NYIAD now offers an online event planning course, and because we are, we often write fun and useful tips for event planners. Please enjoy!
At the New York Institute of Art and Design, we know how to train event planners. We created our course using many top planners, including celebrity planners, and they all agree that hiring the right caterer for your event is crucial.
This picture shows an intimate fundraising event held in a rural setting. The caterer was chosen because she specializes in farm-to-table organic food. Because this fundraiser invited individuals with high net worth to help raise money for putting county farms and woodlands into a nature conservancy, this caterer and her cuisine contributed seamlessly to reinforcing the overall mission of the event.
Many restaurants provide catering services, but most of them specialize in their own on-site catering. If you’re using their restaurant for an event, discuss the range of services they’ll provide: serving staff, utensils, tableware, linens, tables, chairs, menu options, and so on.
Other venues may not have their own on-site catering service, so you should interview a variety of caterers who have the portable facilities and services to properly handle your event and serve piping hot food and iced-cold beverages wherever the venue may be. Ask the caterer if they’re capable of offering various styles of catering services (e.g., breakfast style, buffet style, plated services, buffets, etc.). Are they able to address the dietary concerns of your guests? Is there a catering agreement you and your client can review to lock in key terms? Are their catering costs fair? Have they had experience with the size of your client’s event? Can they demonstrate creative ideas for your client’s menu?
In developing a menu with your client, know your guests’ preferences, provide menu choices, know your guests’ profile, incorporate seasonal and fresh items, select a menu that fits the event schedule, create ethnic-specific theme menus if that’s appropriate, and anticipate the special needs of your guests, e.g., religious requirements. When you consult with the catering chef, make sure to get a detailed list of all the ingredients in each dish, so you can make alternative suggestions for guests with dietary concerns and food allergies.
If all else is equal and several caterers can deliver what you want at a good price, then making your final selection should boil down to chemistry. Are these people you feel comfortable working with? Do they share your attention to detail and professionalism? The right caterer will make you and your client share their excitement and passion for their food, beverages, and excellent service.