When it comes to things that can make or break an event, few are as important as the quality, flavor and appearance of the food and beverages being served. A lot is riding on the decision of which caterer is the best caterer for your event, and if you think this decision isn’t that important, consider this: Food and beverage are the number one aspect of any event that many guests recall long after the event is over. Amazing catering can rescue an event that is on the rocks, but bad catering can put an unremoveable black mark on the occasion.
Catering is often the number one or two line-item cost for most events, the caterer chosen is also a significant budgetary decision and can influence how the budget is allocated to other areas. Add in the fact that catering prices can greatly vary, along with the types of meals and services offered, as well as included, the process of selecting a caterer can figuratively and literally feel like you are comparing apples to oranges.
1 – Responsiveness and Personal Interest in Your Needs
Anyone can claim they have the best tasting food made with the best ingredients, a great caterer will show concern for meeting the customers’ needs and ensuring they are pleased with both the food, beverage and service.
2 – Ability to Handle Your Specific Type of Event
Not every caterer is perfect for every type of event and many caterers openly admit this. That is truthfully a good thing for anyone shopping around for catering service. Some caterer excel with barbecues that are great for company picnics, others shine with the elegance of black-tie galas. Always select a caterer that has worked and can work for a specific function.
3 – Flexible Menu Options
No one wants to be pigeon holed into a choice of two preset menus or limited options. Many times it is these caterers that are ridged and cannot adapt their menu to the event – and if they do it is with an extraordinary cost. However, there are also caterers that have a very large menu with ample variety and dietary choices. Most often these are the caterers who already have a plethora of fare on their menus to match several themes and needs.
4 – Familiarity with the Venue
Some caterers are simply not equipped to cater in venues they aren’t accustomed to such as a barn or a parking garage (we have done parking garages and airplane hangars!). It will always be beneficial to select a caterer that has worked at your venue or in an event setting similar to yours before. Every venue will have its own set of rules and policies and hiring a caterer that is already familiar with them will make things go much smoother all the way around. Not to mention, logistically the event will be more scheduled from setup to tear down because the caterer already knows the ins and outs of load in and load out.
5 – References You Can Talk To
Scour the internet for online reviews, however keep in mind that online reviews don’t always do a great caterer justice. Some websites, like The Knot, make leaving a review for a business more difficult and its possible the business will have less recent or less reviews overall. However, don’t let that stop you from making contact with the company. A great caterer would be happy to put you in contact with former clients so you can talk about their experience. Of course the caterer will need to check with previous clients if they are comfortable being contacted.
6 – Insurance
Any reputable catering company is going to have liability insurance, and if they do not, that is definitely a red flag. This type of insurance protects them and keeps the client from having to deal with any recourse if something were to happen and they weren’t properly insured.
7 – An Experienced Chef and Culinary Team
Surprisingly, how long a catering company has been in business may not be as critical in selecting a great caterer as you may think. The executive chef’s background and experience is most important. It’s the chefs, sous chefs, and culinary team that are responsible for a positive meal experience. The service may be fantastic, but if the meal is less than stellar it is possible for guests to go home hungry or completely unsatisfied.