What your Caterer Wish you Knew

1. Invites do not equal Attendees: Plan ahead that at least 30% of your invited guests will not be able to attend. Many times clients wait until the last minute to invite the people on their maybe list and add the pressure of a fluctuating head count to their own shoulders and that of their caterer. If you are looking for a gathering of 100 invite 130. This will guarantee the most accurate pricing for your event as your food order will be based on the head count.

2. Plan for the Unexpected: Coordinate with your caterer how you will handle guests that may have food allergies, or dietary requirements- ahead of time! The last thing you need at that swank party is your new client running out early to get something to eat… It’s easy to add a line to your invites that says “*Please let us know if you have any specific dietary requirements so we can accommodate your needs.”

3. Make it Easy: Guests are grateful when the experience is easy. It’s easy to figure out what the food is, where to go to get it and what to do with it when they are done. If you are planning a standing room only event where guests mingle, food stations are best- making them bright, easy to see and accessible from 2 sides (front and back or left and right) is great. Also be sure that the food at the station is clearly marked. If you are planning a sit-down affair make sure the servers announce each dish as they present it and that the guests know whether to seat themselves or can clearly read their names on place cards.

4. Going Green is Easy: Many customers think that creating an event that is delicious, and gorgeous is too hard to “green”- Going green does not have to be expensive or difficult and certainly can be just as delicious if not even more decadent! Try easy items like going organic on the fruit tray, featuring a dish made with local ingredients, choosing bamboo dishware, or using edible favors. A quick definition- Organic: Pesticide free, grown without use of synthetic materials

5. To Create an Event that is Memorable; get people Talking: It’s easy to pick the food that you know, or have always seen at events- the brie, the spanikopita, the chicken picatta- but if you really want your event to stand out make it different! Introduce your friends, family and co-workers to new foods that will tantalize their taste buds, or old foods with a unique twist and keep them talking for the rest of the year!

6. Dining as Art: How many times have you heard that you eat with your eyes first? Your caterer (if you pick a good one) is going to go out of their way to make this food taste good to the eyes. Keep this in mind as you are doing menu tasting after tasting, and be sure to notice how everything is presented when you go for a trial run.

7. Quality is in the Ingredients: A good caterer is using high quality ingredients…the true cost of this food grows every day. Keep this in mind as you are getting price quotes and comparing caterers. You don’t want to compare apples to oranges so to speak. Make sure you find out about the quality of ingredients while you are shopping around so you can better make your final decision. Ask questions like “Where do you get your produce from”, “How far in advance is the food prepared”, “Do you make your own sauces and breads?” Chances are that caterers that buy pre-prepared ingredients are not going to give you the same quality as those that lovingly prepare your food from scratch. So while the quote from the caterer that makes everything in house is higher, so is the quality of the food.

8. Service Charges, Fact and Fiction: Caterers do need to charge you for the labor that goes into setting up, breaking down, and serving this beautiful food at your event. What to watch out for? Make sure you ask for all of these charges upfront and in your price quote. Know that this is a necessary evil in putting on a good event and get down to brass tax in the beginning. This way it will not come as a surprise. Also this service staff gets tipped out the same way a waiter does in a restaurant. It is customary to see a service charge for gratuity on your bill. This is generally split between the service staff and kitchen crew, and the events coordinator putting together your event. In the same fashion it is customary to tip out the service staff on top of this charge the night of the event, based on the job they perform.

9. Out with the Old, in with the New…Desserts that is: Times are changing and so are the taste buds of your guests. Most often it is a good idea to offer a variety of bite-sized desserts for your guests versus the massive cake. No one eats the cake.

10. Wine, How Much Do we Need?: Planning for wine is a careful calculation, but is none the less easily done by a calculation. You can figure each adult will consume 2 beverages. You can figure that out of each bottle of wine you will get 4 glasses. You can figure that you will need 70% red wine and 30% white wine. Now that we are done with the math (whew) be sure to account for any guests that are underage and non-drinkers by offering some nice alternatives like freshly pressed juices and smoothies.


This post was brought to you with Peace and Blessings from Executive Chef Jenny Ross of 118 Degrees, named as one of OC Metro’s Hot 25.