5 Tips to Eliminate Stress When Catering Your Next Party in NYC
Pick a Date
Sounds simple but without a date, you can’t begin calling caterers or inviting guest. The holidays are a busy time of year and as basic as it may seem, getting a date on the calendar is the first step in planning. Keep in mind, just like the airlines, there are blackout dates in the catering world, especially in New York City – premiere dates, demand premier pricing. Know that the date you chose can impact the bottom line.
Once you have the date, think about the basic parameters of your event so that the caterer can create a quote for you:
- Your budget. Don’t begin calling or planning until you know your budget. Without this, the options are limitless and you will be wasting your time and your caterer’s time. Know your budget, as this will drive the entire planning process.
- Time of Day. Timing is critical as it impacts food quantities. An event from 3:00 to 5:00 will demand very different quantities then the same menu being served from 5:00 to 8:00.
- Head Count. Have a sense of your guest count. Again, without a guest count, a catering proposal can’t be generated.
- Your vision. What type of party are you throwing? A one hour cocktail party, a four hour event with hors d’oeuvres and dinner, a champagne toast with dessert? Explain to your caterer the type of party you want. Review the caterer's menu online, discuss your ideal menu and give as much detail as possible. This will help you achieve your ideal menu within budget much quicker.
- Staffing. Staffing costs money, often as much as the food itself. When planning a menu, keep in mind that menus that require more staff will be more costly. Stationary hors d’oeuvres are more budget friendly options then parties with a variety of passed hors d'oeuvres which require on site kitchen staff and a plethora of well-paid servers and bussers. Buffets are a better option than a sit down dinner when working with a tight budget, because there is less staff required to execute the menu. Great parties, including weddings have been thrown with creative, artistic and innovative stationary hors d’oeuvres and buffets, so don’t dismiss anything until you’ve explored all the options.
Dive into the Details
After you've got the basics down, you can talk with your caterer in more detail about the event. A good caterer will be able to walk you through the process step by step and help you make decisions about the event.
- Schedule a Walk Thru of the Site: Before getting too deep into the planning, schedule a walk thru of your office, home or venue with the caterer. The layout of any space will impact the final menu. Get your caterer into the event space in the early planning stages – what you have or don’t have (in terms of tables, linens, seating) can impact the cost. In order make an educated decision and get a fully thought-out quote, make sure your caterer does a walk thru before you sign on the bottom line.
- Big Return on Investment: Small touches can add a fun flair to a holiday party. Upgraded paper goods, colorful linens, votive candles and good music can transform the ordinary into a the extraordinary. Allocating some resources to design and aesthetic makes people take notice and feel they are at a festive party. You can ask your catering company to help with these touches but must of these resources can be found online--cutting out the middle man will get you more bang for your buck!
Hire a caterer you know, like and trust. As with any project, big or small, the success of the venture is based on the relationship with your vendor. Make sure to choose a local caterer or catering company that comes recommended by someone you know or do your due diligence and ask for references if you did research online. The best way to know if you are a good match? Pick up the phone and interview the company! Just like any relationship, communication is key and you need to plan your event with a reputable company that understands your needs. You need to connect, feel comfortable and confident that you are working with an established company that can deliver what their proposal outlines. Choose a company that is not new to the industry but has a proven track record in your city or neighborhood.