How to pick a caterer

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written by Maree
Sunday, 13 Dec 2020

You are having a party and you really want someone else to do the cooking.  How do you pick a caterer?

1. Reputation

Friends and relations, and their friends and relations, are often good sources of recommendations for good caterers. Consider recent catered events you attended, did any of the food stand out for you?

Look at testimonials on catering websites, reviews on the internet, and when you have narrowed down your choices (we recommend talking to a few first), you can ask if the caterer is willing to provide references. Make sure they have the correct licences.

2. Experience

Consider the type of event you are running. Every caterer tends to specialise –  you don’t want an experienced kid’s party caterer if you are wanting to have a formal dinner. Based on your guests’ demographics, the time of the party, and the specific occasion or event, your caterer should be able to suggest the right menu. Ideally, they should offer choices for every course, and you should be able to pick one from the list.


3. Responsiveness

One of the first things you should look for is responsiveness. The company you reach out to must be willing to understand your needs and be ready to put in the time and effort needed to meet your requirements. Are they able to work within a theme, if you have one? If your event is more complicated, do they have arrangements with rental companies and other suppliers, if needed? Are they able to make recommendations for other vendors such as florists, photographers or bakers? Are they able to manage these other vendors, if you prefer it?


4. Delicious food

This is a no-brainer, really! A company offering food services should be able to serve delicious food, leaving you wishing you could fit more in. Your caterer should be willing to provide taste testing or samples to help you decide on their services.

Your caterer should be able to manage the numbers you propose, offer sufficient choices and manage any dietary requirements or special requests. If you have particular values about food, choose a caterer that aligns with your views.

Check whether your caterer can provide drinks or beverages.  Even if you are providing drinks, discuss this with the caterer, they may be able to provide wait staff, if needed, and at the least help guide you in terms of setting up, so that food service is not interrupted.


5. Venue familiarity

If you are using a venue, check with your caterer to see if they are familiar with it, and if not, how they plan to work with the venue. If you are holding your event at home, talk to them about how they will work, when they need access, what you will need to provide or get out of the way.  Once you have chosen your caterer and know what they are responsible for, they will take care of everything, end-to-end, so you can sit back and relax with your guests.


6. Quotes, contracts and other serious stuff

When choosing a caterer, you do need to pay attention to the ‘serious’ stuff. You will be working within a budget so ask for a quote and make sure you understand what is included in the price. Consider whether there are things you don’t need or things you would like included. Discuss all of this in detail.

Get a detailed breakdown of the inclusions for the quoted price and a price per person. Typically this will cover food and beverages but there are often additional items and services that need to be considered – check if there are any additional costs to consider. When finalising the contract you might want to consider:

  • Table and serving ware
  • Decorations
  • Dishes, glasses, cutlery
  • Staffing
  • Tax, insurance, minimum numbers fee
  • Payment terms and cancellation clauses

Before you sign a contract, read it through and make sure it covers what you expect. Look for any hidden or additional costs – and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is nothing like a disagreement to take the shine off your party.

Maree catering and baking Brisbane


Maree is the Baker-in-Chief at Busy Bake and has been creating high-quality, homestyle catering since 2003. Maree's delicious and fresh food saves you the time and stress of catering for your next event. Her tasty sweets and savouries are created from the finest ingredients, made from fresh produce and prepared with traditional home-style methods. Maree's second in charge is Spitz, her dog, followed closely by her husband.

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