A caterer can be your best friend or worst enemy when you host an event. Follow these steps to make the caterer really work for you.
Time Required: 5 hours
- Begin by asking friends and associates for the names of caterers they would recommend. If you attend a function where the catering impresses you, get the caterer's name and number.
- When you are ready to plan an event, call your list of caterers and check availability for date of your event.
- Ask each prospective caterer if there's an upcoming event you can visit to see the kind of work they do. Visit any available events.
- Ask each caterer for their credentials including length of experience.
- Ask for a list of references. Call references to gauge satisfaction with caterer's work.
- Once you've narrowed down your choices to three, call each one to discuss preliminary budget and confirm availability for date of your event.
- Give each caterer your estimated head count and budget. Have them provide a sample menu for your budget.
- Ask each potential caterer their policies regarding guaranteed minimums, services they will provide for you, specific hours for the event and any extra costs besides food and beverages (such as table linens).
- Inquire where they are cooking the food (only a health inspected kitchen is legal) and if you can see the kitchen.
- Ask each caterer if they are insured. Find out whether the caterer is "servsafe" certified or if they carry a food manager's certificate for sanitation purposes. Ask to see their occupational license, certification and insurance docutments.
- Once you've selected a caterer, plan a meeting to work out all the details of your event that they will handle including menu and beverages, and possibly facility, centerpieces, decorations and favors.
- Confirm the details regarding number of wait staff, their dress code, taxes, gratuities and payment schedule.
- Have all agreed upon details put into a contract.
- Follow-up with caterer the week before your event.
- Contact the caterer the day before your event to check on all the details and avoid any unpleasant, last minute surprises.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. You have every right to know exactly what will be provided for your money.
- Trust your instincts. If you don't feel comfortable with that caterer, you won't have a good working relationship with him or her, no matter how good his references were.