There are more than 150,000 caterers in the United States alone. Figuring out how to choose the best caterer for your event can be challenging. However, knowing some key things to look out for and to ask can make your task easier.

The Importance of a Good Caterer

Food is the center of nearly every event people attend. From weddings, to conferences, to dinner out with friends, it is almost always the central part of the occasion.

Good food can create lasting memories. Think about comfort foods from your childhood. Do they brighten up your day when you’re feeling unwell? The food at your event can work to make your event memorable in either a good way or a bad way.

Tips to Help You Choose a Caterer

Those event planners who regularly hire caterers will tell you that there are a few things you should do if you want to hire the best.

Ask for Names

The best place to start is with the event coordinator at the venue you are holding the event. He or she sees caterers come and go and can tell you which ones are the best prepared to meet the needs of your event based on size, dietary requirements, and even your budget.

If you know anyone who lives in the area, ask if they know of any caterers with an excellent reputation.

Check out Reviews

Once you have a list of caterers, go online to check out reviews of those caterers. Simply type “caterer name reviews” into the search engine and multiple reviews should pop up. Yelp is often a very helpful resource for this research. You may also want to check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if there are any complaints filed.

Ask the catering company for some references. However, keep in mind that they aren’t likely to give you the names of people who are unhappy with their services.

Investigate Complaints

If there are any complaints against the company, click through on the BBB website. You will see details about whether the issue was resolved and the responses from both parties.

While anyone can make a mistake, especially early in their catering career, how the person rectifies that mistake can be very telling.

Taste the Food

Hiring a caterer without tasting the food they offer is like hiring a band without hearing their music. Take the time to go to a taste testing or to send someone you trust to it if you live out of the area.

Ask that they prepare a taste of each course. At a minimum, you should be provided with:

  • Beverage
  • Entree
  • Side dish
  • Dessert

Even if you have to pay for the tasting, it is vital that you make sure the food is up to your standards.

Ask Key Questions

Take the time to write a list of questions you’d like the caterer to respond to. Some examples include:

  • What is the most people you’ve served at one time?
  • How much is the total cost per head?
  • Will you cater part of the event? For example, you may want to hire a caterer for the main meal and a local student pastry school to prepare the desserts.
  • What if there is an emergency, such as a natural disaster? How do I cancel and what are the costs of canceling?

You’ll likely have additional questions specific to your event.

Get it in Writing

Once you’ve hashed out the details, get everything in writing. Most catering companies offer a contract. Make sure you read the contract carefully, or ideally have your lawyer read it. The contract should protect both you and the caterer.