Tips on Finding a Good Caterer

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A fabulous party is all about great food, nice table set ups, china, silverware, and glassware, lighting, waiters, bartenders, musicians, and all the works a party should have. A good caterer should be someone who can help you put it all together while making sure that the food and the details will be well remembered long after the party is over.

A good starting point to find a good caterer is at a party you have attended.  If you liked the food and the set-up, a pleased client will be enthusiastic to recommend the caterer to you.  The actual party is the best showcase a caterer has, but a good look at a portfolio is most advisable before making a final decision.

Another way to find a caterer is by asking your favorite restaurant, country club, resort, etc, whose food you enjoy, if they do catering services.  Of course, magazines and websites offer a variety of choices for catering services.

Because good caterers are in demand, ask the caterer you are considering if he or she is available on the date you intend to hold your party.

Here are a few facts you should know before meeting your intended caterer:

  • The food normally accounts for fifty percent of the total cost of a full-service event.

  • The average ratio of server to guests is one-is-to-eight or one-is-to-ten, depending on the type of food served.

  • June, December, weekends, and major holidays are traditionally the busiest times of the caterers.  If you intend to hold a party during these periods, you may have to book a good caterer months in advance.

  • Caterers order food items for a specific event.  Should you intend to cancel your event close to or on the day of the party itself, expect to pay for the items that were ordered for your party.

A good caterer provides a wide range of menu options for different budgets.  Most caterers can work within different budget ranges.  However, you may ask the caterer about the average price range and an itemization of the costs.  A good caterer would set a food sampling appointment with you before you finalize a menu.

Here are some of the basic details you should ask from your caterer:

  • The manner in which the food will be transported

  • The persons who will be doing the actual set up

  • The number of servers that will be assigned for the event

  • Ask if the ingredients will be coming from canned or fresh, locally grown, seasonal produce

  • If you choose to serve alcoholic beverages, ask if they have a licensed staff to serve these (because some states require a specific license for these types of services) or if they are capable of providing the beverages themselves.  If you choose to handle this separately from your caterer, inform him or her also.

  • Ask for the name and contact number of the person who will be in charge and will be present on the day of the event itself.

  • Ask what will be done with the leftover food so you will know what needs to be prepared for its transit.

  • Ask what extent of clean up will the caterer provide after the event so you will know if you will still need to hire extra janitors

  • If you are doing a themed party, ask if your caterer can provide costumes for servers, or special drinks or centerpieces for this, and if there will be extra charges for these additions.

Good caterers will do an ocular inspection of the event site before giving a final quotation.  Different locations have different set up and logistical demands and cleanup challenges.  These will also determine the pricing.

Normally, since an event is planned by more than one person, disagreements on choices may arise.  A good caterer can bridge these gaps by offering workable suggestions.

Caterers should be able to show you a list of clients and references for whom they have done events.  You may ask these clients if you wish to get more feedback about the catering service.

Because catering is a very competitive business, don’t hesitate to negotiate.  Caterers who have worked with clients over a period of time would usually throw in special favors to make your event impressive both to you and your guests.

As regards tipping, normally, caterers are tipped 20% of the total bill.

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