How to Choose a Caterer or Event Company

For most people, organising an event (let alone a catered event) is well outside of their comfort zone. Maybe you’re organising your own wedding, a milestone birthday or you’ve taken on the responsibility at work. The first move is an internet search for caterers in your city: fine, now there’s a list of twelve. But they all look great, and on their websites they all say great things (about themselves). So how do you really choose? Here’s how.

1. Word of Mouth (aka Street Cred).
Has anyone you know organised a similar event and if so can they tell you about their experience? Did their caterer get back to them quickly, did they listen and did the food, theming and organisation on the day match the promises made? Ask on Facebook, or ask your colleagues if they’ve attended any memorable work events. People love being asked for their opinion, and if the same company’s name keeps getting mentioned then you’re off to a good start.

2. Check with your venue.
If your event isn’t  at your home or your workplace, or you haven’t chosen a venue yet and need some help, then skip right to number 3.
But if your event will be held at an external venue then ask the venue if they have preferred or contracted suppliers. Some venues have two or three caterers that hold exclusive rights ie. you must choose one of them. Some have preferred suppliers that they recommend, but it may not be mandatory to use them.

3. Ask for an estimate.
By now you really want a ballpark figure of cost. Once you’ve asked around and done your online research, shorten your list and contact the caterers that interest you the most. I’d say contact up to three companies initially. You should be able to have a brief phone (or email) conversation describing your event and expect a prompt (within a couple of days, depending on how complex your event will be) estimation that includes:

  • A sample or tailored menu and price. At LittleWolf we compose every menu specifically for you. Our clients never choose from lists (unless they want to).
  • Staff costs based on the length of the event
  • Equipment costs
  • Styling and/or management costs (see number four below!)
  • Suggested Venues
  • A total estimated amount, so you don’t have to do any maths! The caterer will have a list of questions, just be as specific as you can.

Of course you can change your mind later but the more information the caterer has the more accurate their estimate will be.

4. Ask how much or how little the caterer/events company does.

Some caterers are just caterers. That might be great, they do what they’re good at, but it means they’ll just do the food and maybe some of the staff.

Events companies will organise the event, which is crucial as events get larger or more complex, but they’ll subcontract the band, the stylists, the caterers etc. The more professional catering & event companies might do a combination of both, which will save you from dealing with seperate  companies. But be careful, just because someone says they do something doesn’t mean they’re great at it! Professional event  management and styling requires just as much expertise as professional cooking.

At LittleWolf we’ve taken years to build an in-house team and a network of amazing suppliers that allows us to be something unique in Auckland: a one-stop creative shop for functions and events in Auckland. The best way to see what we’ve done, how we work and what we can do for you is to visit us at our offices.

5. Ask for references.
It’s an important day and you’re spending a lot of money. If they’re as good as they say they are your caterer should be able to give you references from past or existing clients for who they’ve done similar events for (anonymous ones don’t count!).

6. Ask for a tasting. 
If the caterer’s ideas, service and pricing have still kept them in the running but you really need to decide between the two last companies then ask for a menu tasting. Different caterers will have different policies, but the professional ones will offer some kind of tasting service.
At LittleWolf we love having clients in for a tasting as it’s a chance for us to get to know you, your preferences and discuss those little details that will make your event amazing. And an hour chatting and eating in our tasting room can save a whole lot of emails!

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