07 Dec 10 Insider Tips for Choosing the Right Caterer for Your Corporate Event

The task of planning your company party, holiday soiree, fundraiser or an important board meeting can be an overwhelming task. Where do you begin? How do you ensure that the experience is one that is praiseworthy and flawless? With endless details, your last concern should be whether your caterer is the right company for the job.

We’ve pulled together some insider tips to make choosing a caterer for your next business function a breeze. Read on to uncover ten things to look for to book the right candidate for the job.

#1 Tip: Hire a Caterer That Listens

Because of all of the details involved in planning a large-scale event, it’s important to choose a caterer that will help you every step of the way. Bosses, high-profile clients, board members and other higher-profile guests may be specific with their needs and likes. You’ll want someone who will hear those details and execute them professionally. An all-pro caterer will not tell you what you want at your event—they’ll ask and then deliver to make your party one-of-a-kind.

#2 Tip: Opt for Efficiency

Business leaders are busy people. Meetings are crucial parts of business. Although the highest level of food and drink may be available, the main reason for gathering is to get down to business. Look for a caterer that prioritizes efficiency with service while respecting guests and their most valuable resource, their time.

If you choose buffet-style service, all items should be labeled so there will be no guesswork for guests with food allergies or other dietary restrictions. Buffets should always be double-sided, too, so there won’t ever be long wait times for guests to eat.

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#3: Pin-Point Your Head Count

The most practical place to start with catering is with your guest count. Even if it’s an estimate (with wiggle room, of course), this will help set the planning stages in motion, both with your budget and with menu design.

To help with these details, ask for a caterer that provides programs, software and assistance with managing seating and check-ins.

#4 Tip: Expect Professional Hand Service

Look for a caterer with high service standards. While the president of the company is handing out awards or your keynote speaker is making his address, can you rely on your caterer to offer quiet service?

In our opinion, all meals should be served and cleared using hand service. This ensures that there are no large trays to drop or any clanging of dishes to disrupt your program. Your caterer’s staff members should be well-trained in hand service and be capable of serving your guests quietly and competently.

#5 Tip: Plan for Food Variety

It’s a given that when hosting a business function, you’re going to fill a room with a wide range of dietary needs and restrictions. It’s important to be satisfy all of your guests’ needs while also offering diversity at a reasonable cost. Be sure to be thoughtful of eating lifestyles while designing your menu, ensuring that those who are vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, among others, have dining options available.

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#6 Tip: Consider a Menu Tasting Before Your Event

If a caterer isn’t willing to give you a sampling of its offerings for your big event, that’s an immediate red flag. How can you be confident in the food for your staff and clients if you haven’t tried it first? Because you’re investing in the team and trusting its service, it’s important that you feel comfortable and know exactly what you’ll be getting and serving to your guests. Ask for a menu tasting prior to your event so you can be satisfied that the food will be delicious.

#7 Tip: Drinks or No Drinks

Alcohol is often a welcome addition to an evening corporate function especially a fundraising event, holiday party or annual meeting. But, before you take any steps further, be sure that your caterer is licensed to serve alcohol. Then, it’s crucial to consider whether the event is appropriate for offering alcoholic beverages to your guests. If you are looking to woo potential clients or business partners, a drink list may be a good fit. However, training seminars may be a better platform for non-alcoholic beverages. You want to ensure that your guests have a great time but you don’t want to provide a platform for overindulgence. Look for a caterer that can guide you through this process to ensure you have a successful event.  

#8 Tip: Build An On-Going Contract

Depending on your business, you may host quarterly or even monthly events. Streamline your corporate events and their planning by finding a caterer you trust and sign on with them for an on-going contract. If you lock in a caterer for repeat events, they offer savings for granting them your repeat business, so take advantage of these benefits. This partnership will allow the caterer to become familiar with your ongoing needs and preferences, which will expedite your time spent planning in the long run. Also, the caterer will be educated with what was done in the past with your functions and ensure that each event features new ideas and keeps them fresh for those attending.

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#9 Tip: Seek Out Private Event Space

If important business discussions are happening, it’s crucial to have privacy. Not only that, but it’s crucial to look for a caterer that provides a private space for your corporate event.

This not only respects your confidential business discussions with a focus on you but also guarantees no last-minute room changes or competition with other co-occurring events. If a private space is available, that means that the staff is dedicated to your event and equipped to handle any last-minute changes.

#10 Tip: Don’t forget linens or decor

You know you need to wow your VIP clients with stellar food and drink but don’t forget about aesthetic. What is too much, what is too little? It can be tempting to save some money and try DIY designs or look for seemingly more affordable options for your event to create a memorable atmosphere.

Experienced caterers know the right level of design and accents needed for the type of corporate function. Seek out a professional caterer with plenty of years in the industry to ensure that you feel comfortable with them taking the lead on not just the food but also on look and feel of your event. The more experience, the better connections that the caterer will have with area vendors to enhance the quality of your event. Flowers, lights, entertainment (e.g., audiovisual solutions, DJ, live music or speciality act)—the right caterer can connect you. Also ask if they can help arrange transportation for your guests.

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Many people know Robert Ryan Catering & Design because of our outstanding reputation, our exclusive private event venues and our exceptional staff, led by our dynamic founder, Bob Ryan. Often, Robert Ryan Catering & Design is thought of as strictly a wedding caterer—but we are your corporate event headquarters, too.

If you’re in the planning process of your next business event, read our reviews on sites such as Wedding Wire and The Knot to get a feel for the events we create. We encourage you to ask around among friends, family and colleagues, too. We are humbled by all of our positive reviews and continually strive to improve our service standards.

We are ready to help you with your next corporate event, so contact us or give us a call at (610) 933-6336.

Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.

Ronna Dewey

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From inception to execution, Robert Ryan Catering & Design works with you to realize your vision for your event, and translate it into a successful affair.