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Hiring a Caterer

If the prospect of cooking and serving all the food for your next party seems overwhelming, it may be time for you to consider hiring a caterer. A good caterer can provide you with delicious food and allow you to enjoy your own gathering. Finding a good caterer is half the job. The best way is simply to attend someone elseís party and get the name of the caterer whose food meets your taste and standards. Another good choice is to get a recommendation from a friend with an excellent reputation for entertaining. You can also consult local food service sources.

If you are thinking of hiring a caterer, here are some things you should consider:

  • The size and complexity of your event is the first consideration. A neighbor who cooks out of her own kitchen may be able to handle the average dinner party, cocktail party, or backyard barbeque, but a large wedding or company party may need the capabilities of a caterer with a large professional kitchen.
  • Decide whether you want the caterer to just cook and deliver the food, so that you or someone you hire can serve it, or do you want the caterer to also provide the bartenders and waiters. A good caterer will have a staff of experienced helpers and will know how many will be necessary for your event. Make sure that the catering contract specifically includes how many helpers will be hired, exactly who will pay them, and whether they will expect a tip at the end of the party.
  • Will you be using your own serving pieces, dishes, glass wear and silverware? A good caterer can provide you with all the equipment needed for a successful party, but there is certain to be a charge for all of this, as the caterer may be renting it. If you are looking to hold down expenses, it may be better to use your own things or arrange your own rentals. Be sure to discuss what happens if there is breakage.
  • Go over the proposed menu carefully. The caterer should suggest a variety of choices for you to pick from that results in a harmonious and interesting mix of flavors and textures. If some of your guests have special dietary needs, you may have to adjust the menu to accommodate them. If the caterer has to substitute some ingredients at the last minute, the overall quality of the meal should not be compromised, and there could be a price adjustment.
  • Make sure you have properly estimated how many hours you will need your caterer. The caterer will need to arrive at your site in advance of the party to set up. Clean up after the party will also take time. If your event is so successful that it lasts longer than you think, the caterer will probably charge you for the extra hours.
  • The caterer should meet all local food licensing requirements and have liability insurance. All staff references should be carefully checked.

Be aware that popular caterers are almost always booked weeks in advance for holiday parties and during wedding and graduation seasons. Donít wait until the last minute if you are planning to have a party during these busy times.

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