Tips For Choosing a Caterer

It’s been a bit of an adventure, but you’ve finally got your event planned out. Now the only thing left is to choose the catering option that will work for you. If you’re thinking, “Wait a minute – there are options?” don’t worry – we’re going to go over the various types of catering that you can consider to make your event a memorable success. It’s important to understand the different options you have or you might end up finding out during your event that the service you were expecting is not the reality of what you asked for. The caterer may just assume that you know what each type of catering means, so they may not always explain it in detail. Anyways, like we said, we’re going to break down the types of catering you can choose from.

The three types of catering.

There are three main options that you’ll probably be able to choose from as you go on your quest of choosing a caterer.

  • Full Service Catering
    • Plated
    • Buffet
    • Buffet with Service Attendants
  • Drop and Go
  • Drop Off with Full-Service

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of each of these types of event catering options.

 

  1. Full service catering.

Full Service Catering is the top tier. With this option, you won’t have to worry about anything but enjoying the company of your guests.

Basically, full service means that the caterer handles EVERYTHING after you choose your menu. The caterer will take care of dinnerware rentals, service staffing, and setting the tables. And the bussing of tables and the clean-up of the kitchen, food staging area, dinnerware, and so on are all taken care of by your caterer.

The caterer will also organize the food. If you choose plated service, they’ll keep the food tidy in the staging area. If you choose a buffet, they’ll keep it stocked with food during the agreed upon times.

A few quick tips about buffet catering:

If you’re worried about guests taking too much food or if children will be going through the line, make sure you mention to your caterer that you would like the buffet staffed with service attendants to place the food on your guests’ plates. This will keep portion sizes controlled, help children through the line, and overall help the buffet to move a little faster. If this is something you’re expecting, you have to make sure to bring it up and tell the catering service. Otherwise they might not know that this is something you’d like to have for your event.

 

 

  1. Drop and go catering.

Drop and go catering is a great choice for budget-conscious events and those who like the idea of styling their own buffet set up. (Yes, you’ve Pinned hundreds of photos of the perfect taco bar set-up and you’re dying to show off your Pinterest win.) If this sounds like you, drop and go catering may be the way to go.

Drop and go catering is offered by many caterers (and mainly by local restaurants.) The food is cooked off-site, then the caterer delivers it. The rest is up to you. That means you’re responsible for keeping the food at appropriate temperatures, having your own serving utensils, chafers, and sterno, keeping the buffet stocked, and cleaning up.

As an event venue that allows outside catering, I’ve seen many of our clients use a drop and go catering service but not realize that they were just getting the food until it was too late. That sort of situation results in a lot of quick trips to a store or home for utensils. And all-too-often, the host ends up just setting the food out – which is not safe, attractive, or enjoyable for their guests. Inevitably, the guests then have to eat the room temperature concoctions.

Drop and go is very practical and economical. It’s also a good way to enjoy your favorite restaurant’s dishes at your special occasion…just be prepared. Have proper food storage (maybe hot boxes and refrigeration if necessary), chaffers and sterno for the buffet line, and serving utensils ready to go. You might also want to nominate someone to keep the buffet stocked and someone else to clean up the food mess at the end of the event.

Remember, you’re basically working your own event.

 

 

  1. Drop off catering with full service.

Most restaurants or catering companies that do drop and go catering will offer a full service add-on to their basic “plan.” That will include everything that we discussed above. If you don’t want to be responsible for working your event and handling the food layout and the clean up, you might want to consider this option (or just go the whole hog and get full service catering.) Consider what kind of assistance you want from the caterer and ask the restaurant/caterer to give you a quote with those specific tasks added on. It’s okay to get some help with the things you don’t feel equipped to handle!

The most important take-away about catering is that you should NEVER assume that the caterer will provide a certain level of service. Discuss what your expectations are with your caterer and be sure to have everything in writing. This will help to ensure that you have a stress-free event so that you won’t be running around the day of your event trying to get enough serving utensils. Be prepared to ask plenty of questions. And then when the big day comes, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the event.

2 Comments

  • If you are considering a caterer who will not provide you with some sort of taste test, then this should be considered as a red flag. You truly have no idea what type of food you are purchasing if you don’t get a chance to taste it.

    Reply
  • I like the tip that you gave to choose a caterer that will offer the services that you need. My wife and I have been talking about finding a caterer to help us if we choose to get one for our daughter’s wedding next month. If we do, I will be sure to look for one who offers the services that we need.

    Reply

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