Hiring a good catering company starts with proper research. Not all catering companies are created equal and hiring the first one that appears at the top of Google may not be the best idea. In this post, I answer three common questions about choosing the right caterer for your needs.
When catering for a party, how much food should I order?
This is perhaps the most important question to ask yourself when considering catering for an event. The worst way to consider this question is a simple “headcount” of how many guests will be in attendance. Believe it or not, factors such as the female to male ratio of guests anticipated to attend can have a big impact on catering planning. The same can be said about the ratio of children and young adults to adults. Furthermore, did you know that the elderly often out-eat middle-aged adults?! A couple of other items to consider are the appetites of your guests and if the event is scheduled during a common meal time such as lunch or dinner. Are your guests arriving with empty stomachs or will they have already eaten prior to the event? Let’s talk about the ladies for a moment. Women between the ages of 14 and 30 will typically eat far less or more conservatively in a social setting where their peers are present. That said, it’s safe to assume the younger women who’ll be at an event, the less likely any of them will “overeat.” The same can be assumed for children under the age of 10. Most often, children under 10 years old have an aversion to trying new foods, let alone eating a whole plate of new food.
There are a couple factors that influence the way elderly people engage with food that are worth considering. Socioeconomic psychology and the way older adults metabolize meals are the big considerations to ponder when faced with catering decisions that are inclusive. Socioeconomic psychology comes in to play when older generations are presented with the opportunity to dine without cost to them. This is sometimes seen as an opportunity to dine in a way they otherwise wouldn’t be able to justify on their own. Furthermore, older generations are often cited as a group who are acutely aware of waste and the impulsivity of a buffet or large meal plays on this psychology.
Now consider the activity levels of the bulk of your guests. It would stand to reason that catering an event for 50 college aged male athletes will require more food than an event catered for 50 middle aged men and women at a retirement party. Most often, events are planned with a good idea of who the guests are what type of event setting is to be achieved. That said, don’t consider how many guests there will be, consider who the guests will be. Be thoughtful about it.
Lastly, having a little bit extra is never as bad as not having enough. I wish I could offer a cut and dry figure that’s as easy and simple as a head count, but that’s not going to cut it. This question requires thought and consideration. Let us recap here… More kids and young women, less food. More men and elderly, more food. An even mix of young and old, children and adults – now we’re closer to that headcount.
How does catering work?
There are many differences in catering services, the foods or drinks that can be catered, and even more reasons or events to cater to. But in the most general sense, catering is the concept of hiring a service to serve foods and beverages at an event. Typically, food and beverage caterers handle all the details involved as well. Such as meal preparation, cooking, transporting the food to the event, serving the food or beverages at the event, and clean up after the event. Say you’re planning a wedding, graduation party, or any other event where there are guests you want to feed. The first consideration you should make as a party planner is, how much involvement or work you want to do at the actual event. As the planner, you’re going to be busy with details right up to the start of the event. Do you plan to also work through the event, or are you wanting to participate in the event as a guest or host as well? Having the event catered alleviates the work involved in the preparation, labor, and utmost attention paid to the dining experience of your guests.
Having all that taken care of, event hosts and planners are relieved of the burden of one of the most cumbersome details during the event. This ensures hosts can mingle and participate with zero worry about food service details, including clean-up.
Why is catering so expensive?
Before we start on this question, I want to ask it a different way because “Why is catering so expensive?” has two answers. “It’s expensive because of…” or “It’s not expensive.” The right way to ask this question is, “why is catering most often perceived to be so expensive?” The truth is, catering in general is priced relative to or more often cheaper than the prices of dining at a restaurant. For example, let’s break down the cost of one guest at a moderately priced restaurant:
- Appetizer (Sampler Platter ) – $10
- Soda – $2.50
- Salad – $6
- Main Dish – $17.50
- Glass of House Wine – $5
- Desert – $6.25
- Coffee with dessert – $2.50
For that particular dining experience, we’re looking at $49.75 before tax and tips are applied. That same dining experience for 100 guests sub-totals $4,975. With an 18-20% gratuities fee added and a steep dining tax of 10% (as is the case in Washington D.C.), the grand total comes out to roughly $6,500 for a 100 guest restaurant dining experience. Those figures are for an “in-house” event at a restaurant. If you wanted that same experience at a different venue of your choosing, the cost added for transportation and service staff could bring that grand total to somewhere between $7,500 and $8,000!
Professional catering services offer similar dining experiences with all the quality and variety at a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, professional caterers take care of every detail involved, leaving event hosts and planners free of any hassle or labor involved in such an undertaking.