Some may find event catering intimidating because it’s such a large portion of an overall event but I have some catering do’s and don’ts to share to help ease the whole process. There is a lot that goes into choosing a catering vendor, working on food and beverage options that fit within your budget, crafting your menu, finalizing food counts, and planning out all of the logistics for smooth service during the event.
Event Catering Do’s
- Review everything thoroughly. Catering contracts and BEOs normally contain a lot of information in them. Review them with a fine comb and as you’re reviewing, jot down the questions that come up. It’s fine to ask your caterer a lot of questions. They’ve heard it all and if they haven’t, they’ll be more than happy to find the answer for you.
- Be specific with your wants and needs. Be very clear and concise with your caterer. Are there things you specifically want or don’t want? Spell that out for your caterer so there are no surprises during the event.
- Provide enough food for your attendees. Catering is quite expensive so you may feel like cutting counts is the best way to cut costs. This isn’t necessarily true. It’s better to have more food than less. Attendees won’t negatively complain about too much food being offered but they certainly would complain if they didn’t get food during the event due to it running out.
- Consider specific dietary needs. A good handful of people have dietary restrictions and/or allergies that you must be aware of and accommodate. It’s best to have options for those who are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, or have a nut or shellfish allergy. Also, it’s important to have the caterer properly label all food served and indicate if it is suitable for any of those special diets. Make sure to give attendees a chance to share their restrictions either during the registration process or via email. You can list a FAQ about dietary restrictions and ask people to contact you via email. You’ll also want to ask your caterer what they can do if someone requests a special meal onsite.
- Get creative! Event catering doesn’t have to be boring. Get creative with the food and the packaging. If you need to do a box lunch, consider using unique containers like bento boxes.
Event Catering Don’ts
- Don’t complicate the menu. You don’t want to present too many options to your attendees as lunch breaks are normally shorter. The fewer options to choose from the more efficient lines will be. Also, don’t serve super exotic food for larger crowds, like duck or octopus. No one wants a boring menu but you’ll want to please most of the crowd, so select menu items that most pallets would enjoy.
- Don’t make menu changes last minute. You normally have about two weeks from the event to finalize counts and menus. If you try to change anything after that, not only could some caterers not accommodate the changes, but it could increase costs significantly. Plan ahead as much as possible when it comes to catering.
- Don’t necessarily cut caterer suggestions to save money. If a caterer is suggesting something, it’s because they feel it would be best to incorporate into your event. Even if it costs more than desired, consider it before initially eliminating it. For example, if a caterer suggests you serve teas with the water and sodas you want to serve, it’s not a bad idea to offer that even though it costs more so attendees have more of a variety of beverages to choose from.
- Don’t become stressed! Just remember your caterer is a professional. Let them do their job and take over your stresses so you can focus on other aspects of the event.
By understanding these catering do’s and don’ts, you’ll have a much easier time working with caterers from the beginning to the end of an event.
What do you feel are the most important catering do’s or don’ts?
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