With so many different options on the market, it’s hard to understand how to distinguish one caterer from another. It’s not just about the food—it’s about how they run their businesses and the customer experiences they create at events.

This week we sat down with our Executive Vice President David Sandler and he shared his 13 biggest do’s and don’ts when choosing a caterer:

Do: Have a Budget and Share That Information With Your Event Planner

Don’t: go into planning an event without a budget in mind unless the sky’s the limit.

Know what you want for your event before involving a caterer.

Do: Determine How Your Caterer is Different

If they claim to have the best food, they should follow it up with the awards they’ve won to act as proof (or reviews and references). You should expect your caterer to flush out their claims, otherwise, you shouldn’t take them at face value.

Do: Ask Questions

It’s important to build rapport and trust with your caterer so you can feel good about them handling your event. You also want to determine if they’re capable of understanding your vision.

Do: Determine if Your Caterer is Familiar with Your Venue

If you haven’t picked one yet, can they help you find/secure a location?

Ask about who else they work with — vendor partners. Are they reputable?

Do: Determine if They’re Flexible About Handling Everything You Want

Do they address food allergies ahead of time? Is their solution a legitimately good meal or something haphazard? Are they flexible about your preferred service style (like action stations vs sit down meals, etc.)? An inflexible caterer likely won’t be able to help you create the event of your dreams.

Do: Ask if You Get a Tasting

Every caterer is different. Whether or not you get a tasting depends on the nature of the event and how important it is. Don’t: lose sight of your budget if caterers try to upsell you during the tasting process. It shouldn’t feel like a bait and switch.

Know that some caterers offer a discount to not do a tasting—but don’t be tempted. Do the tasting.

Do: Get a Detailed Catering Proposal

This should include information about all the food, staff, and little details like utensils and linens that will be included.

Don’t: Assume things if the catering proposal is vague—ask. For example, a catering proposal that talks about a “premium bar” should include more detail about what brands of alcohol are included, and how many.

Also, do: take time to understand the payment structure and payment terms.

Don’t: Skimp on Service

Don’t assume you need a certain amount of servers—take the advice of your caterer. If the event has bad service, that’s what people will remember, not how great the food is.

DO: Ask about the math behind the servers, such as how many waiters they staff for how many guests. This will partially depend on the service style (buffet, sit-down meal, etc.). Catering by Michaels says who’s coming, when in our catering proposal.

Make sure to also ask questions like:

  • Who’s staff are they?
  • Are they employees or contractors?
  • Are gratuities included?

Don’t: Work With an Unresponsive, Untimely Caterer

This is most certainly a reflection of how day-of will go at your event.

Do: Determine if Your Caterer is Fully Insured, Licensed, and Bonded

If not, you may be on the hook for things like guests drinking alcohol illegally in your venue!

Do: Ask Which Staff Members Will Attend the Event From the Company

Will there be someone taking charge and managing the servers? Make sure this information is reflected in your catering proposal.

Don’t: Choose a Caterer on Price Alone

…Unless that’s your #1 consideration. If not, you want to be sure to compare all other elements and factors to create a truly great/stress-free experience for your event.

Do: Hire a Caterer Who’s Actually a Caterer

Restaurants are starting to jump in the game with deliveries for large parties but they don’t understand all the finer points of catering an event. It certainly won’t be the same experience that you’ll get when working with a true caterer.

Final Thoughts: 13 Do’s + Don’ts to Consider When Choosing a Caterer

Interested in working with a caterer who’s transparent from the very start of the process? You’re in the right place. Get in touch with our event experts to start planning your next event!