The Thirteen Biggest Mistakes When Planning a Catered Event

The Thirteen Biggest Mistakes When Planning a Catered Event

October 18, 2012

For the very best catered event here are thirteen points of excellent advice from an expert caterer…

(1) Not Sampling The Food Before The Event

taste caterer food firstYou would be surprised how many people call up a caterer and book an event without tasting the food. This is critical.

What happens if the food is not what you expect? You leave yourself open to looking bad in front of all your guests and their family. Believe it or not more people will remember the “cold, tasteless food”, rather than the true meaning of this special event, a day of camaraderie and friendship.
(2) Failing To Have A Budget And “Goal” In Mind

You know the importance of setting goals. Goals are a focal point to rally your family around. The vision of attaining these goals is what keeps everyone motivated and on course. A catered event is no different.

You should have a vision of the end result. Do you picture a black tie formal event, or would you prefer guests casually enjoying a traditional New England clambake with all the fun?

The second part of the equation is your budget. Knowing in advance how much money you have to spend will save you time in exploring options. There is nothing more frustrating than having a specific meal in mind without the budget to see it through.

(3) Basing Your Decision Just On Price

The old saying, “you get what you pay for” rings truer today than ever. Competition is such that one caterer cannot afford to over-price their service. Most caterers should be within 5% – 10% of each other for similar menus and levels of service. You’ll find someone offering a rock bottom price is cutting corners somewhere.

You need to make sure and compare apples to apples. Is clean up included in the price? Is the food cooked fresh or re-heated? What about portion size? What is the quality of the serving ware and utensils if they are providing them? Is desert and beverages included in the price? What is the gratuity % or service charge? What happens if the caterer runs out of food? Ask for a guarantee.

The list goes on and on. You see all caterers are not created equally. You owe it to yourself to make sure you know what you are paying for. This will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises.

(4) Choosing One Entrée Instead Of Two

Most group meals consist of a number of guests that have special diet and/or desires. Years ago you could order one entrée and be sure everyone was happy. Today, you need to consider adding a second entrée. Perhaps a chicken dish added would accommodate all.

Not every event requires two entrees, but it is advisable to find out on the front end. A professional caterer should have options available to please everyone without breaking your budget.

(5) Forgetting To Explore All Possible “Options”

The price of two cars with different options can vary as much as $5000. Caterings are no different in the fact options can add to the price tag. The opposite can also ring true. If you are willing to forgo certain items or extras, you might be able to negotiate a lower price. Make sure you ask about the “base model” catering if you are on a tight budget. Most caterers will work with you.

If you have a larger budget, be sure to ask about the extras. You might have enough to add the full service, hors d’oeuvres, chocolate fountain or liquor service.

big apple catering service(6) Failing To Find Out What “Service” Is Included

As mentioned earlier, you get what you pay for. This includes service. Find out exactly what the caterer does as part of his service.

Will they stay till the end and clean the entire area or just through the meal? Who is responsible for the trash? Does the caterer plan on setting up and serving the meal, or will the guest serve themselves?

You need to be aware of what you are getting for your money. This allows you to receive the service you expect and prevents any unexpected surprises for you before, during or after your event.

(7) Thinking The Caterer Won’t Run Out Of Food

Have you even been to a party and they run out of food. How did it make the host look? Running out of food is the biggest catastrophe for an event. Make sure your caterer provides you a written guarantee they won’t run out of food for the number of people you agree on.

(8) Not Having A Plan For Extra Guests That May Show Up

As good a job as you will do in taking reservations and estimating the number of guest, there will always be some people show up unexpectedly. Usually, a caterer will require you pay for the exact number of guest you guarantee. If fewer guests show, you’re stuck paying for food you didn’t use. If extra guests join in, you are more than likely going to run out of food.

Some caterers use a “flexible guarantee”. You give the caterer a guaranteed number of guests, and the caterer guarantees there will be enough food to feed an extra 10%. If extra people show, you pay for them. If they don’t you’re not on the line for uneaten meals.

If you are afraid fewer guests will show up than expected, you can guarantee a lower number. The 10% leeway will protect you in the event you guessed wrong. Again, that advantage to this is that you minimize your investment in meals that go uneaten.

Make sure you insist on this kind of guarantee. There are many reputable caterers that offer the “flexible guarantee”.

(9) Not asking if the caterer has a license or if they are insured.

This is a crucial question that many brides forget to go over. If something were to go wrong at the venue that was caused by the caterer, would you want to be the one left with the bill. Ask to see Insurance and City Health Certificates.

(10) Not asking if the caterer will feed the photographer and the musicians.

Make sure you let the caterer know how many people you would like the caterer to feed. If they have left over food, they will be happy to let the musicians or photographer eat for free. Just do not assume that they will do it for free unless you have counted them into your guest count.

(11) What is the guaranteed requirement for number of guests and the date for the final count?

Most caterers require a final count two weeks before the function. Make sure you let the caterer know as soon as possible for extra guests.

(12) Not asking if there is a fee for serving the Wedding Cake.

If you expect the caterer to serve your wedding cake, make sure you ask before the wedding and not springing it on the wedding day.

(13) Not getting a contract.

If you do not have a contract there is nothing binding the caterer to perform the job to your specifications. The contract should include the price, date, venue, menu and time of estimated arrival. The caterer will also ask for a deposit, usually 50 % of estimated costs. The rest of the bill is paid on the date of the wedding or the day before.

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