When it comes to corporate event catering, one of the most critical decisions you'll make is selecting the right catering service. The quality of food and service can significantly impact the success of your event. To ensure you make an informed choice, we've compiled eight essential tips for choosing the perfect corporate event catering service. In this comprehensive guide, we'll provide practical advice, share personal anecdotes when relevant, and walk you through the process step by step.
1. Aligning Your Catering Style with Your Event Vision
As you embark on the journey of selecting a corporate caterer, it's crucial to align the catering style with the vision you have for your event. The atmosphere, ambiance, and overall style you wish to create should be reflected in the catering choices you make.
I once attended a corporate retreat with a relaxed and informal vibe. However, the corporate catering the company had chosen specialised in formal, plated dinners. It was obvious to me that their style wasn’t complementing the event's laid-back atmosphere. A caterer experienced in casual, buffet-style dining, would have been a better choice, seamlessly harmonised the experience for the attendees.
Consider the following factors when thinking about the style of your event:
a. Formal vs. Informal:
Determine whether your event leans towards a formal or informal setting. A formal event may call for plated meals with elegant presentations, while an informal gathering might benefit from a buffet with bio-degradable crockery or shared grazing platters with simple palm lead bowls.
b. Theme and Decor:
If your event has a specific theme or decorative scheme, discuss it with your caterer. They can tailor their offerings to align with the chosen theme, ensuring a cohesive and visually appealing experience.
c. Dietary Restrictions and Preferences:
Consider the dietary needs and preferences of your attendees. Are there vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options required? A caterer specialising in corporate services can accommodate a variety of dietary requirements enhancing the inclusivity of your event. Be sure to discuss the dietary requirements all in advance of the event as the caterer may struggle on the day to accommodate for surprise dietary demands they have not prepared for.
d. Service Style:
Think about how you want the food to be served. Do you envision a formal waitstaff service, a self-serve buffet, or interactive food stations? The service style can significantly impact the guest experience.
I remember on one occasion I had a client who had chosen their own crockery and had ordered online beautiful large flat plates with golden borders, without informing us of their plans. I had to remind them that their function had food served most of the night with their guests standing and the menu was brimming with noodles and curries.
How are you anticipating your guests will hold the plate when they come to the buffet, or get the noodles off the plate? A smaller size, deep bowl with fork, spoon & chopsticks proved to be more suitable.
Again, chat with the caterer about your ideas and plans and avoid any assumptions.
2. Seeking Recommendations and Gathering Feedback for Corporate Event Catering
Your quest for the ideal corporate catering service begins with recommendations and feedback from trusted sources. Start by reaching out to your professional and personal network. Ask colleagues, superiors, and friends about their experiences with local catering companies. Their firsthand insights can be invaluable.
Many corporate catering companies have a substantial private client base as well. Quality catering companies often receive referrals from staff who have had a private function with them. The person was so impressed with the caterer they suggest the catering company to colleagues for the upcoming work function.
Also, when people move to new employment, they often bring their “preferred catering list” to the new premises. They know the caterers’ strengths & suitability and know precisely which caterer to choose from their list, for which type of work function they are organising.
Additionally, leverage online resources such as review platforms and social media to read about the experiences of others. Look for corporate event catering companies with a high ratio of positive reviews, as this is a good indicator of their overall performance and customer satisfaction. Be sure to read the negative reviews too and even more importantly read the response of the caterer to the negative review.
3. Defining Your Budget and Getting Detailed Estimates
Once you've aligned the catering style with your event vision, it's time to establish a clear budget for your corporate catering. Determine how much you can allocate to catering services, ensuring that quality and service align with your financial constraints.
It’s important to explain upfront to the caterer that the budget is firm or an estimate: the amount the company must spend may be its limit or is the budget a ballpark, an estimate and can be negotiated? Sometimes the company, after realising how much value the catering company will bring to the event, is willing to spend more for the extra value.
After outlining your budget, approach catering companies and request detailed estimates. A reputable corporate caterer should be transparent about their pricing, providing a breakdown of costs. This step ensures that you won't encounter unexpected expenses down the road.
It’s also important to talk upfront with the caterer about your budget, does it include gst. or is that not included? The catering company should ensure their quote clearly states the price inclusive or exclusive of gst. Corporate catering nearly always incurs the governments Gst., so be sure to read the caterers quote with that in mind; is Gst to be added on at the end?
When searching online for caterers you will find companies with their own website and other web-based directories listing catering companies. Some of the directories allow you to fill in your details once and they will send your catering enquiry out to all the caterers on their database. This seems like an efficient use of time to you however, many caterers do not value an enquiry from a directory as important as a direct enquiry from their own website.
The catering companies know they are just one of many responding to the directory request and that the potential customer has potentially not homed in on what they are looking for.
Its best to go to the caterer’s website, get to know their offer and if suitable, then fill out their enquiry form. Even better pick up the phone and call; you will soon capture the vibe of the caterer, their style, their professionalism, and their suitability should soon become evident.
4. Verifying Availability and Confirming Details
After shortlisting potential catering companies, it's crucial to verify their availability for your event date and time. Contact them and discuss your requirements. Be sure to secure a written confirmation, ensuring they can fulfil your needs as agreed upon.
As a professional caterer for over twenty years, I encourage my clients to secure the day with us as soon as they know we are the right fit for their event. We can always sort out the number of serves, serving time, type of cuisine later, but if the event is a big event, many caterers like us, who cook on site can only do one function for that day, so be sure to secure the day at your earliest convenience.
