1. Make the party as special as the person you are celebrating. Think about what you are celebrating and why. Will the guests be arriving hungry because they have been traveling, or thirsty because they have been sitting? Is pleasant conversation and handshaking more important than the food? Is there one thing that the guest of honor loves or dislikes? Are guests "party hopping" because of Christmas or Graduations? You will not need as much food because of these circumstances.
2. 2015 was the first year that people ate outside of the home more often than cooked meals at home. Think about that. What is the one food you miss eating? Because we eat so many meals "out" a good "old fashioned" meal cooked "in" may be the hit of the party. Is there an old recipe that your grandmother used to make? Share it with me and I would love to make it for your next party.
3. Meat prices fluctuate and affect the price of entrees. Consider having two items, one lower priced to balance your budget. Have one higher priced item off set by something budget friendly.
4. Be honest with your caterer about all the food that is being purchased or served. If "Aunt Betty" is making Betty Butter Beans you will not need as many secondary hot vegetables. If Uncle Bob works at the cheese factory and is bringing 20 pounds of curds you don't need an 18 inch cheese platter. A wise caterer is looking for your business forever, not abusing your budget once and never to be seen again. I always say, "I want your business forever, not just once."
5. People are very food safety conscience. The days of the turkey sitting on the counter from noon until midnight are long gone. I always encourage customers to purchase 2 or 3 small veggie or cheese trays instead of one large one if the party is small and people will be "nibbling" more than two hours. It is better to put out a fresh tray ever couple of hours as we are all conscious of food temperatures and contamination. This is also a consideration before the party. Put the soda in the cooler, not in your refrigerator; so that you have room to store extra party trays and leftovers. Soda can remain warm and served over ice if necessary. The price of an extra bag of ice is much cheaper than the cost of a food borne illness.
6. The most important reason to hire a caterer is so that you can enjoy the party. What is the one thing that you enjoy doing? Making drinks, desserts, planning activities, cleaning? Think honestly and talk openly with your caterer about these things so that you can spend your time and money wisely.
7. Little touches are a big deal. Do you have dishes that you would like your food served in. Bring them to me for I would love to make your special salad or dessert in your bowl, or have a hot entrée ready in your crock pot. My job is to make you look good.
8. Never underestimate the power of a garbage can or a dish pan for used plates and utensils. Most guests want to help. After the party has started, set out a new or nice looking trash bin and guests will be happy to recycle or toss their used disposable plates and cups. A larger clear plastic tote filled partially with dish water can be set on a back counter for glassware, plates and silverware.
9. Do the math, seriously.... take a calculator to the party store and figure out the cost of special plates, silverware, etc. It may not be worth the money. The same applies to the life time supply of paper plates and forks from the Club stores. Are you feeding 500 or 50, buy accordingly.
10. If your caterer doesn't ask these same questions, call me, I would love to be a part of your next special event.