15 Tips For Choosing The Right Caterer For Your Corporate Event

The task of planning your company party, holiday soiree, fundraiser, or an important board meeting can be an overwhelming task. Where do you begin? How do you ensure that the experience is one that is praiseworthy and flawless? With endless details, your last concern should be whether your caterer is the right company for the job.

We’ve pulled together some tips to make choosing a caterer for your next business function a breeze. Read on to uncover fifteen things to look for to book the right candidate for the job.

#1 Tip: Hire a Caterer That Listens

Because of the details involved in planning a large-scale event, it’s important to choose a caterer that will help you every step of the way. Bosses, high-profile clients, board members, and other important guests may be specific with their needs and likes. You’ll want someone who will hear those details and execute them professionally. An all-pro caterer will not tell you what you want at your event; they’ll ask and then deliver to make your event one of a kind.

#2 Tip: Opt for Efficiency

Business leaders are busy people. Meetings are crucial parts of business. Although the highest level of food and drink may be available, the main reason for gathering is to get down to business. Look for a caterer that prioritizes efficiency with service while respecting guests and their most valuable resource, their time.

For example, if you choose buffet-style service all items should be labeled so there will be no guesswork for guests with food allergies or other dietary restrictions. Buffets should always be double sided, too, so that there won’t ever be long wait times for guests to eat.

#3 Tip: Pinpoint Your Head Count

The most practical place to start with catering is with your guest count. Even if it’s an estimate (with wiggle room, of course), this will help set the planning stages in motion, both with your budget and with menu design.

To help with these details, choose a caterer that provides programs, software, and assistance with managing seating and check-ins.

#4 Tip: Keep In Mind the Event Location When Picking a Catering Service

Location is crucial. Consider the location (and the distance) they will come to cater your event. If they don’t attend events in your area often, they may have difficulty with the venue. Try to find a caterer who knows your venue, or at least has experience with a similar venue. If they don’t seem like they are willing to go the extra mile to see to it that everything meets or even exceeds your expectations, they might not be the best fit for your event.

#5 Tip: Expect Professional Hand Service

Look for a caterer with high service standards. While the president of the company is handing out awards or your keynote speaker is making his address, can you rely on your caterer to offer quiet service?

In our opinion, all event meals should be served and cleared using hand service. This ensures that there are no large trays to drop or any clanging of dishes to disrupt your program. Your caterer’s staff members should be well trained in hand service and be capable of serving your guests quietly and competently.

#6 Tip: Plan for Food Variety

It’s a given that when hosting a business function, you’re going to fill a room with a wide range of dietary needs and restrictions. It’s important to be able to satisfy all of your guests’ needs while also offering diversity at a reasonable cost. Be sure to be thoughtful of eating lifestyles while designing your menu, ensuring those who are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free (among others) have dining options available.

#7 Tip: Decide How Much Flexibility You Need From an Event Caterer

Party planners and hosts have the stress of preparing for anything unexpected that might happen, so it makes it easier if all parties are as flexible as possible. Allergies and preferences can complicate things, so having a chef that foresees and prepares for these details is important. When interviewing caterers for the job, ask them about any last minute pieces they might have had to pull together to get a sense of not only their creative problem solving and planning abilities but also to see how flexible they have been for others.

#8 Tip: Look For a Responsive Caterer

Before choosing your event caterer make sure they are responsive to your needs and demands. People prefer to hire a caterer that responds to emails and calls the client. It is possible to add timely changes to the menu, but only if the caterer is responsive. The easiest way to check out how responsive a service provider is going to be, is to send an email or make a call and see how much time passes before you get a reply. People who fail to consider this point, may suffer a lot during the event. They are unable to reach the caterer in a timely manner and are unable to make changes that might be necessitated by different circumstances.

#9 Tip: Consider a Tasting Menu Before Your Event

If a caterer isn’t willing to give you a sampling of its offering for your big event, that’s an immediate red flag. How can you be confident that your staff and clients will be satisfied if you haven’t tried it first? Because you’re investing in the team and trusting its service, it’s important that you feel comfortable and know exactly what you’ll be getting and serving to your guests. Ask for a tasting menu prior to your event so you can ensure that the food will be delicious.

