Catering & Beverage Services
Randomly selecting a caterer is not a wise business move. Keeping everyone focused on the agenda and not on an empty stomach obviously is an important factor when planning a business meeting or event.

If you have never used a caterer before, ask associates for recommendations based on their previous experience. Also, most caterers will gladly provide references that you can contact, and some caterers post references on their Web sites. Be sure to do a little research before you begin the search.

Many caterers can provide different types of food for meetings or events. Options include breakfasts, picnics, box lunches, party platters, executive luncheons, formal and informal buffets, cocktail and hors d’oeuvre receptions, and even seven-course seated dinners.

In addition to companies that specialize only in catering or beverage services, other catering options include area delicatessens and restaurants. If your favorite restaurant provides exceptional food, service and catering, then it would be a logical choice for that important meeting you are planning. Also, for meeting planners who are looking for a specific cuisine, many restaurants provide expertise in a certain cuisine that is difficult to match.

QUESTIONS TO ASK
Once you have checked the references of several caterers and made your choice, the focus goes back to details. Make sure you understand exactly which services the caterer will provide and get it in writing. Questions to ask include:
  • Will that caterer allow you to maintain control of your event? Caterers provide a service, and are there to offer advice, but never to make demands.
  • Does the fee include setup and cleanup?
  • How will the food be presented?
  • How many catering staff will serve at the event?
  • Will there be waiters supervising the buffet and food tables? (This is always a good way to limit over-consumption by meeting attendees.)
  • Will there be adequate supervision of trash, during and after coffee breaks—as well as consolidation of coffee and tea to limit waste?
  • Do you have a choice of linens and tableware?
  • Will the caterer provide decorations for the table?
  • Do you need to sign a contract? Is there a cancellation fee?
  • Can the caterer incorporate the theme of your meeting with the presentation of the food?
  • Does the caterer have the necessary license or permit for serving alcoholic beverages? Will it be a full bar or wine and beer service only?
  • When do you need to provide a final head count for the function?
    MORE TIPS
  • Consider limiting drink tickets to two or three, especially in crowds larger than 50. This helps cut down on costs.
  • When making order estimates, keep in mind that consumption is always a little less than head count. For instance, if 100 people RSVP, order coffee for 80. Remember to select a caterer who will suit your needs, while letting you control what is necessary and unnecessary for your function. The following section provides a listing of many of the area’s best caterers in various price ranges.