Even more from the geniuses over at Room Forty…If you missed part I, read it here…


Get the caterer talking about their products. The latest catch phrases have caught. Everyone says things like “organic, sustainable, and local”. If you’re hearing “local”, ask them specifically what farms they work with. You want to know if their meats are “prime”, natural meats, or if they’re “select” and pumped with growth hormone. You want to know if their fish is fresh and wild, or frozen and farmed. You want a caterer that is as passionate about their salt (maldon please) as they are about their steak—so get them talking. No one is going to tell you “our proteins are pumped with hormones and our fish is right out of the freezer!” So just ask a nebulous, “tell me about your products.” If nothing is offered in terms of their product, odds are it’s not a “selling point” for them, which will tell you a lot about the quality of product.



In terms of preparation there is a wide spectrum. On one extreme there will be caterers that make literally everything “in house” down to the pickles on your slider. On the other extreme, (sadly) there will be caterers that order pre-made hors d’oeuvres from catering wholesalers and re-heat on site. Get them talking to you about their chef. Find out about the chef’s background. As goes the chef, so goes the kitchen, so you want to know as much as possible about the chef. His T.V. credits matters much less than his training and experience in cooking—so be wary if the first thing you hear was: “our chef was just on the show_____”.



If you’re ordering wines with the caterer, ask which wines will be served and how they decide on selections. Wine and food go together, period. A great meal becomes a complete meal when paired with good wine. Often times wine pairing isn’t even considered when wines are selected. Remember, flavors either really work together, or really don’t . Don’t do the “how much wine can I get for five hundred bucks?” Ask them to suggest what varietals will work well the menu you’ve selected. If you’ve got a brunch format featuring eggs Florentine, and they’re proposing Cabernet, you might want to move on.

LASTLY, REMEMBER YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, MOSTLYIn today’s economy, there are very few companies, (especially in the catering industry) that can afford to be exorbitant just because they think they’re rad. More than ever, clients are looking for perceived value. So—if you’re comparing bids and seeing drastically different numbers on the bottom line, do 2 things.a. Look what is built in the number. If one number includes staffing, and one doesn’t, that’s a big difference. But we know you probably get that already, so more importantly…b. Remember that there is a wide range of quality on every component of a catering proposal. A server that is paid $12 an hour is going to be a different caliber of server that is paid $20 an hour. A frozen fish is going to be substantially different product than fresh fish. A dinner that came out of a transit cabinet is a different dinner than one plated to order.All that to say, if the numbers are in a different universe, know that you’re not getting the same product for a giant chunk of money less.If budget is inflexible, but you’ve found the caterer you want to work with, our advice to clients is to adjust the vision, as opposed to compromise quality. Better to have mind blowing hors d’oeuvres, cheese service and beverages, then a mediocre plated dinner. After all, they’re not called “special” events for nothing.Happy inquiring!