If you are about to put together an event, you will have realized without even taking the first step that there are a lot of decisions to be made and details to be sorted out. Depending on what kind of event you will be hosting, you will need everything from a caterer, decorator, furniture rental, florist, music provider, event coordinator…the list goes on. Having a party is an all-consuming task. However, by making the first step right the rest of the event can fall into place gracefully. And that is picking the right caterer. Pick a caterer that not only brings great food to your table, but also vast experience in, and a network of service providers from the event management world. Your caterer will then be able to help you throughout your event planning process and ensure it ends in a soiree that is nothing short of a resounding success.
First, figure out what you kind of event you would like and what your needs are. Is it a large event, medium-sized, or small but elegant affair? Is it corporate, where you would like the ambience and food to be sophisticated, or it a family and friends affair where you can let yourself go and add some fun unique elements such as a creative menu, décor or a theme that adds flair. In each case you need to ensure your caterer has the right kind of experience before you select one. Finally, and equally importantly, to ensure that the event is not only well-catered but well-managed make sure to pick a caterer who provides event coordination services as well and is willing to support you throughout the planning process.
The best way to eke out a shortlist of the best names in the business is to get personal recommendations, from friends and associates. Ask around to see who has used caterers for their own events and whether they would recommend them. This way you will also make sure to find out if, in addition to a reputations, a caterer is also flexible in his attitude to work. After all, if it is your event you may want to hand over creative control to the service professional, but the event and catering will eventually have to conform to your own vision and not anybody else’s. In choosing a caterer, choose someone who you believe will be easy to work with, creative in his or her ideas, and meticulous in their execution. The quality of food will greatly impact the success of your event.
You will also want to ensure that the caterer you take on is willing to provide the additional services you might need, such as coordination with the various other service providers and overseeing the eventual execution of the event. This is especially important if you are not hiring an independent event planner to oversee the execution of the event, because you do not want to be stuck supervising the event while it is in duration, instead of socializing and enjoying yourself.
After you shortlist a few caterers based on research and friends’ recommendations, then you are ready to meet a few and gauge for yourselves who will work best for you. The caterer interview is an important part in choosing a caterer and is a chance for you to gauge the level of enthusiasm and creativity that a caterer brings to the table. Look for signs of passion in the caterer. Have they been in the business a long time? If they have it is probably something they love to do. Are they generous with their advice and recommendations of other service providers or suitable venues? If they are then they care about the success of your event more than giving out free information and losing out on money. If they listen carefully to what you need and are invested in understanding your vision, while coming up with creative ways to make sure you get the event of your dreams, then they are the caterer for you. Sometimes, it is just a matter of chemistry. A caterer may come highly recommended and seem very professional, but if you are not a hundred percent comfortable or confident with them the event will not be a pleasant experience. When you walk out of your last interview you should know who the caterer for you is, the one that puts a spring in your step and makes you feel like the event you’re planning is going to be a delicious breeze.
Usually after you have decided on a caterer and booked them is when you will get the full treatment, i.e. a tasting. To offer a tasting before a booking is usually too much of an expense for a caterer, unless that is something you are willing to pay for. A tasting session is not a free meal for you and your extended friends and family, it is an opportunity for you to sample the dishes and figure out the perfect menu for your event. Before setting up a tasting you should already have planned what courses you want to provide, starting with the hors d’oeuvres to the sit-down course, or the buffet if that’s what you would like to offer. You should also outline the array of beverages you want offered at the event, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
You should also know by the time you decide on the menu how many guests you are expecting to attend. Make sure when you order food you err on the side of more rather than less. The meal is the highlight of an event, and running out of food will cause the event to fail. Talk to the caterer about how much food will be required, and trust that with his experience he will have a good idea of how much is right. Remember that the caterer also does not want the event to fail, as his own reputation depends upon your event being successful. It is also an opportunity for him to bring his business to a new crowd of people, and thus the event’s success now rests upon his shoulders as much as yours. So once you have decided on a capable caterer, you can be rest assured that your workload is now lighter and your chance of success is much greater.