Catering Secrets from the Source

I sat down with Marcus Duarte of the Red Radish Catering Company for some inside tips on catering for events.  Marcus runs a booming catering company, specializing in gourmet corporate lunches.  He’s a chef who’s been catering for fourteen years with a devoted following in North Carolina.  He gave me so many great tips, I’m splitting my interview with him into two parts.  Here’s part one:

Do you have any tips on estimating the amount of food to guest ratio?  Tell your caterer how many people you really expect are coming and they can help you decide on how much food to order.  “Ask your caterer if they figure in an overage.  I usually figure about 10% more than they order.”  But don’t depend on that overage to cover people you know are already coming, that’s not what it is for!

How can people save money? “You save money on wait staff.  A buffet is less expensive than a plated meal because you can run a buffet with fewer staff.  It’s important to have the food packed, delivered, and set out while it is still hot/cold.  You can do that with fewer people at a buffet, but you need lots of staff do that with a plated meal.”

Are buffet and plated the only two service options? “No. In between plated meals and buffet meals is family style service. Family style has all the dishes on the table and people serve themselves.  This requires more food per person, because you don’t have a set portion per person and you don’t want lots of empty bowls sitting on tables.”

Aside from cost, how do you determine the best serving option for your group? “Deciding also depends on space.  Is the event in someone’s house with no counter space- well, buffet might be difficult.  How will guest flow work? Where will people sit/serve themselves etc. Think about your space carefully before deciding how you will best serve people.”

Next week we’ll talk about the most common mistakes customers make with their caterer, questions you shouldn’t forget to ask before hiring a caterer and why you need a contract.  Thanks for all the insights Marcus!