Choosing Your Caterer
Caterers are not all alike! And there are dozens of caterers in the Twin Cities. If you are looking at them all, the process of selecting one can be overwhelming.
Our suggestion for starting out is to discuss what the overall feel you want your event to have. Chances are you already thought about this when selecting your venue, so continue down that path by deciding whether the food you serve is important to that overall vision. Questions to ask yourself before contacting caterers:
- How important is the quality of the food that we serve to the overall guest experience?
- How important is the quality of the service that our guests will experience?
If your response to either of these is “not that important” then find the least expensive option and book it. Easy peasy.
If, however, your response to either is “it’s important” or “it’s very important,” then you should do some research. Start first with the venue to see who the approved caterers are for that location.
Visit Websites. For each caterer you are considering, visit their website and look at their menus, their photo galleries, and their client testimonials. Are their menus and presentation in line with your vision for your event? Read the testimonials and see what others have had to say about the caterer’s quality of service and quality of food. Find reviews on other sites about those caterers if you want to hear more. You should be looking for caterers with experience and credibility. Are they going to be a resource for you throughout the planning process?
Request Information. Once you have narrowed down your choices to just a few caterers, request they each put together a proposal for you. You will need to know your expected guest count, what style of service you prefer (choices are generally a plated or buffet meal, food stations, a cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres, or a combination of a few of these), and whether you want them to include cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres, beverages, late night snacks, and cakes or other desserts.
Ask Questions. What is included that is not listed on the proposal? What is not included that will be added later (e.g., taxes, fees, rentals, etc.)? How quickly will everything be served? Who will be your contact person throughout the planning process? How much setting up and cleaning up will the caterer be handling and how much will be left for you? Will you be able to change the menu after you book? Will they be able to accommodate special requests and dietary restrictions? Compare the answers and eliminate any caterers you feel will not meet your needs.
Taste the Food! If you are still undecided, schedule a tasting with your top contenders. Tasting is believing. Meet with the chef or the team and decide which caterer you will be able to work with the best. Martha Stewart likes to say that meeting with your caterer for the first time is like going on a first date. Talk about your vision and see if they listen and can provide appropriate recommendations. Ask more questions and get to know your caterer. Decide which one has the quality and the ability to meet your vision.
Book it. Now you have done the research and met with your caterer, sign the agreements and get your event booked with the right one so you do not risk missing out on their services because you waited too long. Many caterers have a limited number of events they can execute each day – generally so if they are preparing from scratch and care about the quality of the food that gets sent to your event.