Budget Wedding Tips – Top 10 Tips for Selecting Your Caterer

Unfortunately, there are plenty of pitfalls when it comes to choosing a caterer. Some are issues related to the quality of the caterer, others are simple misunderstandings. Through proper planning and attention to detail, most negative issues can be avoided.

The following ten tips will go a long way in helping you secure a top-quality caterer and ensuring they provide you with exactly what you are looking for in terms of food quality and quality of their service.

1. Set up appointments with at least 3 different caterers

As you are setting up appointments, be sure to make note of how quickly your phone call or email is returned. You should expect to be contacted back within the same business day. If it takes more than a full business day, don’t bother scheduling an appointment. What if you call them in the days leading up to your wedding with an important question or information and they don’t get back with you right away? No thanks. Before you set up your three meetings, be sure that you and your spouse to be discuss your catering likes and dislikes.

2. Get photos from each caterer of previous work they’ve done

Don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t have any photos. They will. When they provide them to you, look for things like the presentation of food. Is it creative? Is it colorful? Are the hors d’oeuvres arranged nicely with garnishes and flowers, or are they just piled up on a tray?

3. Ask for sample menus

Menus will likely show a range of sit-down options as well as hors d’oeuvres. If prices aren’t listed, be sure to ask for them as you’ll need to know what choices fit into your budget. It’s true that most caterers will be happy to customize menus for each reception, they certainly should be willing to give you basic cost parameters for certain items.

4. Be honest and up front about your budget

Hopefully, you’ve mapped out your budget before you meet with caterers. But if you haven’t, give each caterer a range per guest that you are comfortable with. Caterers can vary wildly. What one will provide for $30 a person can be significantly different than what another may offer. Be sure that you are specific with your menu likes and dislikes and if there will be any dietary restrictions.

5. Ask for a proposal with several menu options

You’ll also want to be sure the proposal clearly outlines costs for liquor, any rentals you’ll require and labor costs. If you don’t understand any part of the proposal a caterer gives you, get back in touch with them to clarify the part you don’t understand. And don’t make any assumptions that the proposal will include things like china, linens, glassware. You’ll have to confirm details like this with each caterer to ensure you are comparing apples to apples. Steer clear from caterers that tell you they will send you a proposal and then fail to deliver one.

6. Be sure to confirm any minimums

Some caterers will require to you guarantee a certain minimum amount of food, generally noted as a set number of meals or total dollars. This means you could end up having to pay for 150 meals, even though only 100 people show up. Some caterers will negotiate this number with you, if one of the three caterers you speak with has a minimum that you won’t possibly meet, go a different route. See if the wedding cake will count as part of the $$ minimum required. In some cases, that’ll put things over the top, or at least into comfortable reach. Be sure to ask about the opposite situation – what happens when more guest show up than are expected. Most caterers will make 5-10% more food than is ordered but check to be sure.

7. Pick the proposal you like the most and visit one of their weddings

Ask them if you can visit a wedding of theirs before you finalize things. Visit during the set up and observe how organized the operation is and how the staff is dressed.

8. Arrange for a taste test

You will likely be spending several thousands of dollars on food. Arranging a taste test is something that any solid caterer should be willing to do. You may find that the best way to do this would be to combine it with a visit to a wedding as discussed in #7. When you are at the tasting, take some photos of the food. Hold on to these pictures until your wedding in case the catering manager changes before your big day. If this happens, show the staff the photos so they know what you expect.

9. Get everything in writing

Once you have decided on a caterer, get every – and I mean every – detail in writing. All details regarding food, labor, liquor, non-alcoholic beverages and rentals needs to be clearly spelled out in a written contract. Be sure that you clearly understand any price escalation clauses that may be in place and be sure to get any price guarantees offered in writing as well. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to also request a drawing of the actual layout of the room so that you’ll know where the tables, dance floor, buffet table, etc. will go.

10. Read the contract before signing

Before you sign the contract, take it home and go over it with your spouse to be with a fine-tooth comb and magnifying glass if necessary. Be sure you are aware of the refund policy, cancellation policy / fees. Just because a caterer has a standard contract, this doesn’t mean that things aren’t negotiable. If you aren’t comfortable with a clause, have it changed and get it initialed by the caterer.

