Guidelines for Working with Your Caterer
Your caterer can play an important role in helping you plan your event. Caterers’ services range from supplying the food and serving personnel to completely planning your entire event. Some caterers are full-scale event planners. Whomever you choose, it is important to find a caterer whose professionalism and opinion you can depend on.
Most caterers are knowledgeable about the different locations available in your area. Some caterers are off-premise, meaning they bring their equipment and food to your facility, while others cater out of their own facility. It is your decision whether you use the caterers’ facility or not. Off-premise caterers’ have their own equipment which enables you to choose from a larger selection of sites. Choose a caterer who has enough experience to handle the unexpected, especially if the site is not equipped with a standard kitchen.
It is helpful to have the caterer review the site with you. The type of food, how it will be serviced, the number of serving personnel and other details pertaining to food will depend a lot on the facility.
It is important to have a good rapport with your caterer. Be direct and realistic with him/her about your budget so that the caterer can do the best possible job for you. Give the caterer the purpose for your event, whom are the guests and what is the image you want to project.
When interviewing for a caterer, view their portfolio. Ask for and check references. Be sure the caterer has a state license as well as liability insurance. This can save you time and emotional stress.
Caterers offer many different types of food. Ask about your caterer’s specialty items, and then decide what type of menu will suit your event. Specialized ethnic food could be an added attraction to the food display. Caterers can subcontract other food caterers for specialized types of food, thereby adding a variety to your menu.
Check the facility’s alcohol restrictions. Consider a host or no-host bar. Know which name brands are available. Ask if the bar includes mixes, cocktail napkins and glasses. If serving alcohol, make sure the caterer has on-premise and off-premise alcohol beverage permits, as well as liquor liability insurance. Review the caterer’s alcohol management program. Has their staff been trained to handle guests who are obviously inebriated?
There are bartender catering services that handle all of the alcoholic requirements. This is their primary business and should have all the supplies, alcohol, insurance, and staff. They do not provide the food.
Your caterer should know the limitations and restrictions of your facility, such as time(s) for setup, hour limitations and kitchen availability. Give your caterer a schedule of the event so he/she can determine how long service personnel will be needed form setup to cleanup. Inquire if there are extra costs for personnel, including bartenders. Carefully coordinate all catering deliveries and access to the loading entrance with your vendors.
Catering costs usually encompass four different categories-food, beverage, equipment and staff. Your menu, depending upon your budget, the facility and type of setup, can include cocktails and hors D’oeuvres, buffet stations or a formal sit-down dinner, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and a dessert.
Payment procedures will vary among caterers’, however, a sizeable down payment is usually required with the balance due the day of the event. Asking for a total of all costs beforehand- fees, gratuities, extra charges, taxes, overtime, payment schedules and cancellation policy- will help you avoid last minute surprises.
Get everything in writing and sign contracts several months before your event. The catering staff should go over everything with you, item by item, to make sure that your event will be everything you have imagined…whether simple or extravagant!
Recommended staff to guests:
Sit-down meal: 1 server per 20 guests
Buffet: 1 server per 40 guests
Sit-down or buffet: 1 captain per 100 guests
Cocktail party: 1 or 2 bartenders per 100 guests and whether or not the guests arrive all at once or staggered
Beverage Quantity Servings
Coffee 1 Gallon 60 cups
Punch 1 Gallon 24 people
Champagne 1 Bottle 6 Flute Glasses
Champagne 1 Case 72 drinks/45-50 people
Liquor 1 Quart 25-30 drinks
Wine 1-1/2 Liter 8-6 oz. glasses