Holiday Party Caterers: 5 Must-Ask Questions

When planning a corporate or private holiday party in New York, bringing in a top caterer should be a way to help you and your guests enjoy great food while lowering your personal stress level. Unfortunately, all too often caterers become just another producer of holiday season stress. Get a great meal and avoid excess holiday season stress with Guastavino’s 5 Questions to Ask your Holiday Party Caterer:

Who Runs The Meal?

When dealing with a holiday party caterer, or any caterer, it is important to have one point of contact from the very beginning until after the event concludes. This is important for several reasons: Many caterers will sell you on themselves, their resume, etc. and then pass your event off to an assistant or even an intern. Don’t allow your event to be treated as anything other than a top priority. Vital aspects of the meal like allergies, dietary restrictions, etc. must be clearly communicated early in the process. The more people you deal with, the more possible confusion over these issues. By having one point of contact, it will be easier to keep things in order. On the day of the event, you want your point of contact to be the one running the show. They’ve been through the planning process with you, understand your wants and needs and should be able to finish the job without any mixups. If you’re working with a holiday party caterer and you feel like you’re being passed around, politely demand to work with a single point of contact, and make sure that you are able to hold that person accountable for your event.

Do You Serve Fresh or Frozen?

You may be surprised to know that many holiday party caterers will cook the meal long in advance, freeze it and simply heat serve the food when event day comes around. This leads to dry, stale-tasting cuisine. Frozen food is a cost-cutting measure that may work at home, but when you’re paying top dollar for holiday party catering, you deserve a fresh meal that was cooked with fresh ingredients on the day that it’s served.

What are Your Cultural Specialties?

Need to serve a Christmas meal with a side of Hanukkah cuisine? Confirm your holiday party caterer’s ability to handle multiple cooking styles before ever signing a contract. They don’t necessarily need to be kosher-certified, but having a few traditional hanukkah bites to try could make the meal more fun for all of your guests, no matter what they celebrate. Of course, traditional Jewish cuisine is just one example. Every caterer should have a speciality (Any caterer who claims that they can cook everything probably isn’t great at cooking anything). Before making a commitment, make sure that your caterer’s abilities line up with your tastes. Even a highly recommended company will fall short if your guests aren’t excited about the dining options provided.

Technical Issues?

There are dozens of “boring” questions that must be asked to ensure a quality meal. While these questions may not be as exciting as picking out a dessert menu, if the caterer or your facilities fall short on any of these aspects, the meal with be a disaster. Just to name a few technical questions you must ask:
  • Is the business licensed? (Request proof)
  • When was the last health inspection? (Request proof)
  • Do they have insurance? (Request proof)
  • How much oven space will be required? Stove burners?
  • How many electrical outlets are needed?
  • How much water will be needed? (especially important for outdoor venues)
  • Who is responsible for providing plates, silverware, table cloths, etc.?
  • Is there anything else you will need?

What Happens to Our Leftovers?

At any holiday party or dinner, there are bound to be leftovers. While the way a caterer handles leftovers may not be a deal breaker, it is important to understand their process when comparing more than one company. Leftovers are usually handled in one of four ways:
  • Leftovers are thrown out. This is not ideal and incredibly wasteful. Many health codes require food that is left out over a certain length of time to be thrown out, so waste is sometimes unavoidable. Discuss this with the caterer ahead of time to determine what must be thrown out and what can be saved.
  • Leftovers are given out to waitstaff, bartenders, etc. (Rarely will leftovers be packaged up for guests to take home.)
  • Leftovers are donated to a local shelter or food kitchen.
  • Leftovers are leftovers for you. While many of us would love to keep eating all of those fabulous desserts, this is rarely the right option as refrigerated storage space quickly becomes an issue.
Whatever the plan is, discuss it with your holiday party caterer ahead of time to ensure they have the proper equipment to store or package the food moving forward.

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