Stressed out over your next big event and unsure of what food and drinks to serve? Let a professional catering service take all the stress off your plate—by taking care of (and food, bar, buffet, glassware and more). Whether you’re planning a small-scale wedding, a corporate lunch meeting or a big birthday bash, here are five important factors to keep in mind when selecting a caterer. —Donna Wadsworth
the availability. First things first, check to make sure your preferred caterer is available for your intended event date. Catering professionals and event planners often book up months in advance, especially during the busy summer wedding season, so it’s important to plan ahead when engaging with a catering service. Reserve your date with your caterer as early as possible in order to avoid disappointment. That said, cancellations do happen, so it never hurts to ask if you’re in need of some last-minute catering help.
the service style. Your guest count and event style will have a big impact on the type of catering support you need. Are you hosting a formal evening wedding with a plated dinner, a casual backyard BBQ, or a corporate breakfast meeting? What level of staffing will you require? A full-service catering company can offer a wide variety of menu options and will provide expert recommendations on what type of service will work best given the size, style and timing of your event. Whether you’re looking for interactive action stations, a tasty self-serve buffet, or passed canapés and party platters, a professional caterer should have the expertise and experience to deliver a menu and service to match the occasion. You may even want to hire a caterer to help round-out the menu for your next casual dinner party. A catering team can help cut down on your prep time and alleviate some stress by providing appetizers, sides, salads and/or desserts to accompany your main meal.
the venue. There are a lot of logistics involved when it comes to event catering, so it’s a good idea to walk through these details with your caterer at your first meeting. The size, location and accessibility of your venue might determine the type of service and menus that are possible for your event. If you’re planning a party at a full-service venue with a kitchen, meals can be prepared on-site. But if you’re hosting an outdoor wedding in a remote location, you’ll need to enlist an experienced off-site caterer that has all the necessary equipment to serve in style from any setting. If you haven’t decided on a venue yet, be sure to ask your caterer for recommendations, as they’ll have had plenty of first-hand experience with most, if not all, in the area.
the menus. Determining the delicious menu details for your event should be a fun and collaborative process between you and your caterer. Remember, you’ve chosen to enlist the help of hospitality professionals, so be open to their menu suggestions and let them provide advice on what will and won’t work for your event. Ask your caterer how they handle guests with dietary restrictions and food allergies, and make sure you have a clear understanding of cut-off dates for any menu changes and modifications. And don’t forget to discuss your beverage service and how involved—or not—you’ll need your caterer to be when it comes to providing and serving drinks.
the budget. Pricing is an important part of working with any vendor, and it’s something you should bring up at your first meeting to determine if your event expectations are in line with your budget. Costs can add up quickly, especially for large-scale events like weddings, so it’s helpful to be upfront about your finances and create a catering budget ahead of time to keep your expenses under control. Your caterer can work with you to design a menu that fits within your budget, while also considering additional expenses such as staffing and rentals. At Savoury City, we provide all our clients with a detailed proposal following the first meeting that outlines their ideal event menu with a breakdown of the estimated budget, including food costs, staffing, rentals, gratuities and taxes.
Savoury City Catering owner Donna Wadsworth has seen it all in her decades of experience running catering companies and working as a chef across Canada and internationally. To create perfectly orchestrated events, Donna lives by the motto “fail to prepare then prepare to fail,” paired with a meticulous attention to detail and the ability to perfectly envision the flow of an event from beginning to end.