Special Events: Tips for Working with a Caterer

Imprint Group is comprised of experienced industry leaders with extensive backgrounds from all over the event planning community, which is what makes us so knowledgable about every aspect of Destination Management and Event Planning. Catering is no exception and at Imprint Group, John Collins has over a decade of experience in this field to give you the best insight for working with a caterer.

Corporate Event Planning Company specializing in Event Management & Destination Management Services for Meeting Planners in Denver, Florida & Las Vegas.

I started my career in the hotel industry doing a series of jobs from pool boy to serving as the Assistant Director of Banquets at a Westin and a lot of other things in between including as a CSM for 8 years. Now, I serve as Imprint’s Director of Operations managing our incredible team and serving as the main liaison between our office and our vendors. One of the constant threads throughout my career has been my work with incredible caterers and some not-so-incredible caterers. Food and food service is a vital part of the success or failure of an event. You can do everything right, but if the food is late or ill-prepared, it’s a difficult road to recover. Here are some tips I shared with my team on how to work with a caterer:

  • What’s your preference? Is there a preferred list of caterers that you need to choose from depending on the venue? Some venues require that you work with a pre-approved list of caterers.  Be sure to check with your venue prior to contracting your caterer.
  • Got staff? Staffing levels generally vary depending on the service type.  Be sure that the caterer is staffed properly to ensure the proper execution of you catering services based on the following service types:
    • Platted breakfast – one server per 30 guests
    • Platted Lunch – one server per 25 guests
    • Buffet lunch/breakfast – one server per 40 guests
    • Platted Dinner – one server per 20 guests
    • Buffet Dinner – one server per 30 guests
    • Bars – one bartender per 100 guests
  • What’s your order? Be sure to provide a well-rounded menu for your guests.  Try to include a beef, chicken and vegetarian option whenever possible.  Getting meal selection is imperative when offering a choice of meals.  When collecting meal choices is logistically challenging it is sometimes best to offer a duel entrée such as a Chicken/Salmon entrée.  Always be aware of any dietary restrictions, weather for diet or religious reasons and be sure to include these request in your catering order.
  • Hungry huh? Always ask the caterer how many ounces the entrée selection consists of (i.e. 6oz vs. 8 oz. steak) and how many pieces per person they are providing when ordering hors d’ oeuvres.  Here are some common serving suggestions for hors d’ oeuvres:
    • One hour reception followed by dinner – 3 pieces per person
    • One hour afternoon reception – 8 pieces per person
    • Evening Reception – 7-8 pieces for the first hour, 6-7 for the second hour
    • For longer evening receptions – 12-15 pieces per person
  • Save me a seat! No one wants to sit an overcrowded table.  Use these guidelines when determining your seating arraignments:
    • 60” rounds – 8-9 people per table
    • 66” rounds – 9-10 people per table
    • 72” rounds – 10-11 people per table

by John Collins, Director of Operations

Filed under: Colorado, Destination Management, Meetings, Meetings and Events, Multi-day Conference