Event Planners and Caterers Exchange Best Practices

Catering DialogueCvent Event Blog has explored various aspects of event catering so, in the continued search for best practices, I thought it would be interesting to provide another opportunity for  event planners and caterers to dialogue. I posted a couple of questions in the event planning group that I manage on LinkedIn and what emerged were a range of ideas to help caterers and event planners work more effectively together.

Pet peeves identified by event planners included caterers:

  • failing to provide a service timetable and stick to it
  • putting out just enough sets of cutlery and cups for buffets, leading to shortages when guests go back for seconds
  • arriving late so that set-up spills over to when guests start arriving
  • setting up noisily in the next room and disturbing the meeting
  • delivering cuisine too early which presents challenges in keeping the group engaged and maintaining dishes at the optimal temperature
  • not having enough servers

They wished that caterers would:

  • inform them immediately if another member of the event team tries to change the service timetable
  • label dishes on the buffet table to identify ingredients and briefing servers about what is in each menu item to accommodate the needs of guests with allergies and food sensitivities
  • use only one side of the table for buffet service
  • notify them when the next course is ready for service (even if the program is running behind, it is likely possible to take a quick break so that dishes can be served at their optimal temperature)

Caterers had their own concerns. They wished that event planners would stop:

  • shopping on the basis of price and not service quality
  • cutting corners and budgets to the point that service standards are compromised
  • disregarding their advice
  • giving last minute notice to serve food early
  • breaking for lunch or serving the next course well past the agreed upon times with the result that food is not served at optimal temperatures or it sits under heat lamps and getting dried out

and start:

  • including tastings in the budget so that there are no surprises
  • providing a floor plan enough in advance for it to be reviewed to determine what is realistic
  • providing realistic numbers
  • staggering guests for buffet tables
  • building natural breaks in the program so that speeches and entertainment are not disrupted while the next course is being served

Most of these concerns can be avoided by setting realistic budgets, clarifying expectations and, most of all, open communication.

I would like to extend special thanks to Caitlin Norfleet, Event Coordinator at Medical University of South Carolina, Tarn Meng Leong, Manager at IE Singapore, Paula Hearn-Lynch, Events Manager at Boehringer Ingelheim in the United Kingdom, Connie Parsons Owner, Professional Bridal Consultant with At Your Service Events, and Gary Hendin, Owner, Corporate Special Events/BBQ Catering in Toronto for sharing their perspectives.

For more tips also read Food for Thought: How to Annoy Your Caterer, Meeting Planners Respond to Caterers' Complaints, Part 1, and Meeting Planners Respond to Caterers' Complaints, Part 2.

Photo Credit: Event and Menu Planning, Executive Oasis International

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