6 Tips for Running the Perfect Catering Event
July 26th, 2018
Being a caterer can be a wonderful career – you’ll get to meet a fascinating range of people, and be a real part of the most important events in their lives. If someone needs a catering service, it usually means that it’s such a big event they can’t manage it on their own. Consequently, the stakes are usually high.
So, as exciting as the job can be, clients will not appreciate mistakes. And some of the most important things to keep in mind to ensure an event is catered properly may not be the first thing you think of. We’ve taken a look at what those things are for you.
1. Consider offering more than just the food
Increasingly, caterers are being encouraged to handle other elements of event management such as décor or entertainment. If you can organise these services, either in partnership with another provider or through in-house managers, the client will be able to interact with a single organisation, which makes the process much easier for all involved.
To facilitate this, many caterers have added an event manager role to their staff. That event manager becomes the primary point of contact for the client, with the heads of catering, audio-visual, and décor speaking with them directly.
2. Don’t make the hard sell on the first phone call
When someone enquires about catering, resist the temptation to provide them with a quote up-front. Of course, you’ll often be asked for an upfront cost – especially if the customer is talking to other catering companies – but if you provide an exact figure, you’ll find yourself tied to the price. If it’s too low you’ll lose money. And if you quote too high, you may lose the job.
Instead, establish a template price range across a number of different events (business meeting luncheon, three course dinner menu, events package), and quote that to the customer. Then promise to come back with a properly-written proposal, once the full scope of the project is understood, and you’ve had the chance to calculate the current costs of ingredients, food and labour.
Do you have a catering-specific invoicing and quoting tool that you use? If not, you should consider FoodStorm – our software was specifically created to make life easier for event caterers. Visit our Event Catering page to find out more information.
3. Take dietary requirements very seriously
Well before the event, make sure your customer has provided a list of dietary requirements, and if there’s seating, that they have indicated where that individual will be. Once you have that information, make sure you have catered to those requirements, and that the wrong food is not served by mistake.
These days, you can assume that someone in a large group will be a vegetarian or vegan, lactose intolerance, suffer from a nut allergy, seafood allergy, or be gluten-free.
Additionally, if there are Muslim or Jewish people in your audience, make sure you have halal or kosher-certified options, and that the drinks list includes tasty non-alcoholic choices: Don’t leave anyone, religious or otherwise, with water as their only option!
It’s also a good idea to have a medical kit on hand. Be aware that regardless of the reason, you will be held responsible in the event of an accident related to the catering, so make sure you are certain dietary requirements are taken seriously.
4. Prepare a packing list early
A day (or better yet, a week) before the event, sit down with your team and construct a full packing list. This should include the food and portions, as well as serving dishes, linens, and any other equipment you’ll need.
On the day of the event, use the packing list as a checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything. First, clearly label everything, especially containers of food, so that the staff onsite can find everything they need. Take care that nothing is damaged or destroyed by the way it’s packed. For example, don’t place frozen, icy foods on top of the bread.
At the end of the event, use the packing list as a checklist for the return of tools and equipment, so you know you haven’t left anything behind. Many caterers find one of their most-expensive costs is re-purchasing equipment that’s been lost at a client’s premises.
FoodStorm software allows you to manage staff and event logistics in our easy-to-use software program. Visit our Event Catering page to find out more information.
5. Arrive early
Preparation time varies wildly depending on the event. If you’re serving sandwiches and coffee, then you’ll need less time than if you need to prepare a three course meal in the kitchen.
Whatever time you think you’ll need, have your team arrive at least 60 minutes early. For example, if you think it will take 30 minutes to plate the sandwiches and prepare the boiling water for the coffee, be on site 90 minutes ahead of time so you can deal with any unexpected issues. If cooking time for an event with 100 people is calculated at an hour, be in the kitchen, preparing, two hours in advance. You avoid mistakes by taking your time, and can make an extra effort with presentation.
6. Be on the ball during the event
Make sure you have enough serving staff. In addition to clearing away finished plates, they should be ensuring water and wine glasses are never empty (unless specifically requested by the customer, of course), and that guests are always able to get service if they need it.
A good way to arrange your serving staff is to split the tables or sections of the room up. That way, if someone at a table has already indicated they don’t want their wine glass refilled, they’re not going to have to repeat themselves to every person on your serving team that happens to walk by.
It’s also important to have one senior server, if it’s a large event. Allow them to step back and observe the area, and then direct serving staff as necessary. This ensures no one is left out.
Bonus tip: Have suggestions
Finally, it’s a good idea to have some suggestions ready for each customer, even if most have their own ideas. This is especially true for dietary requirements, as it’s not something that many people consider until they need to. Being able to expertly explain ingredients and dishes is a sure-fire way for a catering business to be seen as an invaluable part of an event, and that will lead to repeat business and referrals.