Tips for Hiring a Caterer This Season

The food makes the party. Start here to find your perfect caterer.

We all remember parties that were lavishly thrown, including decorations and entertainment, but the food wasn't up to par. Those events left guests with a bad taste in their mouths, literally (har har). 

You can decide whether to cook your own food or hire a caterer. As we all know, the holiday season is a busy one. If you have time to cook your own food, then more power to you. But, most hosts throwing an important party opt to hiring a caterer.

An easy way out? Sometimes not, if you don't get the right caterer. Here are some tips to help you choose the right caterer for your home or office event.

  • Ask friends and family & check reviews. Also, if you happen to attend an event where the food impresses you, always get the caterer's name and number.
  • Set your event date. Call early enough, especially for the holidays, to check the availability of your caterer of choice.
  • Drop-in on prospective cateters. See if you can attend an event they are catering and judge their performance for yourself.
  • Always ask for references and credentials, including length of experience.
  • Narrow your choices to three. Then call each to discuss your budget, head count and event confirmation date. Have them provide a sample menu that fits within your budget.
  • Ask about guaranteed minimums. Don't forget to ask each potential caterer about their policies regarding guaranteed minimums, services they will provide for you, specific hours for the event and any extra costs besides food and beverages, such as utensils, linens, etc.
  • Always ask where the food is being prepared. Only a health inspected kitchen is legal. Also, ask if you can see the kitchen. No use in having your guests all leave with food poisoning.
  • Are they "ServSafe?" Always ask each caterer if they are insured. Find out whether the caterer is "ServSafe" certified or if they carry a food manager's certificate for sanitation purposes. Ask to see their occupational license, certification and insurance documents.
  • Meet with your caterer. Plan a meeting to work out all the details of your event, including menu and beverages, and possibly facility, centerpieces, decorations and favors.
  • Confirm your contract details. Just so you won't get any last minute surprises, always confirm the details regarding the number of wait staff, their dress code, taxes, gratuities and payment schedule. Always follow up the week before your event and again the day before.

Keep in mind the above list and remember to never be afraid to ask questions. It's your money you're spending and you have every right to know where it's going.

Always trust your instincts. If you don't feel comfortable with a particular caterer, chances are, you won't have a good working relationship with him or her, no matter how good the references were.

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