How To Find A Caterer
Once you’ve defined the feel and scope of your event and nailed down some of the deciding factors and details, you can search online for caterers that serve your area. Also browse the Yellow Pages to see the range of services that are available locally. Check with family, friends and co-workers for their recommendations. In addition, ask a restaurant you enjoy if they prepare food to go in larger portions.
When you find several good caterers you are interested in, call and describe the event you envision and see who seems like a good fit for what you need. Also ask for references so you can talk to other customers and find out if they were satisfied with the service they received.
You can ask the caterer to create a sample menu and pricing so you can see what it will cost. Always be sure to tell the person how much you have to spend and ask him or her to plan something within your price range. This can help you avoid lots of headaches and over-spending. Also find out if it is possible to do a tasting.
In addition, ask caterers what training and experience they bring to the job, whether they are insured, and whether they have been certified in accordance in safe health and sanitary practices. Keep in mind that many home caterers may not have formal job training but may have learned the art of cooking in an informal setting. This is perfectly acceptable as long as they meet all health and safety requirements.
Finally, even if you plan to go with a small caterer, ask for everything in writing. You want to formalize your agreement and spell out all costs up front so you don’t have any surprises later. Always ask what the payment structure is (ie., how much you need to pay in advance and when the balance is due) and also about the cancellation policy.
What You Can Expect To Pay
The price for catering a small party in your home can span quite a large range. This is because the number of guests, the type of food and drinks you serve and the size and popularity of the catering service all play into the equation. In addition, the area of the country in which you live can also make a difference.
For a catered dinner or event, the prices are usually calculated at a per-person rate and you are required to guarantee a minimum number of guests.
To give you an idea of what you can expect to spend, prices can start at about $9 a person for very simple choices and can go on up to $25 a person or more for more elaborate fare, such as prime rib or king crab.
Note that drinks, wait staff, set up and clean up and delivery may be additional charges.
It is also worth pointing out that if you want to throw a very informal catered party for a sporting event, instead of going the per person route, you can often order platters of appetizers and sandwiches that will feed a group of 15 to 20 people from a local restaurant that caters for about $120 to $150 plus delivery. This would be apt to include a few all-time favorites such as buffalo wings, nachos, meat balls, wings and/or cold cuts.
And whether you go with a formal caterer or a restaurant that delivers, tips are generally expected.
Flexibility Is Key
When selecting a caterer and planning your event, keep in mind that it’s usually not an “all or nothing” situation. Use your creativity and ingenuity to get what you want without sacrificing the important things. This means, for instance, that if you plan a dinner party for a group of friends, you can invest the bulk of your money into having the main course cooked by a fabulous chef, but then make the salad and desserts yourself to keep the price down but still get everything you need and have a fabulous event.