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6 things your caterer needs to know to plan your party

I meet with a lot of clients, potential and otherwise.

What I notice is that many hosts or couples come to me having given little thought about the party they want to throw. They might have a date, maybe a venue in mind, and a rough idea of how many people will attend. And that’s about it.

The number one question is “How much is this going to cost?” And its a great question!

Think about where you are.  You are visiting an expert who is going to feed your closest friends and family. Your caterer certainly wants to please you and your guests. And they need some help from you to do this. They need more information!

  • What is your budget?  There is no sense in talking about prime rib if you plan to spend enough just enough for peanut butter & jelly!  Everybody has a budget and economic restraints. Talking about this realistically will result in better expectations and a rockin’ party.
  • What is the favorite thing you like to eat?  Because I asked this question I once did peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches for a graduation party. Don’t just accept a pre-canned menu selection.  This is your party … you should eat the food you like!
  • What kind of food will your guests enjoy?  Really take some time to think about this. What have you enjoyed with your friends in the past? When you gather together what food brings out the conversation? And the laughter?
  • What kind of a feel do you want your party to have?  Should it be laid back? Just friends getting together?  Or is it a more formal ‘people will talk about this for a year…’ party.  The feel and culture of the party help to guide the discussion. Do you want to have a buffet or do you want individually plated and served dishes?  These serving styles are at either end of the spectrum.  There is a wide variety of choices in between. Your choice here will affect both pricing and the menu variety available.  (Ex.  The labor man hours needed for a buffet meal is about 30% of that needed for a plated meal.)
  • Do you want Disposable dishes and flatware or real China & glassware?  There are some very nice, eco-friendly disposable products available these days at about half the cost of real china.  For the really laid back parties you can always go with big-box store disposables. For real china plan to spend, at a minimum, $6-9 per person
  • Are there any known food allergies … I mean the serious kind – dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, etc.  You won’t know everyone of your guests allergies but do make your caterer aware of those you are sure of so they can plan the menu around them.

Caterer pricing.  Understand that pricing is very dependent upon the price of raw goods before they start to prepare them.  A meal with beef that costs your caterer $15 per pound is going to cost you a lot more than a chicken meal that costs $3 per pound.  Please don’t expect a custom designed menu and preparation for the price of a ‘Big-Burger’ drive-through.  If you do find someone willing to do your party for that price prepare to be disappointed in the quality of the food – it is simple economics.

Give some forethought to your party!  You’ll enjoy the process more and the party will be off-the-charts fun and exciting!
Happy Entertaining!  –  Pete

3 thoughts on “6 things your caterer needs to know to plan your party

  1. Thanks. Really useful info for planning Bill’s 60th b-day celebration in August. Cass

  2. I totally agree when you said that everybody has a limitation when it comes to your budget, so we must tell them about it. I will definitely share this with my sister so that she will get a nice set of meals. She told me that she has enough resources because she saved up for this birthday of hers, but I think she is just being impulsive just the way that I know her. So thanks for the reminders.

  3. Thank you for pointing out that you need to consider the budget when it comes to finding a caterer. My husband and I are wanting to hire a caterer and need to find the right one. I’ll have to do some research and find the best caterer in my area.

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