Plan Now for the Perfect Holiday Party

October 04, 2012
Although holiday party season is several weeks away, those who like to host successful events are now in the planning stages. And for some party-givers, that means leaving the details to the professionals, whether they’re throwing parties at favorite restaurants or events catered at homes or offices. 

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to reserve your caterer and venue. Keep in mind that there are two types of caterers: Those who work solely for specific venues, such as hotels and country clubs, and those who bring food into your event location wherever it may be.

To choose a caterer, 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 ( And check their BBB Business Reviews at
  • • 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, specific date.