How to choose a catering company for your event

Written by Paul
Sep 11, 2014

Choosing a catering company for your event

So you’ve found the perfect venue for your corporate dinner/awards ceremony/wedding/bar mitzvah/conference but they don’t have in house catering, how do you choose a suitable catering company that will make your event a success? Some venues tie you to a specific caterer which can have it’s downsides but does mean you don’t have to find one yourself. Most venues will have a list of accredited suppliers, however this rarely narrows things down. For example the Natural History Museum offers a list of 18 preferred caterers while Middle Temple offers a nice, concise list of 19 catering companies. So how do you choose the best caterer for you?

Word of mouth - Easily to most powerful tool, speak to others and see who they have used in the past and what their thoughts were. Go into specifics and ask about staff, presentation, ease of booking, professionalism and of course the quality of the food.

Reviews - The internet is a pretty marvelous tool and out their on the information super highway is likely to be a few opinions on every catering company. Obviously many should be taken with a pinch of salt but will give you an overall picture on what to expect.

Speak to the venue - Probably the most informed people are those that work in the venue. They will have seen numerous catering companies in action and have genuine feedback from their clients.

Define your event - With so many catering companies out their many are forging niche markets and specific USPs that make them more suitable for some events rather than other. By looking at the event, it’s style, the guests and their expectations etc you should be able to narrow down your options.

Get quotes - Most importantly get a number of quotes! 3-4 should do the job and give you a good view of what is available. Having quotes from a selection of companies should also give you a platform to negotiate with.

Price - While we don’t condone buying based entirely on price it will no doubt need to be a consideration. Is the company asking £150 for the 3-course meal really better than the one asking £60?

What’s included - Prices can only truly be compared when like for like, which when looking at event catering can be difficult. Make sure your quotes include staffing, travel, insurance, furniture hire and crockery etc otherwise your comparisons could lead you to false economies. Quotes should be easy to read and allow you to easily asses the prices of each component rather than offer an overall cost with no breakdown.

Tastings - These will generally come once you’ve placed a booking however will allow you to adjust your booking and speak with the caterers and chefs about any concerns or improvements you might want to make. Some larger catering companies will have showcase events fairly regularly which you can attend and sample food before committing to a booking.

Why do venues have accredited suppliers?

Reputation - All caterers on an accredited list will of been through a lengthy approval process in which the venue will have ensured they have the correct insurances and food hygiene certification. The approved suppliers are often seen as an extension of the venue and as such venues need to ensure they will represent them properly. If a caterer caused an outbreak of food poisoning it’s likely that reports would attribute it to the venue thus highlighting the importance of ensuring suppliers are well vetted.

Protecting the venue - Many dry hire venues tend to be of historical importance and listed or are galleries/museums with priceless works and artifacts. They need to be sure that any supplier brought onsite will take this into consideration and treat the venue with respect and not be a danger to it or anything contained within.

Kickbacks - Many venues will make commission from their catering partners and many catering companies offer venue finding services that will only list venues they cater at thus generating leads and bringing events into venues.