When your budget is tight, here’s the dilemma… caterer or no caterer? Many consider bringing in outside services for parties, a bit of a luxury and are not phased by cooking and preparing food for twenty or two hundred. I have always gone down the route of cooking it all myself and hiring the most efficient staff to run the show on the night, thus saving me from being in the kitchen when everyone else is kicking up their heels elsewhere. This works for some and can often be cheaper. However if you don’t want to cook (or worse still, clear up afterwards), an outside caterer is most definitely the answer and, here in Devon, we are blessed with a wealth of exceptional outside catering professionals.
So how do you choose the best caterer for your needs?
1. Speak to at least 3 and be specific about the type of event you are planning and type of food and/or presentation you are expecting. Otherwise you may end up with a caterer who you may like enormously but who simply isn’t the right one for the job. A good caterer should understand your overall vision for the day and listen to your ideas, they should be able to use their wealth of experience and build upon your ideas or provide you with interesting and tempting alternatives.
2. The caterer should be learning about you, so they should be asking questions about your theme and goals. If they are interested, and informed they will ultimately be in a position to replicate your vision.
3. The ideal caterer should be willing to handle any specific requests be it significant to the theme or specific dietary requirements.
4. Ask to see a portfolio of the caterers’ work with pictures of their food. Ask about the quality and sustainability of the produce they source. Creating seasonal menus will impact highly on the quality, taste and budget. A tasting will allow you to fully understand the quality, style and presentation of their food and gives you the opportunity to explore how your own ideas can be worked into their existing menus.
5. Your event might be taking place at a home, a hired venue or outdoors in a marquee. If your caterer has worked at the venue before, that always helps. They will already be aware of the facilities that the venue offers, any special rules in place and the kitchen appliances they may need to supply.
6. Don’t forget to ask what they can provide in the way of service staff. Depending on the event you may need to arrange for waiters and bartenders. These elements of a catered event are what makes it a success. The food may be delicious but if doesn’t get to your guests efficiently and quickly it’s wasted. Don’t forget to ask how many staff are required for your numbers and for how long they recommend they work. You may want to be fully staffed early on and then have skeleton staffing later.
7. And finally, don’t forget to hire your plates, knives and forks and glasses from us! Most caterers will only provide the food and drink and not the utensils to eat them from or with.