Wearing the appropriate uniform is a positive step towards ensuring food safety. As you meet the caterer, know if the chef has the right protective wear and also how the servers will dress. Professional catering companies also ensure their staff is in uniform.
Also, take note of the caterer’s linens, cooking utensils and general aesthetics. No detail is insignificant when it comes to having the right image and ensuring safety.
Look for Flexibility
Some caterers or chefs can be unwilling to take a client’s suggestions, especially when they are given at the last minute. While you need to decide on the menu and have the plans in place in good time, last minutes changes or additions can occur.
In this case, you need to hire a company that is flexible enough to accommodate changes, even if they already have a work plan. A caterer’s plan should have room for adjustments and additions.
Since your guests can confirm their attendance at the last minute or request meal changes, it is vital that the caterer you hire can also adjust and make last-minute changes.
Availability of a Written Contract
It is crucial that the caterer is able to provide a written contract. The contract should include all terms, including cancellations. Before signing the contract, please read it and understand all terms and conditions.
A contract will prevent you and the contractor from losing money. Since contracts help prevent last-minute cancellations, you will have enough time to hire another company if necessary.
Use These Tips to Choose a Catering Company
Learning how to choose a catering company for your event is vital. Since the outcome of the event can influence your reputation, you need to ensure you work with a catering company that understands your needs and goals. These tips will help you select the best caterer and ensure your event is successful.
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