How to Choose a Good Caterer

Finding the perfect caterer is an essential part of any large scale event. Weddings, corporate events, parties and family gatherings are all times when the services of a caterer might be needed. Unfortunately, there is no standardized grading system for caterers and anybody can start their own catering business. Here's how to choose a good caterer so that the food at your event is something memorable, for all the right reasons.


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    Listen to word of mouth recommendations.
    • No amount of advertising can replace a good recommendation from somebody you know and trust. If a friend or acquaintance had a great caterer for their wedding, then this is a caterer you should talk to for your next big event. Conversely, bad reviews should also be heeded.
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    Schedule a tasting.
    • Caterers who provide food for large events should offer to provide you with a tasting, in order to gain your business for a large contract. Keep in mind, however, that this tasting will be the very best product the caterers can produce. There's also often a huge difference in quality between preparing a meal for 2 compared to 500.
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    Consider the caterer's specialty.
    • Some caterers specialize in larger scale events and have the equipment and expertise to professionally handle larger numbers of guests. Other caterers specialize in smaller intimate events, cocktail parties, or even just delivery of catered food. Be wary of the caterer who claims to be able to do it all, chances are that they don't excel at any of it.
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    Consider what services you need.
    • Some caterers will only prepare and deliver you the food you ordered, and may even go so far as to set it up. Others can provide fully trained wait staff and support personnel. If you're having a formal event requiring plated service then you want a catering company large enough to handle your needs. Feel free to ask the caterer if their staff comes from a temporary agency or if they are employees of the catering company. Wait staff that comes from a temp agency can imply that the catering company doesn't often handle large, staffed events.
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    Ask for references.
    • When entrusting a single company to handle the food for your event it is essential that you ask for references. Don't just ask them to hand over names; instead ask for referrals of several recent events they catered.
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    Inquire about food freshness.
    • Many caterers cut corners in food preparation by using frozen products. Fresh is always best and they're charging you as though it were made fresh. Insist on only using a caterer that uses fresh food, not frozen.
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    Call the local health department.
    • Most catering companies are subject to licensing and regulation by their local health department, and there will be records on any prior complaints, issues and inspections. This is usually considered public information. If the catering company you're considering hiring has had violations or complaints it's time to look elsewhere.
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    Ask for a quotation.
    • Too often, asking to see the bottom line price is the first step in hiring a caterer when in fact it should be the last. The food for a wedding can be more than 50 percent of the entire wedding cost; you're going to get what you pay for. If your caterer is dropping their price you can be assured they're dropping their quality as well.
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    Read the contract.
    • Never hire a contractor without a firm contract in place. This protects your interests in case the caterer doesn't follow through. Once you've decided on your caterer and agreed upon a price, sign the contract after reading it through carefully.


  • Beware of caterers who sound too good to be true, as they're probably not as good as they think they are.

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Categories: Food and Entertaining