Unfortunately, I can say, too many times customers have forgotten to secure the day by deposit. I’ll get back to you next week, months go buy and they call up about that “special day” to find it has booked by someone else. Most professional corporate caterers do not “hold days” waiting for the client to secure the booking by deposit sometime in the future.
I once got caught out on New Year’s Eve, where an event manger booked our services in. I thought it was all going ahead as I had had many meetings with them about this big event, and I failed to take a deposit. I had numerous further requests to provide our catering for that same New Year’s Eve and I declined because I had a “sure thing”. Two days out the client cancelled, and my New Year’s Eve catering had evaporated like a puff of smoke. That was a long time ago, these days the deposit always secures the booking.
The deposit paid in advance tells the caterer you are committed, and they can then invest time in planning and preparing for your event.
5. Arranging a Food Tasting Session for Corporate Event Catering
One of the most enjoyable aspects of choosing a corporate caterer is arranging a food tasting session. Many professional catering companies offer this service, usually for a nominal fee. It's a fantastic opportunity to sample their offerings and gauge their culinary expertise.
During the tasting, pay attention not only to the taste but also to the presentation and quality of the dishes. Assess whether their flavour profiles align with your event's theme and your guests' preferences.
Just remember though that some boutique budget caterers do not offer this service. The revenue generated for the catering may be limited or the caterer may be fully booked and so may not offer this service. In this case, it’s best to thoroughly review what their customers have to say on their website’s testimonial page & Google reviews.
6. Carefully Reviewing the Contract for Corporate Event Catering
Before sealing the deal with your chosen corporate caterer, carefully review the contract, agreement, or terms & conditions. Take the time to understand all the terms and conditions outlined. If any clauses are unclear, don't hesitate to ask for clarification.
Most reputable caterers will have a page on their website committed to laying out in a simple manner their terms, or it will be the small print on the back age of the quote they send you.
The covid shutdown produced a lot of financial pain for caterers and emotional stress for their clients. Here in Melbourne, we had our state government shut down the hospitality service (caterers, restaurateurs, hoteliers) three days before valentine’s day, which reaped havoc on our industry. Since them most corporate caterers have tightened their terms and conditions, resulting in less flexibility and more financial onus on the customer.
7. Exploring Their Specialties and Expertise in Corporate Event Catering
Corporate catering companies often have signature dishes or specialties that set them apart. Inquire about these unique offerings and assess whether they align with your event's theme and requirements. Additionally, consider whether the catering company specialises in the type of corporate event you're planning.
Have they catered for this type of event before?
Have they catered for this number of guests before?
Can they feed all the people in the designated time frame?
Ask your caterer as many questions upfront, don’t make assumptions or leave anything to chance. Anything you consider could go wrong you should discuss with the caterer; their response should give the peace of mind to proceed with confidence.
8. Determining the Best Location for Your Event
The finale: choosing the perfect location for your corporate event can significantly impact the overall experience. When deciding between hosting the event at your work premises or choosing an external venue, there are distinct advantages to consider.
Benefits of Corporate Event Catering at Your Work Premises:
1. Convenience: Hosting the event at your office or workplace provides unmatched convenience. Your employees won't need to commute to a different location, saving time and minimising logistical challenges.
e.g., I’ve seen staff carparks be converted into a little China Town for Chinese New Year and factory floors made into magnificent Christmas themed venues.
2. Cost-Effective: Opting for in-house corporate event catering can often be more cost-effective than booking an external venue. You can make the most of existing facilities, saving on venue rental fees. You can also keep the company doors still open with limited staff “holding the fort” while most staff enjoy the hospitality.
Money can also be saved by management, funding the beverages, sourcing, and preparing themselves, rather than paying for overprices beverages packages at a venue.
3. Customisation: Holding the event on your premises allows for greater customisation. You have control over the setup, decor, and overall ambiance, ensuring it aligns perfectly with your corporate image and objectives. Sometimes staff wish to be involved in fancying up the room or space, a lot easier to do at your own premises.
4. Time Efficiency: Your employees can maximise their workday when the event takes place at the office. There's no need to leave early or take time off, enhancing productivity.
E.g., I’ve seen the bus not turn up to pick up the staff reps and bring them to the event, I’ve seen the functions centre be overbooked and companies sharing the space.
You name it, things do not always go as planned and keeping the catering on your premises can be a godsend.
5. Familiar Environment: Employees and attendees are in a familiar environment, which can lead to increased comfort and engagement during the event. Social anxiety is real thing in the 2020’s and putting the event on at work is very reassuring for some staff.
6. Reduced Travel Stress: Avoiding the hassles of traffic and unfamiliar locations can contribute to a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for your guests.
I’ve noticed especially for corporate xmas parties, staff are happy to be catered for at work in huge marquee or spruced up staff room, as they are rushing around at that time of year, and keen to keep the celebrations “short & sweet” so they can finish the xmas shopping!
7. Enhanced Security: Your workplace likely has established security measures in place, providing peace of mind during the event.
While choosing an external venue can offer its own advantages, such as a change of scenery and access to specialised event facilities, carefully considering whether your work premises can serve as the ideal location is a cost-effective and efficient option that can enhance the overall success of your corporate event.
Selecting the right corporate catering service is pivotal to the success of your event. By following these eight essential tips and suggestions, you can navigate the process with confidence and make an informed choice. Remember, thorough research, clear communication, and attention to detail are your allies in ensuring a seamless and memorable corporate event.
Your thoughtful event catering choices will leave a lasting positive impression on your attendees, making your event a memorable and successful one.
Much success to you!
Antony Paul Hooton
Flying Woks Australia Pty Ltd
Hi, my name is Antony Hooton I am the founder of Flying Woks.