By Melody King
We often find that catering can be somewhat overwhelming. Whether your company is ordering for a monthly meeting, annual conference or special event, there are ways to simplify your catering needs and save money. With literally hundreds of food options, spanning dozens of menus, it can be tough to determine where to start. So, we thought we would share some simple but effective ways to help.
A good place to start is to understand the different types of catering. Each type has a slightly different type of planning, pricing, and ordering procedures. Once you can narrow down to one of these, it will help simplify your menu choices, while also saving you time and money on the ordering. Here are three basic types of catering to consider:
From small office meetings and trainings to large regional events, the ability to have great food delivered on site saves time and money while allowing you to focus on the more important task at hand. Continental breakfasts, box lunches and buffets are all popular for corporate catering.
Social Event Catering
From office birthday parties, staff fun days, member meet and greets to retirement parties, social events cover a wide range of events (and food). Appetizers, bartenders and edible centerpieces are just some of what you might see catered at events like these.
Seasonal or major public events all fall into this category. This is where you will find lots of people. Planning for these takes a pro to make sure you have all the right menu choices for your audience.
Now that you have your category determined, remember that you are in control of what you order. Sounds simple, right? The reality is with so many choices it’s easy to overlook your budget and end up with more food than you can afford or can eat!
According to Randy Peters Catering, the following four tips will help you save you time and money when ordering for your event. Keep these in mind as you consider your next order:
- Know Your Guest Count – the #1 factor of your catering costs is based on how many you are feeding. You would be surprised how many people try to order when they don’t know how many people are coming. Knowing your guest count before you call to get an estimate will help you better budget and eliminate confusing and unnecessary menu changes at the last minute.
Decide on Your Delivery Method – most people think catering only comes one way, but a good professional caterer will offer you up to 4 different ways to have your food delivered including:
- Pick Up: you pick up the food at the caterer’s location. Not as common, but an option to save on your delivery fee or save time on a rush order.
- Drop Off: One of the most common, particularly for corporate and social events, where the caterer simply delivers the food in disposable containers (foil pans, coffee boxes, etc).
- Real Display: For buffets and banquets you may consider this option as the caterer will prepare the tables and food serving area including linen, glasses, tableware, etc.
- Full Service: In addition to the real display, you can also choose to have the food professionally served and even cooked on site!
- How Do You Want to Enhance Your Event – Think of these like the “optional or upgrade items” you can choose to add to your event. Although this may not seem like much to do with the food, it’s an integral part of the event planning that any professional caterer should offer. Enhancements may include decorations, linen, china, servers, on-site chefs, bartenders, DJ, and more.
- Know Your Budget Before You Order – Although this is often the first thing you may think about, it’s often the last thing that is figured out. For most caterers, pricing is determined on a dollar/person pricing model. So, an easy way to create your budget is just to determine the total amount you want to spend and divide it by the estimated number of people. Having this number to start with will help the caterer get you more for your money.
Remember, professional caterers are part artists and part service providers. The more information you can give them the better. Also having a great caterer on file is always an amazing resource.