Picking the right caterer is about more than just picking the best food. You also have to make sure that excellence in service is a cornerstone of their offerings.
While these tips are geared toward couples planning their wedding, use these as a guide any time you need to pick a caterer. Whether it’s a birthday party or retirement party, a great caterer always helps make your event better.
It’s a good idea to start looking for a caterer as early as possible. You want to make sure they’re available on your chosen date and they have ample time to prepare your dream menu.
Gathering Your Options
Before you do anything, you have to put together a list of possible caterers. There are several ways to do this. In fact, you might choose to try all of them if you have the time. The easiest ways to put together an initial list include:
- Ask for recommendations on Facebook – Let your married friends help you out.
- Check out top caterers on Instagram in your area – Let their pictures and reviews speak for themselves.
- Attend a wedding/bridal event – Meet area caterers in person. You might even get access to special prizes, such as free catering.
- Local business listing sites – Yelp, Yellow Pages and TripAdvisor are great options. You can also use Google and Bing. Just search for “caterer” or “wedding caterer” along with your city or state.
- Area restaurants – If you have a favorite restaurant, see if they offer catering services and what’s involved.
Once you have a list of possible options, it’s time for the real research to begin. The good news is the Internet and social media make this so much easier than it used to be.
The Research Process
Now, it’s time to narrow down your options to create a shortlist. After all, you don’t want to have to visit dozens of caterers in person. Picking the right caterer comes down to several main criteria:
- Your budget – The average is $4,000, but ranges between $1,800 and $7,000.
- Caterer’s options
- Caterer’s availability
- Caterer’s experience
Those who meet all of the above should definitely be shortlisted. For instance, if you want a caterer that specializes in small events and a casual menu, you wouldn’t want to choose someone that’s known for huge weddings and expensive four-course meals.
Check out your caterers on social media, The Plaza Hotel in New York City has an Instagram account dedicated to dining experiences at The Plaza. Another great option is to look at recent reviews and even contact your venue to see which caterers are used most often. All of this will help you quickly narrow down your options.
Picking the right caterer means you will need to schedule a meeting with them. If you’re planning a destination wedding, this might not be so easy. Instead, consider video chatting to pick out a few options and then flying in to meet in person for some final questions and menu sampling.
Brides.com has an incredible list of questions for interviewing potential caterers. While you don’t have to ask them all, pick out the ones that are most important to you, such as whether they can do a custom menu and what exactly is included in the setup process. Always ask for photos of previous events as well.
Achieving Your Dream Reception
Far too many receptions haven’t exactly been a bride’s dream come true. Why? They weren’t crystal clear on what they wanted. They gave vague details or tried to fit in 100 last minute changes based on something they saw on Instagram. It takes time for a caterer to put everything together.
Make it easier on everyone by knowing exactly what you want before you hire a caterer. This way you know upfront if they can deliver on your vision or not. As far as last minute changes, keep these to a minimum to avoid confusion.
While some caterers do provide linens and place settings, not all of the do. At Nickie Jones Events, we can help make your reception or event beautiful with linens, place settings, flowers and balloons. Contact us today to discuss your event.