BBB Tips for Holiday Party Planning

October 01, 2013

It’s not too soon to be thinking about the holidays – especially if you’ll be hosting a festive party or sit-down dinner and want to enlist the services of a caterer or hold your soiree at a restaurant. Caterers and restaurants will tell you choice dates fill quickly.

Another advantage to planning for your holiday party now is that you can afford to be choosy about who you hire. BBB advises:

  • Interview two or more caterers to ensure they can provide the type of menu – buffet, sit-down dinner, passed hors d’oeuvres – you have in mind and in your price range.

  • Ask for references and call them. Inquire about the caterer’s food, personality, professional skills and ability to handle the unexpected.

  • Check for membership in trade organizations such as the National Association of Catering Executives ( Also check BBB Business Reviews at to see customer reviews and if there is a pattern of complaints.

  • Request a tasting before finalizing your menu. If you don’t like what you taste, ask about alterations to the recipe or even alternative selections. Ask about presentation of the food and portion sizes. Ask to see photos of table displays.

  • Ask if the caterer provides dishes, glasses, flatware and linens. Who will work at the event? Is staffing included in the cost of the food or is it an additional charge?

  • Request a detailed breakdown of food, beverages, rentals, decoration, service fees and other expenses. Is the gratuity included in the total price, or is it expected as a fee to you above and beyond? Make sure to cover how drinks – alcoholic and nonalcoholic – will be served.

  • Insist on a written contract to ensure both parties understand what is expected. Make sure it specifies time, date and place as well as the date up to which you can add or delete guests from the contract.

Make sure you understand the payment schedule and cancellation terms. A standard deposit is 50 percent upon signing with the balance due at a later date.

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