Hiring a caterer is a complicated process with a lot at stake. Making the right choice can result in a wonderful, entertaining experience, allowing you to mingle with your guests, avoid major cleanup, and keep your stress levels low. Making the wrong choice can be stressful, expensive, and event-ruining.
Many people will only hire a catering company once or twice in their lives. Most google ‘caterer near me,’ click on one of the first ads that comes up, and go from there. Some of these people will have lovely experiences. Many of them will not.
Catering is an intensive undertaking, and the fact that a business is advertising under that heading is by no means evidence that they can help you make your special event go off without a hitch. A googled list of ‘caterers near me’ is a great starting point, but there are many more factors to consider before you make your decision.
So, how do you go about making this hiring decision? How do you tell good from bad? What should you look out for? What red flags should send you running in the opposite direction? Read on to make sure your celebration doesn’t become a pity party.
Where Do I Start?
Start where you like to eat! Many single-location and small chain restaurants have the capacity to cater, but do not always advertise that aspect of their business. Make a list of restaurants, bakeries, and cafes whose food you enjoy. Contact their proprietors and make the request!
Most establishments will have a catering menu. This will let you know how many people you should expect to feed with each dish and how much each one will cost. It will likely be a limited version of the menu, so plan accordingly.
Be sure to ask about presentation. Most establishments cater buffet style meals. This means that they will arrive with large dishes of food and guests will be expected to serve themselves. This is great for a casual get together, but if your goal is a formal dinner, you will want to discuss the possibility of hiring one or two of their waitstaff as well.
Establishments which do not regularly cater events or who don’t have much experience.
Catering is an intricate and specialized service. It is very similar to running a restaurant, but it is not exactly the same thing; being good at one does not necessarily mean an establishment is good at the other. If the establishment you’re considering “doesn’t usually cater,” says that they can cater “this time,” or they’ll do it “just for you,” cross them off your list. This is your special event, let them practice somewhere else!
Anyone offering to do for you something which they have never done before.
Industrial kitchens are a thing of beauty. They are a fully-stocked realm of possibility where anything is possible. Most catering situations involve bunsen burners and disposable aluminum pans. Likewise, preparing individual dinners is very different from cooking for a crowd. Beware anyone who promises they can recreate their signature dish en-masse without the commensurate experience and know-how.
Ready to Get Started?
Great! The most important thing you can do is ask questions. We are in the business because we love food, parties, and people! Your vendor should be thrilled by your questions, and willing to nail down even the smallest details.
Picking a provider may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be! At Waterfront Gourmet, we aim to create delicious, fresh food for all types of events. Whether it’s an office party, a birthday party, or any other type of event, Waterfront Gourmet can help you create an appetizing variety of gourmet deli-style foods that won’t disappoint. Check out our menu to see what we have to offer or give us a call and let us know what you’re looking for. Like what you see? Let us cater your next event!