BBB Tips for Choosing a Caterer
Tis’ the season for holiday parties! Whether celebrating a special event with an extravagant gala or hosting business associates or clients at an informal luncheon, the difficult task of preparing for an event can be made easier with the assistance of a reliable and qualified professional caterer. Although the national number of complaints against caterers has decreased by 14 percent since 2010, BBB wants you to be sure the feast at your event is something memorable, for the right reasons.
“No matter how elaborate your event is, finding the right caterer could make or break your event”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Different caterers specialize in different things, so it’s important to get references, do your homework and communicate before you make your final selection.”
BBB provides the following tips to consider when choosing a catering service for your event:
Start your search with BBB. Find a BBB Accredited catering service at bbb.org and utilize the Request-a-Quote feature for an estimate. This service is available 24 hours a day. Also check out their BBB Business Review for details on the company including details on complaints and any advertising issues.
Remember that you are buying three things when you book a caterer:
This means all ingredients along with the purchase, transportation, and preparation of the meal.
This includes plates, glassware, flatware, linens, serving pieces, tables, and chairs. Most caterers will tell you before you purchase a bite of food that you need to pay a minimum cost for equipment, depending on how elaborate you want things. Others will include equipment charges in the overall cost. Most caterers provide everything while some do not. If the caterer does not provide any equipment the establishment where the event is taking place can often supply what the caterer cannot.
This is the cost for wait staff, kitchen help, and other servers. Good service has a big effect on the pace and atmosphere of the event. Check to see how many servers, busers, and bartenders will be provided then make sure the same number show up. Ideally, your caterer should be present, but if he or she cannot be there, get the name of the person who will be in charge on the day of the event. If possible, work with this person (or at least meet him or her) during the planning stages so that you will have a good working relationship when the big day arrives.
Get it in writing. Get a written, signed and dated copy of the contract. Your written agreement should also itemize the number of staff involved, charges for overtime, and the starting and ending time of the event. It should also include the cost per guest, total price of the service and a list of specific menu items. The contract should also note which beverages will be included. Also look for the date and time of delivery and if there are any set-up or take-down charges.
Make sure you understand the deposit and refund agreements. Know what you’ll be charged in case there are any changes in plans such as the number of guests, menu selection or unexpected issues that require cancellation.
For more information about how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraud or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373.