We tend to think that planning a party is simple: select a venue, work with your caterer, invite your guests and enjoy. But we are also on the inside of the industry and encounter event choices everyday. We’ve delved into venue selection many times before, but if you are choosing a venue that offers you a choice of caterer, there are also some tips to the trade of choosing a caterer that can either bring you stress or stomp it out.
Once you have the date and venue, think about the basic parameters of your event so that the caterer can give you their best options:
- Your Budget. Don’t begin calling or planning until you know your budget. Without this, the options are limitless and you will be wasting a lot of your time. Be upfront and know your budget before you begin planning your event, it drives the entire planning process.
- Timing of the Day. Timing is critical as it impacts food and food quality. For example, an event from 3:00-5:00pm will demand a different menu than an event from 5:00-8:00pm. Additionally, if your event features other elements like speakers, presentations, performances or networking time, your food service will be adjusted to accommodate those parameters.
- Head Count. This could be a possible number one to consider, but having a sense of your guest count directly correlates to your budget. Without a guest count, you’ll have a difficult time getting estimated costs.
- Your Vision. What type of party are you throwing? A one hour cocktail party, a four hour event with hors d’oeuvres and dinner, food stations at an open house? Explain to your caterer the type of party you want. Review the caterer’s menu online, discuss your ideal menu and give as much detail as possible. This will help you achieve your ideal menu within budget much quicker.
Dive into the Details
After you have the basics worked out, you can talk to your caterer in more detail about the event, a great caterer will be able to walk you through the process step by step and help you make decisions about the event.
- Schedule a Walk Thru of the Site: This isn’t true for every event, but some events in unique spaces will require a walk thru to determine the best possible setup, catering needs, and overall service expectations. Before getting too deep into the planning, let your caterer get a good feel for the space. The layout of any space may impact the final menu. For example, the room you are hosting in may not be able to accommodate your guest count, tables, food stations and bars that you want to include.
- Big Return on Investment: Small touches can add a fun flair to any party. Upgraded linen, chair covers, votive candles, centerpieces and good music can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Allocation some resources to aesthetic makes people take notice. Many times your catering company will be able to source and provide much of what you are interested in. At the very least, they will have a list of preferred vendors that can assist you.
Hire a caterer you know and trust. As with any project, big or small, the success of the venture is always based on the relationship with the vendor. Clear wants and needs are key. A company cannot work in your favor if they don’t know what you expect. Make sure your catering company comes recommended by someone you know or do your due diligence and ask for references if you did your research online. The best way to know if someone is a good match? Pick up the phone and interview the company! Just like any relationship, communication is key and you need to plan your event with a reputable company that understands your needs. Feeling comfortable and confident that you are working with an established company that can deliver on their promise to you will be one of the biggest stress reliever you can face. Choose a company that is not new to the industry and has a proven track record in your city.