Hiring a Caterer

appetizersCatering is big business with high demand, particularly during seasons that are favorable to parties and weddings. Whether it's a graduation, formal event, or casual celebration, what food you provide and how it's served can easily make or break your party. 

One of the most important decisions you will make when planning your party is who to hire and how to go about it. Feeling overwhelmed? There are several things that you should consider when hiring a caterer for your special occasion.

Reputation

Experience and word of mouth are how reputations are built. Have you attended a wedding reception or party that was well-planned and served delicious food? By all means, start asking questions. Those who have recently been through the process that you are just beginning are a wonderful resource of information. A caterer who comes highly recommended by people you know will gain your trust and give you piece of mind.

It's fine to check out the yellow pages in the phone book but this is where you will need to ask for references and follow through. Set up interviews, review websites, menus, prices, samples, portfolios and pictures. Make appointments early and plan ahead. Popular caterers are booked well in advance. This is one service that needs your attention as soon as you set a date for your party.

Interviews

Do your homework before you begin interviewing caterers. For example, to get a cost estimate, you will need to know approximately how many guests will attend your party, what type of food you wish to serve, and if you will need full-service catering on site. To cut costs, you can simply have the food made for delivery or pick up. Find a caterer that will fit your needs. Some provide full-service, some provide food only, some do both.

Ask for a price sheet with a list of entrees. Find out what the charges are based on. Do you want a full, sit-down meal or have food served buffet style? If you're new at this, many of these questions can be answered as you do your research but be careful. The more assistants you party will require will raise the cost considerably. Keep in mind that experienced caterers are full of knowledge. Don't be reluctant to ask questions. They're there to help you and their expertise will help make your event a success.

Hiring

Before you make a final decision, ask to see a copy of their policies and contract. The contract is not set in stone. You can make changes as long as you both agree. If you wish to serve alcohol at your party, check to see if your venue allows it. Some caterers are licensed and can provide bartenders and the whole nine yards. Get everything in writing and double-check the contract for accuracy. Make deposits with a credit card for your own protection.

Affirmation

As soon as the r.s.v.p.'s are in or you have a final number on the guest list, call the caterer to let them know. This is a good time to confirm plans and make sure that everything's right on track. Plan on doing this! Chances are, you will have new questions pop up after hiring. Unless the matter is urgent and you need to contact them right away, this is a good time to touch base to iron out any minor details.