11. Choose the best of caterers

Based in Suffolk County and serving all of Long Island, Sarah Brown Catering is one of premium caterers who is renowned for the exceptional services and high-quality food.

Tips in Creating the Perfect Catering Menu for a Corporate Event

Are you during planning for your company’s next corporate event? Looking to pull off an all-day event with food and beverages that your co-workers will love? We’ve got 8 catering tips you need for your next corporate event. Of course, you must choose each of those dishes carefully if you want to make a catered event a hit. Chefs can leave everyone at a corporate event satisfied with a varied menu full of tasty entrees and appetizers, achieving positive word-of-mouth and repeat business.

CUSTOMIZE FOR THE OCCASION

Each event has its own demands, so it’s important for caterers to understand the requirements for every meal they serve. An appropriate concept or theme can guide menu creation, with a common thread to make all the choices fit together. No matter the event, the catering company should present a minimum of two entrees (serving any condiments on the side), at least three salad dressings and two possibilities for dessert.

Depending on when and where the event is taking place, chefs may have different seasonal ingredients available. By making the most of the produce or seafood that’s currently abundant, you’ll end up with a fresher, more distinctive final product.

COUNT HEADS

Have an estimated head count ready to provide a caterer or event planner that allows them to get started on menu options. Give continuous updates as your corporate event draws near. If you want a buffet, most venues require a minimum of 35 guests.

HEAD COUNT CATERING TIPS

Always overestimate your head count to account for last minute attendees. If attendance numbers increase on the day of the function, many venues reserve the right to substitute menu items to accommodate extra guests.

SET A BUDGET

Are executives at your company seeking steak and lobster but they’ve given you a hamburger and hot dog budget? Clarify and highlight what needs to be included in the budget and review it closely with management before you present your budget to a caterer or event planner. Don’t forget to account for linens, china, flowers for the tables and more. Event planners can help you budget and plan for everything you need.

MEETING THEMES

What’s the focus or theme of your corporate event? If you’re looking to surprise employees for a job well done, a buffet will go over nicely. If your corporate event is aimed at thanking the sales team for being the highest earners of the fiscal year, that buffet won’t go over so well. Focus on the feeling you hope to convey and that will help you plan your menu.

STICK TO A SCHEDULE

Is your corporate event going to have multiple speakers and presentations? Plan the food service around the day’s schedule and work with an event planner and caterer to build in time for food service and cooking times.

BUFFET OR WAIT STAFF SERVICE?

Depending on how busy your corporate event schedule is, you’ll have to decide if a self-serve buffet or a full service waiting staff is needed to serve and take away plates. If the focus needs to be on the corporate speaker and you’re looking to save time, a full service wait staff keeps attendees in their chairs longer. If you’re seeking a way to break up the day, schedule a buffet lunch that allows attendees time to mingle.

SELECT A MENU

Follow these general catering tips for selecting your corporate event menu:

  • Breakfast Functions on a weekday morning should include coffee, tea, fruit juices, a main entrée and two sides. Pastries can be offered too.
  • Lunch should offer a 5-ounce entrée per person, two to three side dishes and two to four appetizer options.
  • Dinner typically offers three to five appetizers, soup or salad, a 7-ounce main entrée and two to three side dishes. Plan on two servings of dessert per guest too.
  • Cocktail Functions that don’t include dinner call for 10 to 15 appetizer servings per person.

DIETARY RESTRICTIONS

It’s important to have enough menu variety to satisfy all your guests. Since many people are vegetarian or are on a gluten-free diet, you should inform your caterer or event planner that you’re seeking a few vegan and gluten-free options. If the catering service you hire needs to know about dietary instructions in advance of your corporate event, it’s important that employees with dietary restrictions select one of those options when they RSVP.

STAY AWAY FROM BOXED LUNCHES

Years ago, bring their own lunch or boxed lunches were popular at corporate events. While this is cheaper, you’ll never go back to boxed lunches once you’ve held an event with catered service. Clients and attendees are more impressed by a nice food spread and are more willing to pay attention to your event if they’re having a good time and are fed well.  Hint: They will remember the food.

If you’re planning a corporate event in New York City or Long Island, Sarah Brown Catering can handle everything from start to finish. Their catering packages include beautiful buffets, perfect plated dinners, lavish luncheons and unbeatable breakfasts to pair nicely with all of your corporate events and functions. Contact them to discuss catering tips and review our catering menus.