you are celebrating a special event with an extravagant gala or hosting
business associates or clients at an informal luncheon, the difficult task of
preparing for an event can be made easier with the assistance of a reliable and
qualified professional caterer. The caterer is one of the pillars of a party's
success. The taste and presentation of the food and the service provided will
be remembered for a long time.
Out The Company
There are two types of caterers to choose from: on-site
caterers or off-site caterers. On-site caterers are usually exclusive to a
facility like hotels and country clubs. Most of these sites will not allow
off-site catering. Off-site caterers bring the food into your event location.
Some of these caterers can be limited to providing the food and some can
coordinate the whole event.
- Before you interview caterers in
person, spend a few minutes with one or two on the phone. Many caterers
have pre-printed sample party menus that give you an idea of their style
and price range.
- Pick two or three favorites and make
appointments to see them in person. With each interview, get the name of a
past customer. You can contact that person to ask about the caterer's
food, personality, professional skills, and ability to handle the
- Check for membership in trade
organizations such as the National
Association of Catering Executives. Companies who participate in these
organizations are more likely to keep up-to-date on new regulations and
the latest trends.
- Good caterers will let you sample
foods to help you decide on your menu. If you don't like what you taste,
tell them. They may be willing to change the recipe.
- You should also ask to see photos of
food they've served at previous engagements to check presentation.
- You may also want to ask about
portion size; you do not want to be unpleasantly surprised by small
Conditions and Agreements
- Discuss the terms of payment with
your caterer. Typically your payments will be structured the following
way: 1/3 to 1/2 down with the remaining balance due on the day of the
event. (Remember: the down payment is generally non-refundable).
- You should also review the company's
cancellation and refund policies before paying any money. Make sure that
you understand the deposit and refund agreements, and get a receipt for
all monies paid and services performed.
- To ensure that all services and
products you need are included, insist on an itemized bill. It is the best
way to verify that nothing has been overlooked. Be certain that this list
includes taxes, gratuity, any decorations, all rented equipment, and even plasticware and napkins.
- All written agreements should be
signed by each party involved and include specific dates, products, and
name brands. Your agreement should also itemize the number of staff
involved, charges for overtime, and the starting and ending time of the
event. If you reach any verbal agreements with the catering company, be
sure they are included in the written agreement.
- After signing the agreement and
making initial plans, keep in touch with your caterer throughout the
planning stages of your event. Any changes in your plans need to be given
to your caterer as soon as possible; particularly a change in the number
There are two things that an informed consumer must check before choosing a
caterer: the presence of a license and of insurance. The use of an unlicensed
or underinsured caterer can cause you to be liable for damages if a guest is
injured at your event.
- In New York State
a catering establishment is required to be licensed by the County Health
Department in which the establishment is located.
- A licensed caterer's facilities are
subject to inspection by local health authorities at any time. These
caterers have a strict set of regulations that govern them, and to which
they must adhere if they want to continue doing business.
- An unlicensed caterer on the other
hand, is not subject to health inspections and does not have to follow
health department regulations.
- You can check if a particular
catering establishment is operating under an up-to-date license by calling
your local County
that you are buying three things when you book a caterer:
- Food: This means all ingredients
along with the purchase, transportation, and preparation of the meal.
- Equipment: This includes plates,
glassware, flatware, linens, serving pieces, tables, and chairs. Most
caterers will tell you before you purchase a bite of food that you to pay
a minimum cost for equipment, depending on how elaborate you want things.
Others will include equipment charges in the overall cost. Most caterers
provide everything while some do not. If the caterer does not provide any
equipment the establishment where the event is taking place can often
supply what the caterer cannot.
- Service: This is the cost for wait
staff, kitchen help, and other servers. Good service has a big effect on
the pace and atmosphere of the event. Check to see how many servers, busers, and bartenders will be provided then make sure
the same number show up. Ideally, your caterer should be present, but if
they can not be there get the name of the person who will be in charge on
the day of the event. If possible, work with this person (or at least meet
him or her) during the planning stages so that you will have a good
working relationship when the big day arrives.
This report is
general in nature and not intended as a reliability report on any company, service