Catering is one of the major elements of any event. Whether it is a wedding, birthday party, conference or gala dinner, refreshments need to be served in one form or another. Often, the food can make or break the success and memorable quality of the function more than many of the other elements that are perceived as being so important. It is of utmost importance that you hire a professional caterer for your function. Do not use someone that is new in the industry, or that only has experience in social, casual catering, particularly not for your corporate events or weddings.
It is imperative that the food does not detract from the occasion and it is absolutely vital that your guests are not made to feel less important to you because of cheap, cold or badly presented food.
Ensure that you and your caterer have clear communication channels. They should understand exactly what it is you need from them and you should have a good idea of what to expect. To achieve this, a trial meal may be necessary. If this cannot be arranged, ask for a list of contactable references as well as a portfolio that includes photographs of their meals. The presentation is very important, and needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Do not be afraid to call the contacts and get feedback and formal references from them.
There are many different styles of catering, ranging from buffets and wandering snacks to plated meals. Choosing what style you prefer will depend on your budget, the style of the event and the calibre of your guests.
It is vitally importance that your Kosher and Halaal guests are satisfied with their meal and that allergies be accommodated. For this reason, it is imperative that you give each guest an opportunity to state his or her dietary requirements when they RSVP. Once you have confirmed the numbers, let your caterer know how many of each meal is required. It is wise to have one or two extra of each, just in case.
Be aware of the programme and agenda for the day, so that your meal choice is appropriate. Timing is very important and your caterer needs to know exactly what has to be served when to ensure that everybody is able to eat together, enjoy hot food and not miss out on any presentations. This can be tricky to organise, underlining the importance of hiring professionals.
Some of the questions you should be asking your potential caterers include:
- Do you supply alcoholic and / or non-alcoholic refreshments?
- Does your fee include waiters, bar and kitchen staff?
- What else is included in your total fee? Does it include VAT (Value Added Tax)?
- What is your cancellation policy? Understand this completely before agreeing to the terms and conditions.
- How far ahead do I need to cancel individual place setting(s) with you without being charged?
- Do you cater for vegetarians, vegans and those with allergies and special requirements? If the event dictates, you may need to organise children’s meals too.
- Do I need to hire crockery, cutlery and glassware from an external provider or is it included in your fee?
- Where do you source your ingredients and can you guarantee freshness?
- What is the policy on broken goods? Am I required to pay for these?
- Does the service staff provide Silver Service or only less formal service? Obviously, the level of service you require depends very much on the sort of function you are planning.
- Are you catering for any other events on the same day as ours? If so, how do you plan to manage both?
- Have you worked at our venue before?
- Are the service staff paid a standard rate or are we expected to tip them?
- Do I have to pay a deposit?
- When do I have to submit the total payment for your catering services?