When you can’t go to a restaurant, catering brings the restaurant to your doorstep. Delicious meals, rich wines and snappy cocktails can be an ice breaker, liven up any gathering and make the guests remember the occasion. Still, you might have been wondering, “How do I find the best caterers near me?” Here’s a list of criteria you should consider when looking for a caterer:
First: Helping You Make A Menu
First thing you should look for is a caterer that can make enough meals that suit your exact needs. Still, being a host is not exact science. If you’ve never hosted before, you will most likely underestimate the amount of food and misjudge the menu you need.
The best caterer for you will listen to you and try to gauge your needs before helping you make the menu. At the same time, the final choice should be up to you. Be wary of caterers who try to convince you to order something you didn’t think of yourself. You might not be happy with such a menu and the feeling of being a pushover will sour the gathering. Lawsuits have been filed over smaller issues hosts feeling that their caterers took them for their money.
You should judge a caterer’s promptness by the amount of time it takes to respond to calls or e-mails. Unless there’s a genuine reason for the delay, that’s the kind of promptness you should expect throughout your dealings with that caterer.
Fulfilling Guests’ Expectations
No matter what you want, the best caterer is the one that provides the kind of menu your guests are happy with. If you’re hosting a formal party, a caterer with a BBQ menu is probably not the best choice, and vice versa. A caterer should be listening to you but also asking questions. In particular, the caterer should immediately ask you what type of event you’re hosting as to gauge the options.
Ask the caterer if it has experience in providing the kind of menu your guests expect. If it has, it will likely already know what to do. If not, the caterer should say so outright but may choose to evade the question or change the topic. Be wary of non-answers to your direct questions, especially when it comes to catering experience. It’s perfectly fine if you want to give a newbie caterer a chance as long as you’re aware of the choice you’re making.
Catering is as much about the food delivered as it is about the details. Experienced, professional caterers go the extra mile and make your event look like it’s being hosted by a restaurant, with the staff being almost invisible. This most often means the same command structure found in a restaurant and requires the presence of experienced management staff. If something’s not right, you will address the management rather than the staff.
Ask your caterer how many supervisors will be present and try to get to know them. Are they forthcoming? Do they seem like they know what’s going on? Their dedication to the event is what will make it or break it.
A fine caterer will always offer you more than one proposal: two extremes and one in the middle. Always request to get the proposals in writing and have them itemized. That way, you know exactly what you’re getting and can discuss each item separately. It’s ideal if the entire conversation is in writing in some way, such as through e-mails or text messages, for just in case if you’re later asked for proof of what happened.
In cases where you want to mix and match items from different proposals, the caterer should be flexible and meet you half way. That also applies to having specific requests, such as unusual quantities, shapes, sizes, packaging and the like. A caterer that offers you a “take it or leave it” kind of proposal is likely not in the business for the long haul.
Superb caterers have a list of clients that can vouch for their service or can name events they’ve managed. Not just that, but experienced caterers are used to being probed by suspicious clients and will easily dispel your doubts. For example, such a caterer may offer a tasting menu or a presentation of some sort so you can see for yourself what it looks like.
Beware of relying too much on online reviews, both positive and negative. Review aggregator websites, such as Yelp, are not above leveraging their position as trustworthy business reviewers to engage in unsavory practices against businesses that won’t buy their marketing services. Do read all reviews but give the benefit of the doubt to everyone and directly ask the caterer about what’s going on if you notice it has a lot of negative reviews.
Catering can easily go awry but the professionals will make sure that doesn’t happen, first by making the terms of the service as clear as possible. Experienced caterers will want to protect themselves and their clients from embarrassment and loss by making a contract. This will most commonly include:
A Final Word:
Being a host is a tremendous honor but also a sizable burden. Your caterer should act as your teammate and partner, shouldering at least a part of that burden by delivering a wonderful menu that wows the guests.
Agora of Brookfield is happy to provide Italian, Mediterranean and pizza catering in Brookfield, CT. Give us a call at 203-740-1000 or contact us through our website. You order, we deliver!