Not all types of catering services are created the same. In fact, you could get wildly different experiences depending on the catering company and package you choose. It can be confusing to navigate, so here are a few tips.
Tip #1: Consider a few important things.
- How much work can YOU do before and during the event? How much work do you WANT to do?
- What type of experience are you going for? For example, do you want a casual serve-yourself or an elegant table service experience for your guests?
- What is a realistic budget?
Tip #2: Understand the different types of catering services.
Food truck catering – If you’ve got the outdoor space, food trucks will often cater smaller private events. Usually, they have 2-3 staff members pull up and serve out of the window. Food truck selection can be simple to fancy. Some of the food trucks can customize a menu based on the customer’s request. Works well for very casual outdoor affairs, but can be impacted by weather. Even if they do offer more service like buffet set-up or even plated service. It varies greatly from truck to truck what they consider catering.
Fast casual catering – Local and chain fast casual restaurants usually offer drop-off catering. If hot service is required, the food is heated before delivery and held in holding units. This is very safe if handled correctly and effective in many applications like quick lunch meetings or events held in parks and backyards. Typically, this type of food is served with disposable plates and flatware.
Grocery catering – Many grocers — including Tony’s Market! — offer deli, bakery, and prepared foods catering. Not all stores deliver, so decide in advance if you can pick up the items. Grocery catering can be a better alternative to fast casual because you have more variety. Consider grocery catering for family reunions or small workplace parties.
Restaurant catering – Ideal when you want to host your event at a nice location and/or have a more advanced menu. Many restaurants have function rooms and will allow you to decorate with centerpieces, but not much else. All decor and event timing is typically up to you, not the wait staff. Works well for small- to medium-size rehearsal dinners and retirement parties.
Limited-service caterer – When you want really good food for your event at a park or at home. A limited-service caterer may prepare some food in advance and some on-site and set up the buffet. Where the food gets cooked depends on the menu and budget. Best if you can have a chef cook fresh. The rest will be up to you, including set up and take down of tables and chairs. Limited service caterers often cater high school and college graduations.
Full-service caterer – When you hire a full-service catering company, you hire someone to act as the hub of your whole event. The DJ, the party planner, the florist — everyone — interfaces with the caterer.
The full-service catering company should order linens and china for you. Then, on the day of, they set up tables, chairs, place settings, and decor. There are event chefs who cook everything on-site, even dressing coleslaw just before service, to keep as kitchen fresh as possible. The food may be served butler style, buffet, or table service. There is usually a bar staffed by a trained safe serve bartender, too.
All you have to do is provide your details in advance and enjoy your event too! This is truly the best option if you are looking for someone to fully execute your catered event.
Full-service catering is ideal for weddings, fundraisers, galas, full-day trainings or meetings, parties, and even company picnics.
Tip #3: Read the fine print.
Be warned! Some say they are full service when they are not a full-service catering company. If you want someone to serve bar, put on chair covers, and (most importantly) take responsibility of clean up, make sure to ask explicitly and double check the contract before making your deposit.
Also, don’t be alarmed by a service fee, but do ask what it covers. At Tony Rosacci’s Fine Catering, the service fee covers overhead expenses. Like, for example, the fleet of refrigerated trucks with the lift gate, pre-event meeting with chefs and event specialists assigned to your event, loading of truck, washing and polishing supplies after event, breakage of equipment due to travel, buffet design elements (includes floral), and even the time it may take for a staff member to coordinate an inspection with the local fire department. Note that the service fee is separate from gratuity. Gratuity is at the customer’s discretion, and there are many web articles that help on how to tip for catered events, including this one from MarthaStewartWedding.com.
Tony’s Market and Tony Rosacci’s Fine Catering offers Market Catering, Fast Casual Catering, Limited-Service Catering, and Full-Service Catering. Next time you’re planning an event, we’ve got you covered!
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