I recently hosted an event for my son's graduation from university. I planned an elegant party with quite a few people, to commemorate this milestone and provide my son with a lasting memory. I ran around like a madwoman making plans for the event; so I hired a catering company, right out of the phone book. Having only called a couple of other caterers, I stopped looking as soon as this company offered me the lowest price. Unfortunately, I got exactly what I paid for - poor service, bad food, and unhappy guests. A lasting memory for my son? Yes. The tale of "The Graduation Party Disaster" is branded in our minds, forever.
I found that many people have fallen into the same trap with the assumption that all catering companies are the same. To save you time, money and embarrassment, I hereby present the six most common mistakes not to be made when choosing a caterer.
Mistake 1: Choosing based on price.
While "Half Off" is tempting, you should find out how they can afford to charge these rock bottom prices. Some are new to the business and inexperienced. They have not yet learned what it takes to provide high-end services that you expect. And of course, there are the companies that will simply do the bare minimum. They do not care about the service or quality. Basically, if you go cheap, you will get cheap.
Mistake 2: Not tasting the food
Planning a party is difficult and time consuming. Often people want to save time and rush to pick a caterer. However, tasting is an absolute must. Sometimes the food is just plain bad. Most catering companies offer tastings to provide you with a sample of the food quality. Remember, visually stunning food wont matter when your guests are spitting food into their napkins. Bad food should be a deal breaker. Period.
Mistake 3: Lack of communication
Before signing a contract, review everything with the caterer in painful detail. Make sure that the menu is exactly as discussed. Go over the services. Will there be waiters? Will it be a buffet? Does the price include dessert and coffee? Do not sign anything until you are satisfied that they meet all your expectations and pledge to keep their word.
Mistake 4: Not standing your ground
Walk into that office knowing what you want out of these caterers. Keep a notebook of ideas for food ideas and service requirements - and stick to it. Write down the highest you are willing to go. Keep track of any verbal estimates received earlier. If they cannot accommodate you, move on immediately.
Mistake 5: Not doing your research
Think about the most well catered events that you have attended. Why not ask the for recommendations from family and friends? How did they choose their caterer? What did they think of them? Have they made mistakes that you can learn from? Read online reviews. What caterers are recommended? Why did others get negative reviews? We live in a world of information, use it. Use your favorite search engine and find out what you are looking for.
Mistake number 6: Make sure that they have enough food
It might sound crazy, but often catering services will only bring food for the exact number of expected guests. If your cousin Joe shows up unexpectedly or Susan decides to bring a plus one, you might actually run out of meals. Get a written assurance that they will have extra food and be prepared for any surprises. Nothing can be more embarrassing than skimping on food or having no meals left.
My son's wedding is coming up this May. Thanks to my research, this time, I found a great caterer. After all, this is going to be the most memorable day of his life and it wont be because the fish is inedible. Good luck making your memories.
About the Author:
Feast Your Eyes! submits aritcles on various blogs about the catering and food industry. If you would like to learn more you can check out our blog or check out the Toronto wedding catering page for other ideas on catering.