Hiring a caterer for your party can be an easy way to take some of the load off your shoulders. There are a lot of caterers out there, offering different types of food and activities. Follow our catering checklist to have the best experience possible using a caterer.
- Set your budget well in advance, and begin saving as soon as possible.
- Decide on a menu. Make sure you take any food restrictions into account.
- Ensure you receive a signed contract when you hire a caterer.
1. Determine a budget. This will help the caterer choose an appropriate menu.
2. Select your date. Many times if you choose a Sunday or weekday, caterers will give you a discounted rate.
3. Determine your number of guests. Decide if friends and extended family will be included in the invitation.
4. Choose a location. Your caterer may be able to help you and even reserve the park for you!
5. Decide on a menu. Pick a theme if applicable, and decide on appetizers, the main course, desserts, and whether there will be bar service. Decide if it will be buffet-style or sit-down plating. Make sure you take note of any food restrictions your guests may have, and plan accordingly. Notify the caterer you choose of any allergies.
6. Decide if you need rentals such as seating, tents, portable restrooms, trash dumpsters, lighting, etc. The right caterer should be able to get these things for you.
7. Do you need entertainment such as games, clowns, or inflatables? The right caterer should be able to get these things for you.
8. Call for quotes. Be sure to have all of your information ready including phone numbers, addresses, e-mail etc.
9. When you call, ask the caterer for a copy of their catering (not business) license and liquor license if they have one.
10. Request a copy of the caterers' liability insurance to be sure all of your guests are covered at the event. Also ask for a copy of the employers' insurance to ensure their staff is covered, so you will not be held liable.
11. Ask the caterer if their staff is uniformed. Do they carry health cards? Do they have CPR certification, if relevant?
12. If you are having a barbecue, find out if the meat is served from pans or hot off the grill.
13. Are buffet lines set with shade, linen, skirting, or florals? Are all disposables included?
14. Ask the caterer if they set up and clean up. Most parks will retain your deposit if your space is not cleaned entirely. If they won't clean up, make sure you have enough hands on deck to do so.
15. Be sure to ask the caterer where they are cooking. Ask if you can come see their facility and find out where it is!
16. Would the caterer be willing to come meet with you to answer questions? Alternatively, are they free to chat with you on the phone or via e-mail?
17. Find out terms of payment and type of payment accepted. Make sure you have enough money saved ahead of time; call caterers far enough in advance to allow you to save the money needed.
18. If you use their services, will the caterer come out to the event location and do a “layout” with you?
19. Does each entertainment item (such as inflatable or concession) come with an attendant? It's important that inflatables have attendants, since they ensure the inflatable is used appropriately and that any misbehaving guests are dealt with. In the event of an accident or issue with the inflatable, they can immediately address it.
20. When reserving a park, be sure to find out about power and a water source. Make sure your caterer will have access to whatever they need to set up food or inflatables. Also ensure that you have adequate space to set everything up that your caterer will be bringing.
21. Be sure to have a signed contract when hiring any services. This will ensure that you get exactly what you're promised. If you don't, you can hold the catering company liable for breaching the contract.
22. Check with the park you're hosting the event at. Ask if they have had any problems with specific caterers.
23. The day of your event, make sure you arrive in a timely manner to greet the caterer. While they'll take care of setup, you may need to help guide them to the right location. They will also likely not bother setting anything up if nobody is there to greet them.