Catering Secrets Part II

We’re back with the rest of my interview with catering expert Marcus Duarte of the Red Radish in Black Mountain, NC.  Last week we talked about types of service styles, how to save money and the importance of considering guest flow.  Let’s hear what else Marcus has to share.

What are the biggest mistakes consumers make regarding catering?  “The first is planning for too few people.  You spend lots of time and money planning an event, choosing decor and table coverings, and then people want to get cheap on the food; so they buy for 85 people when 100 are coming.  Then guests blame the caterer when they run out of food.  It’s not a fun situation.  Don’t try to skimp on the amount of food you order to save money.”

Other common mistakes? “Trying to handle part of the meal themselves.  Caterers don’t like to hear ‘you do the meal, but we’re going to do dessert.’ Maybe the dessert tastes excellent, but it isn’t ready on time and there isn’t anyone to serve it.  You’ve had a lovely main course, but now the quality and service isn’t the same with the next portion of the meal.  It just doesn’t usually work very well.”

What should people look for/ask a caterer before hiring them?  “Look for insured caterers with a certified kitchen.  There are lots of ‘fly-by-night’ or home caterers that are buying second hand food from non-certified vendors and it’s just not safe. You can also ask if they have sanitation trained employees, that is, people trained in proper receiving, prep, cooking and serving of food- you want that! And, if you’ve never used them before visit their kitchen, look at their vans or delivery vehicles.  Are they clean?

Also, google their reputation.  What are other people saying about them?”

What if you check all those things, and you still have several good options? “Choose a caterer that specializes in what you want to do.  Do they specialize in weddings? Corporate events?  I would highly recommend using a caterer and not a restaurant that caters.  A friend of mine recently did an event and really wanted steak served.  So he called Outback.  By the time the steaks were all packed up and in the van, they were cold.  Most of the time restaurants just aren’t used to preparing food that will be transported and served later.”

Any final tips? “Be very clear on all your expectations.  Who will cover all the different responsibilities? Who will set up the room, clean up?  Ask.  And have a contract.  That way you can read over it and see everything outlined clearly.”

Thanks to Marcus for all his insider tips! I hope they were as helpful to you as they were to me. Happy event planning!