How to Hire the Best Caterer Tips: Plan An Event On Your Budget)

How to Hire the Best Caterer 

"Lord, please don't let this chicken or seafood be bad." Ever pray that before you eat? Not to worry. Jesus IS on the mainline. If you are planning a church retreat, summer cookout, backyard barbeque or formal gathering, you don't have to cook it all yourself. It might be your first thought so you don't don't have to worry about "Who made the potato salad?" It might be your first thought to ensure the food is cooked properly (and to your tasting). However, food prep for a big event is extremely time-consuming. It's also a daunting and expensive task that's avoidable.


Here's how to hire a caterer for your next event (so you can confidently enjoy yourself). 


Checklist for Selecting a Caterer

A few simple tips can help you find the best caterer and get the menu you want.

These include:

    • Start with a simple prayer and ask God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost and Wisdom to guide you with your plans. Cancel the devil's assignment over your event plans. Ask God to help you avoid any pitfalls or traps (overspending, bad weather, devil and/or witchcraft trying to come against your plans).
    • Set a plan and budget, and be open to ideas. 
    • Evaluate potential caterers (do they get back to you promptly).
    • Only hire flexible caterers experienced in your type of event.
    • Ask about the caterers' standard menus and if you can customize them. 
    • Get specific about your menu and prices.
    • Remember, you're hiring them for food, beverages, and service (type of wait staff, number of servers and supervisors, their experience).
    • Look for a responsive caterer who asks for your thoughts and input.
    • Get a minimum of 3 proposals and compare pricing and menus.
    • Ask potential caterers for discounts (or added perks). If you're on a budget and find cheaper food items (like seafood), will they match the price? 
    • Get references and if applicable, visit one of their events for first-hand examples of their work.
    • Ask the caterers past clients if they were able to deliver as promised. Was the food, drinks and service exceptional or so-so?
    • Request a tasting menu to confirm ingredients are fresh not frozen, properly seasoned.
    • Get your contract in writing. Include wait staff, timely arrival, set-up/breakdown, and fresh ingredients. Also add cancellation procedures (by the caterer or venue) and any financial penalties.
    • Your contract should include the exact menu items, date, location, and time, linens, servers, accessories, all pricing and tips, and all other fees. 
    • For expensive events, have an attorney review the contract you both sign. This helps for non-performance issues.
    • Get insurance for your event to protect against venue cancellations, weather delays, illnesses, or other catering and event issues that might arise.
    • Pray and ask Father God if you forgot anything you need. Ask if this is the right caterer, right date, time and menu, etc. Ask Father God for favor to help you meet a budget if there's anything else you need. He will always make the way (and you might get a few freebies thrown in)!   


Expert Tips on How to Hire a Caterer

1.     Do Your Research in Hiring a Caterer – When you hire a caterer, your caterer should be able to create delectable dishes, show them off in a beautifully visual display, and shine with excellent customer service. You also want someone who's surprisingly affordable. 

Ask for references and even a sample of their work. You can also ask to attend one of their events to see everything "live". Learn what the caterer has to offer besides food, i.e., linen, set-up equipment, staff, table settings, etc.

Ensure that all charges are explained, every detail gone over and you're happy with the arrangement. If you feel uneasy for any reason, pray about it and consider another caterer.

Try Local Catering or Angie's List for referrals. Also check the Better Business Bureau for feedback.

2.     Communicate What You Need – Select a caterer that you get along with who will fit with YOUR specific needs. Identify your expectations for your event and map it out in your contract so your caterer is clear how you want your event to flow.  Communicate clearly any changes that come up and discuss all ideas. 

On a budget? Be sure to outline all costs and be open to substitutions that might lower the cost of your event. Define them in your contract and establish a budget, theme, color scheme and size of the event.

Request a mock set-up so you will know exactly how much space will be needed and how the displays will look.

ASK QUESTIONS frequently to ensure you get what you want. The goal with catering is to take the pressure off of you so you can enjoy your time with your guests.

3.     Schedule Your Caterer Early - Book your caterer as soon as possible and get the date and time in writing along with your expectations! Especially during the summer months, caterers are usually booked well in advance for big-budget crowds.

Planning ahead will ensure you get your first choice of catering and/or venues. Also have a back-up plan just in case (take out from your favorite restaurant). While you can plan for everything, sometimes things come up.

The caterer could get sick. There could be a huge traffic delay if its over a holiday weekend, or a severe weather event. Hence, it's important that you plan and pray for your event. And, then cast your cares on the Lord and have a wonderful time!