While there is no shortage of excellent catering companies out there, ready, willing, and able to prepare fabulous fare for your event, the menu and food catered to your attendees dietary needs will not leave a lasting impression of a spectacular meeting or event if the service staff and experience of your caterer isn't there. If choosing the right caterer for your meeting has your stomach in knots, simply ask these fifteen questions to find the ideal caterer who will serve up a successful celebration that your guests will be raving about long after the meeting is over:
1. What services does your catering company offer?
Know what you want before you start your search. Begin by speaking with at least three caterers prior to your meeting or event. Get a feel for pricing, capabilities, and experience, while outlining your needs and expectations. Does the caterer only prepare the food or do they have staff to set up, serve, and clean up? Do you need a full-service caterer or do you have other resources who can handle pre- and post-event tasks?
2. Who’s in charge?
With whom will you be meeting at the catering company? The chef? The company owner? Who will be your point person if you have questions or issues? Know contact information and ensure the person with whom you’re dealing has the authority to answer questions and make decisions.
3. Are you enthusiastic?
Is your caterer eager to make your event a success? Are they responsive to questions? Are they quick to return calls and emails? Are they engaged and displaying a genuine interest in your event? Enthusiasm demonstrates they’re as invested as you in the outcome.
4. Do you have experience?
Whether you’re planning a casual company picnic or a formal plated dinner, experience counts. Has the caterer previously catered a meeting or event like yours? Do they specialize in large scale events or smaller, more intimate gatherings? Do they have the equipment and the staff necessary to do the job?
5. Who works here?
Take some time to review the resume and experience of the chef and key staff to ensure they’re up to the challenge.
6. What’s on the menu?
Is your caterer willing to work with you on a customized menu or do they offer set menus with no option for substitutions? The former might prove a better fit, especially if you have guests with special dietary needs.
7. What’s in the food?
Is it important to you that menu ingredients be locally sourced? Certified organic? Grass fed or cage free? Gluten options? Do you insist on fresh or is frozen okay? Find out what and where they’re getting ingredients.
8. Is this good for me?
Healthy food and cooking practices are critical to a successful catered affair. Check with the health department for any complaints or issues that may have arisen in the past from the vendor.
9. Can I have a bite?
Try before you buy. See if a caterer is as good as they claim by asking for a tasting of what they’re offering.
10. Are you good at what you do?
Nothing predicts the future like past behavior. Ask for the names and contact information of past clients so you can explore the success (or missteps) of past events they’ve catered.
11. Who do you recommend?
Connect with your network and ask for referrals. Your own referrals may have a more objective perspective than one of the caterer’s favorite clients.
12. Are you insured?
Professional caterers should always carry liability insurance. Make sure they do and that you’re not left with a hefty price to pay for accidents or mistakes they make.
13. Can I get a quote?
Make sure you know the full price of everything — food, preparation, set up, service, dish and linen rentals, clean up — right from the start. Be wary of last-minute surprises that could bust your budget.
14. Can I get that in writing?
Know exactly what you’re getting, when, where, and how it will be delivered and served, prices, and policies and sign a contract that covers all the details.
15. Can I get a doggie bag?
Find out a caterer’s policy on leftovers. If they don’t offer you surplus food, make sure ahead of time that you’re only paying for what your guests eat.
For a complete list of catering companies in your location visit our meetingpages Catering Companies Directory. Send a free request to one or multiple vendors that meet your criteria.