A great partnership with your catering company will contribute to a successful event. This article provides advice on how to build an effective partnership with your catering company to make your events successful and make you an events pro.
Selecting a Catering Company
When researching a potential caterer, do some simple detective work to ensure you are engaging a professional catering company. Here is a short check list of questions you should ask:
- Do they have a website with references and testimonials?
- Are they a registered business?
- Are their premises registered for food preparation?
- How many staff do they employ?
- Do they use refrigerated vehicles to transport and hold your food?
- How long have they been operating?
- Do they have a booking department?
These things won’t guarantee perfection but as a general rule a professional catering business will tick these boxes so you can be confident about their service.
Comparing Catering Quotes
Comparing catering quotations is a hard gig. It’s not like window shopping to find the cheapest version of the same brand of TV. Here are some tips on what to do:
- Develop a clear brief so you can ask each catering company to quote on the same set of requirements.
- When comparing quotes, you need to understand what each caterer is offering in relation to your brief.
- Don’t look at price as the only indicator, compare service, delivery and does your caterer have experience to expand and deliver on your brief.
Build A Partnership
Rather than view your catering company as ‘just another supplier’, see them as a member of your events team. Their success reflects on you so follow these tips on how to build a partnership.
1. Share Your Vision
As a catering company, it is our job is to capture your vision and make it a reality. The better your brief, the better able we are to carry out your vision. To do lists and running sheets are vital tools for any function. Make a plan, go over it twice and ensure you and your catering company on the same page.
2. Walk Through The Event
For events that involve hospitality staff as well as food, meet with your caterer at your venue. Walk them through your vision of how you see the function progressing so you can negotiate the finer points of how your event will unfold and take advantage of their experience. This will ensure the quote you receive will include everything you expect but most importantly ensure there are no surprises on the day.
Be honest with your guest numbers and don’t try to control a budget by lowering or increasing guest numbers to compensate. Rather booking for 50 guests (when you really have 100) because that’s what the budget allows talk to you caterer about your situation. They may be able to adapt the menu to your budget to make it work. On the flip side, if you know you are inviting the wrestling team, brief your caterer of this so they can beef up the menu!
4. Special (and not so special) Dietary Requirements
Be mindful of your guests and their special (or not so special) dietary requirements. Do your best to capture your guests’ food preferences and include a list in your catering brief. If you don’t have your guests’ dietary requirements then make menu selections that reflect a diverse crowd. Make sure there are vegetarian and gluten free options. And remember not everyone has a fancy palette. You may want to create a high-end vibe to your event but not everyone likes caviar and frogs legs! Find a balance and ask your friends or colleagues for input on menu selections to get a good mix.
Working Together Onsite
To achieve the best outcome for your event, you and your catering company need to work as a team. Here are some tips on how to work together on site.
Shared Work Space
- Allocate your caterer a parking space close to the kitchen with an easy exit route. Your caterer will possibly have a lot of items to unload and if they have a refrigerated vehicle they may need to plug into power. And at the end of the function they will need to quickly load and leave.
- Make space for your caterer. If they are going to use your kitchen and facilities, clear the bench top of kettles and toasters. Make sure the kitchen sink is not full of dishes. No caterer wants to come in and have to clear up mess before starting a job.
- Take a tour. If your caterer has not been to the venue previously, show your caterer around. Show them the toilet, laundry and cleaning facilities, where to find extra tea towels, the back exit and bins. For example, if a guest spills a drink on the floor, your catering company can easily step in, clean it up and make the area safe so you don’t have to worry about the mess. Your guests will ask hospitality staff ‘where is the toilet?’ or ‘where should I put the present?’. A thorough briefing before the event starts helps your caterer deliver great service.
- Go over your run order for the event and advise you caterer of any last-minute changes. It’s important to have a chat with your catering team before the guests arrive. The caterers will be working to a deadline to setup and make your function perfect so be respectful of their time constraints and give them a little space to just get on with the job at hand.
- Touch base with you caterer throughout the function and just communicate how things are travelling. You don’t need to hover over them but it’s great just to keep in touch as every function evolves from the original plan and timeframes.
Delegate a Catering Coordinator
For special events such as a wedding, elect a catering coordinator other than yourself who your caterer can communicate with on the day. This person needs to be briefed on the function and have your authority to make decisions. For example, if your photo session runs over time, your caterer can check in with your coordinator about starting canapes to keep your guests happy.
Expect the Unexpected
Your caterers are there to wait on you but you need to clearly communicate if their brief changes as it may incur additional costs. For example, if your function is going overtime and you want to extend bar or waiting staff, just ask, as your caterer needs to compensate waiting staff for their time. Or you may need your caterer to cut and plate the cake Aunty Betty made that you did not know about, which takes their staff away from the job they were briefed to do. Talk to your catering company about these possible situations in the quotation stage to get a feel for how they will respond on the day.
And please don’t surprise you caterer by failing to let them know you asked half your family and friends to bring food and you want the caterers to combine everything together. This haphazard approach can cause difficulty during your event and needs to be discussed prior.
After the Event
If your caterer leaves any platters or catering equipment behind try not to send it home with guests so they can enjoy the left overs. Everything costs money, and lost items eat into your caterer’s budget. If you agree to drop platters and equipment back to your caterer by a certain day try and meet the deadline as your caterer may be relying on them for other functions. And if there is a problem, give them a call so they know what is going so they can make other arrangements.
Follow these tips and you will develop a professional and enduring partnership with your catering company.
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