#10 Tip: Drinks or No Drinks

Alcohol is often a welcome addition to an evening corporate function especially a fundraising event, holiday party, or annual meeting. But before you take any steps further, be sure your caterer is licensed to serve alcohol. Then, it’s crucial to consider whether the event is appropriate for offering alcoholic beverages to your guests. If you are looking to woo potential clients or business partners, a drink list may be a good fit. However, training seminars may be a better platform for non-alcoholic beverages. You want to ensure that your guests have a great time, but depending on the type of event, you might not want to provide an opportunity for overindulgence. Look for a caterer that can guide you through this process to be sure that you have a successful event.

#11 Tip; Check Out an Event’s Caterer’s Customer Reviews Before Selecting Them

You want to trust that your caterer will follow through with their promises. The best way to ensure that you have chosen the right caterer is to double check your sources. If you heard of your caterer through a seemingly trustworthy source, make sure to ask around if your friends or colleagues have worked with them. Be sure to check online sources as well.

#12 Tip: Review the Event Caterer’s Costs

Many people don’t like to talk about money, but unless you have so much that you don’t care, you need to know what everything is going to cost and what the total price you have been quoted includes.

Having a good idea of your budget is critical when planning an event in the first place, and is a major consideration when selecting a caterer. Flexibility and good communication between you and your caterer will ensure an event that works within your budget.

Get a Detailed Breakdown. Be sure to have a detailed breakdown of food, beverages, rentals, decorations, service fees (staff and gratuities), and other expenses (e.g. insurance), plus any sales tax. Ask the caterer if the gratuity for the staff is included in the overall fee, or if they are expecting a cash tip at the end of the event.

Be Sure to Have a Contract. This way both parties understand explicitly the terms of the event. Review the contract for date, time, and guaranteed number of attendees. It should specify the date(s) up until which you can add or delete guests from the contract. This is important information in terms of your RSVP date to your guests.

Also be sure to understand the payment schedule and cancellation terms.

#13 Tip: Don’t Forget Linens or Decor

You know you need to wow your VIP clients with stellar food and drinks but don’t forget about aesthetics. What is too much, what is too little? It can be tempting to save money and try DIY designs or look for seemingly more affordable options for your event to create a memorable atmosphere.

But experienced caterers know the right level of design and accents needed for every corporate event. Flowers, lights, entertainment (e.g. audiovisual solutions, DL, live music, or a specialty act.)….the right caterer can connect you. Also ask if they can help arrange transportation for your guests.

#14 Tip: Get a Feel For the Quality Level of the Event Caterer

High quality service should be expected from any of your vendors, but especially from your caterer. From the presentation of the food to the clauses written explicitly in your contract, the details are crucial. Make sure you and your caterer have discussed everything in the contract so there are no surprises in the end and all the kinks are worked out prior to your event.

#15 Tip: Build an On-Going Contract

Depending on your business, you may host quarterly or even monthly events. Streamline your corporate events and their planning by finding a caterer you trust and sign on with them for an on-going contract. If you lock in a caterer for repeat events, they sometimes offer savings for granting them your repeat business, so take advantage of these benefits. This partnership will allow the caterer to become familiar with your ongoing needs and preferences which will expedite your time spent planning in the long run. Also, the caterer will be educated with what was done in the past for your functions and can ensure that each event features new ideas and fresh items for those attending.

Why Is Catering Important For an Event?

The food and beverage experience can have an outsized influence on attendee’s perception of an event. Turning to skilled professionals for catering will mean that your guests will have a better experience across the board and that everyone’s particular needs will be more attended to. Simply put, catering has a big ROI when it comes to event experience.

At Signature Catering we are known for our outstanding reputation, our exclusive private event venues, and our exceptional staff. We are ready to help you with your next corporate event so contact us or give us a call at (843) 682-3663.