Poor catering can turn an otherwise delightful event into a mediocre experience. After all, food and drink bring us together and though we may not realize it, help make an event memorable.
The catering industry is huge. From full-scale kitchens to DIY caterers working from, there’s something out there for every type of occasion.
If you’re about to play host to an important event, you want to find a local catering service that can accommodate your needs and provide a quality product and experience. Your goal is to avoid anyone leaving with a bad taste in their mouth.
You may be asking yourself where to start. What details should you consider before hiring a caterer?
Today, we’re discussing five tips that will help you lock down the best catering service for your next event.
Let’s dig in.
1. Locating a Few Candidates
The first thing you’ll need to do is narrow down your options to two or three caterers in your area. It’s best to only consider services relatively close to where the event is being held. No more than 25 or 30 miles away is a good rule of thumb.
If this is your first time hiring local catering, one tactic is to seek out recommendations. Getting a referral from someone you know and trust gives you peace of mind that the service is top-notch. It’s always nice to hear a vote of confidence for a company.
You should also turn to online reviews to get an idea of the type of experience a company provides. If you see multiple negative reviews, cross that caterer off your list.
You can also ask the venue if they’ve worked with any good caterers. They may have some quality connections they can pass on to you.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three, it’s time to start getting into the specifics of your event.
2. Go Over Your Menu
Once you have a few local catering options, you need to nail down your menu so you can determine which service is best suited to your needs. You probably have a good idea of what you want, but make sure to be as specific as possible.
Once you’ve laid out your menu, go over it with the candidates and determine if the food you want is in their wheelhouse. Ask if they specialize in a certain cuisine or if they can handle anything.
Make sure you talk about any special food options you require, such as vegan plates or gluten-free foods. This avoids the embarrassment of not having something for every guest on the day of the event.
At this point, you can probably narrow down your possible candidates a little more.
3. Have a Taste
Now it’s time for the fun part. You’ll need to sample the cuisine of each local catering service you’re considering. At this point, it should only be between a few caterers.
Some people decide not to ask for samples because they think it’s an inconvenience to the caterer. Remember, you’re not only paying for this, you’re serving this food to a large number of people. Don’t be embarrassed to ask to taste the product.
It’s best to sample things that are on your menu, but it doesn’t hurt to try other foods the caterer specializes in. You may decide after the tasting that you want to add something new to the menu.
Consider the presentation of the food as well as the quality. This is especially important if you’re hosting a formal event like a wedding or anniversary.
You should also ask about things like wine pairings and other beverage options. A good catering service will have recommendations and can give you some guidance.
You may even consider adding things like food hampers to your event. If so, learn more here.
4. Availability and Service
After the tasting, you will have probably decided on the local catering service you want to use. Now it’s time to talk with them about the details of the event to ensure they can handle the job. This is a very important step if you want your event to go over smoothly.
Aside from the date of the event, discuss how long you’ll need their services. Make sure and factor in set-up and clean-up time so you have an accurate estimate. Professional catering services have this down to a science and will help guide you through the process
You then need to establish if your event is to be buffet style or if servers will be needed. You’ll also need to ask about staffing a bar. Make sure the caterer knows exactly how big the event is so they can tell you if you need to make other accommodations.
If a caterer seems unsure or hesitant about the event, it may be out of their league. This is a red flag that you should go with someone else. The last thing you want is a catering service taking the job and then not being able to deliver on the day of the event.
5. Agree to Terms
Once you’ve found a local catering service that’s equipped to do the job, the last step is setting and agreeing to the terms. An experienced caterer will most likely use a simple contract.
Make sure all details get included. This means spelling out the following:
- Type and amount of food
- All beverage requirements
- All servers and bar staff
- Exact dates and times
- Number of attendees
Your agreement may also state whether the caterer provides things like plates, utensils, and glasses. Make sure this is all written out and agreed upon to avoid any confusion on the day of the event.
You’ll then need to discuss total cost and have this written into the contract. Being as detailed as possible is crucial, as you don’t want to end up with unexpected expenses.
Find the Best Local Catering Service
The best way to reduce the stress of hosting a big event is to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. This means hiring experienced and professional services to help make your day memorable.
People remember things like great food and drink, so use the tips above to find the best caterer in your area.