Choosing a Catering Company in 11 Easy Steps
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Published by TOP4 Team
Hiring a caterer that can win your confidence seems like a daunting and overwhelming task, but once you’ve selected a reliable provider, you can relax and focus on other aspects of the event. Follow these steps to select the best catering company for your needs.
1. Define the type of event you want to host and the type of service you need.
Is it a private party, corporate event, office party, wedding or special event? Formal or informal? Fun or sophisticated? You also have to know more about your guest list. How many people are expected? What's the relationship between them? Are children invited? Do some people have dietary or religious requirements? This includes halal, kosher, vegetarian, vegan and food allergy requests.
You also have to decide between a sit-down or finger foods event. Finger foods and buffets allow people to mingle and are increasingly used as the primary source of food, such as for cocktail parties. If you opt for a more formal sit-down events, you have to know how many courses will be served.
You can also choose a theme or a certain cuisine style (Middle Eastern, Italian, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese…). This will simplify things when it comes to choosing a caterer, but make sure that it will please all guests. You also may want a hands-on caterer who can create an entire theme for your event.
2. Set a realistic budget.
It’s important to have a general idea of how much you want to spend per person on your event.
3. Select a date and location.
Avoid obvious date conflicts and make sure there's kitchen equipment at the venue. Keep in mind that many venues provide catering. You can choose the venue later and ask your caterer for advice.
4. Identify five or six potential caterers.
Any more than that will make the process confusing and overwhelming. Ask some questions over the phone, such as their availability on the day of your event and whether they have a menu that meets your budget. Tell them what kind of atmosphere you want to create and what type of food you have in mind. You have to eliminate caterers who simply don't offer what you want within your budget and narrow your choice to a list of 2 or 3 qualified caterers.
5. Meet the qualified caterers face-to-face.
The best way to determine which caterer will best match your needs is to interview the companies you've selected. Make sure that the caterers reserve you their full attention (don’t meet them while they're catering another event), are excited about your event and offer alternative suggestions and ideas. The discussion must include the following questions:
• Do they have recommendations for the menu based on similar events they've worked on?
• Have they catered for this type of event before?
• Can they meet your special requests or the diet restrictions of your guests?
• What's included in the service?
• Do they provide bar service?
• Does the price include staff?
6. Ask for a quote.
After this meeting, the caterer will draft a catering proposal, which is a menu suggestion detailing the breakdown of anticipated expenses for food, beverages, itemised rental charges, staffing requirements and any additional costs/taxes. It will allow you to compare the prices of the catering companies which are still in the list.
7. Check out their history and reputation.
Here are some ways to make sure that they are perfect for the job:
• Ask for referrals. Call the previous clients and ask them if they were satisfied and what they would have done better.
• Look at photos of previous work and make sure that the food is well displayed.
• Get resumes of the chefs.
• Ask to visit an upcoming event they're catering.
• Find out if they are members of an industry association such as the Restaurant and Catering Association of Australia or the Catering Institute of Australia.
• Check with consumer affairs in your state that no complaints have been filed against the catering company.
8. Schedule a sample tasting.
Once the caterer has been selected and the menu settled on, this is pretty basic for caterers to schedule a sample tasting. It's the right time to finalise the menu and ensure that you're fully satisfied with it.
9. Make the caterer visit your premises or venue.
The catering company should analyse the space of your premises so that they can plan the optimal layout for your event: where guest tables and the bar will be set up, how the food would be displayed, etc. If they use the kitchen of the venue, they must also understand the kitchen setup.
10. Create an event timeline.
This timeline must detail the schedule the caterer will follow from preparation to clean-up. That will make sure your event runs smoothly. This schedule will include set-up times (caterer, florist, band, decorations…), staff arrival time, bar open time, course by course service times, entertainment schedule, breaks and speeches, rental pickup, etc.
11. Draw a contract and know your cancellation clauses.
Generally, catering companies offer a standard contract. You can make some changes to ensure that you're accommodated and protected. The contract must include:
• The location (exact name, date, time and duration of your event)
• The number of attendees, price per guest and overall price
• The number of staff and their dress code
• The services included in the price
• Details such as when the food will be served and how long the bar will be open
• Financial details such as deposit amount and evidence of insurance
• Cancellation clauses: what happens if they cancel on you or if you cancel?
Consider hiring the top catering companies in Australia today.