Seven Things to Know Before You Call Your Caterer

If you’re new to the fine art of calling a catering company, we can help.  Let’s start by asking a few questions to see how we can work together.   There are seven key questions that give us a framework to work from, they boil down to who, when, where, how, a couple of whats and sometimes why.

Who 

Who’s in charge of this little shindig?  More specifically, who is our prime contact and/or who’s name is on the final invoice?

If we’re talking about a family affair to surprise your Mom on her 70th birthday, chances are these people are one and the same.  When dealing with a large cooperate functions there are often several handlers in place.  We find it’s always best to have our key people talking to your key people, direct.  This helps to streamline communications and make sure nothing is overlooked.

When

Do you have a set date and time?  This might seem like an obvious question, but sometimes event dates/times can be subject to change and that can play havoc with schedules on both sides.  The sooner we have a date and (approximate) time the better.  Catering companies, like restaurants, can book up and sometimes have to turn away orders.  If you are entertaining during the busy spring and fall, be sure to book several weeks or months in advance.  Don’t forget to invite your guests early as well – you may be competing with another party for RSVP’s!

Corporate Lunch_Epicuria Ottawa

Where

Where should we deliver and/or set up?  Do you have a professional venue?  Is it indoors or outdoors?  Are you planning a function in your home or at the office?  Perhaps you’re hosting something casual and you might prefer the option of picking up your order at our shop.  There are lots of ways we can help you manage both budget, logistics and presentation with the answer to this question.

How 

How many people are you expecting?  This is the question that causes the most blank stares and is among the most crucial of details as far as overall planning goes.  In the initial stages of discussion a ‘guesstimate’ will suffice, particularly if we’re helping you to plan your seasonal open house or small business meeting.  However,  if we’re discussing a plated sit down full service dinner for 250 with menu options, a final head count will be subject to deadlines and cut-off dates.

Drink Station - Epicuria Catering, Ottawa Tapas Station - Epicuria Catering, Ottawa

What 

As in, what’s on the menu?  Do you have a vision of the food and beverage you’d like served?  Looking for food stations with an Asian theme for a stand-up cocktail function for 400?  Platted hot lunch for twenty VIP’s in the boardroom?  Need a birthday cake for 40?  Is there someone on your list who is “allergic to everything”?  Let’s talk.   Almost any reasonable request you can dream up in the world of food, we can tackle.   From casual barbecues to opulent formal functions; food and service is what we do best.

What – Part 2

What’s your budget?  We put it a little more delicately than that, something along the lines of “do you have a budget in mind?”  Many clients have never discussed catering before, and that’s OK.  Honestly, that’s what we’re here for, to help guide you through the basics of event planning so your event is as smooth and seamless as possible.  Knowing your budget guidelines helps us to determine the level of service and style of menu we can offer.

In industry speak we often break our pricing down into a ‘cost per person’ for any given function.  Let’s say you call us up looking to book a social occasion such as a family reunion.  You’re expecting 75 people, you have a date set, and you’re hosting the event in your aunt’s backyard (which is lovely BTW).  You’re thinking gourmet sandwiches, big healthy salads, and sweets served buffet style, and your budget is $500.  The cost breakdown on that is $6.67 per person, and frankly, that’s pretty lean for the menu you had in mind.  We may suggest options more in line with your budget, or maybe what you really need is the salads, the sweets and Uncle Bob can throw a few hoagies on the grill to keep the budget in line.  If your budget has some flexibility, we can price out your fondest desire or we can offer a couple of menu changes to find a happy medium.

One item that many people forget to take into consideration when planning a large event are the costs associated with rental equipment, event coordination and the service team.  There are so many options to consider, price ranges and quality variances, it can pay to have a professional give you some quality advice.  Don’t let the process overwhelm you.  This is what we do.  Often times there are ways to extend your budget that you hadn’t even thought of.

Zucchini Rolls - Epicuria Ottawa

And Sometimes, Why

There are times when the question of why can be an important one.  Catering your 10th anniversary party will be different in tone than catering your company Christmas party.  This is a question that will dictate ambiance, menu, plating, props and often staffing considerations on our side.

A quick conversation or email exchange and we have everything we need to make your special event shine.  No matter if it’s at your place, our place, the workplace or any place – catering is what we do best.

Words & Photos By:

cori_horton_food_gypsyCori (Corinna) Horton is a Food Marketing Specialist, freelance writer/ photographer and the voice behind the blog Food Gypsy.  Based in Canada’s National Capital Region she takes great joy in exploring all things DELICIOUS!