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Choosing a Caterer


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Food is at the heart of any party.  If the food is delicious - and there's plenty for everyone - your guests will leave the event with full stomachs and happy memories!  Choosing a caterer for your event is easy, once you know what you are doing!  It does take a bit of time and thought, though, so here's the things you need to consider.

  • Assess your needs.  Think about your event's atmosphere and style before you contact caterers.  Does it call for a formal dinner with a five-course degustation menu?  Or canapés and cocktails?  Or a barbecue buffet?  Decide what type of food, presentation and service your event requires.  Consider whether or not your budget stretches to alcohol too.  Defining your catering needs makes it easier to recognise when you've found the caterer who can meet them.
  • Set the date and time of your event.  Choose the location, estimate your budget and consider a head count.  These decisions will have an impact on catering quotes, and may restrict which catering companies can handle your event.
  • Do your homework!  Ask friends, family, work colleagues and party planning vendors for their recommendations, and consider the last dozen or so weddings and work-related parties you've attended.  Did any of them have standout service or fabulous food? 
  • Think laterally.  Consider hiring a restaurant to cater your party. If you know that you like the quality and flavour of a particular restaurant's food, ask if they offer catering.
  • Narrow your options down.  Choose three caterers that best match your needs and call each one to make an appointment, or discuss your needs over the phone.
  • Assess the prospective caterer.  If your date is available, ask the caterer if they have other events booked for the same day as yours (and consider whether they'll have the resources to do both events).  Discuss general requirements and numbers to determine whether their prices will match your budget. 
  • Find out about their food.  Ask if they always use fresh ingredients, if they can cater to special dietary requirements and adapt their menus to suit your theme.  Ask if they provide alcohol, and, if you can provide your own, what will the corkage fee be?  Ask if they can prepare a sample tasting menu for you.
  • Ask about staff and equipment.  Ask if they have wait staff and if they provide equipment such as tables, linens and serving utensils. 
  • Ask for references.  If you're hosting a large-scale event, ask to visit another event that they're catering. This will give you a good idea of how they present food and provide service.  For a smaller event, simply calling one of their customers may be all that's required.
  • Ask for a catering proposal.  Once you're satisfied, explain to the caterer what kind of atmosphere you are trying to create and what you have in mind for food type and the number of courses so that they can draft a catering proposal. 
  • Make your booking.  Once you're satisfied, book your caterer and sign a contract.  Then take the time to work out each detail together to ensure a seamless event.  Visit the venue together, create a timeline that details the services the caterer will provide from preparation to clean-up.  And don't forget to taste a sample menu to ensure each dish is perfect.

Choosing a caterer that will pull off your party does take some time.  Once you are confident in your choice of provider, you can relax and focus on other aspects of your party.



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