What to Expect When Hiring A Caterer

Event attendees are most likely to anticipate – and remember – the food and drinks that are served than any other part of an event. Since most events are often defined by their menus, one of your most important activities for event planning involves hiring the right caterer.

You may already have an idea of the menu and type of caterer you want to hire. However, you should learn the expectations of a caterer as well. The caterer you hire becomes your partner, and you are both working towards the same goal – a successful event.

In one of our previous articles, we touched upon important questions you should ask a potential caterer during the hiring process. These questions included the following:

  1. What types of menus does the caterer offer, and are special accommodations available for those with dietary restrictions?
  2. What is the caterer’s price range?
  3. Will the caterer also provide furniture, place settings/silverware, linens, servers and/or wait-staff?


The answers you receive during the interview process most likely helps you eventually hire the right caterer. And once you hire your caterer, then you can get started with the fun part: the menu planning!

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Working with your caterer involves the process of coordinating what your expectations of a caterer are with the realities of what a caterer expects.

Here are a few things you should know about what a caterer expects from you – the client – once you hire him or her for your event.

1) Catering is more than simple food delivery

Probably one of your biggest expectations of a caterer is that the person you hire is someone who does more than just drop off your food and leave. Instead, you expect that he or she will also prepare and serve delicious and nicely presented food from a menu agreed upon by both parties. Your caterer should also be involved in the setup and cleanup of your event’s menu, along with everything else in between.

Since so many details go into planning your menu, your caterer may request regular communication with you through face-to-face meetings, by phone, or by email correspondence. Good communication is essential for firming up your catering plans. Both you and your caterer want your event to be successful, and staying in touch prevents any avoidable mistakes or surprises on the day of your event.

2) Advance notice is preferable

Many experienced caterers can (and have!) come up with great ideas and prepared fantastic food on the fly. However, most caterers agree that when you give them plenty of time, it helps them create a more successful menu for you.

With sufficient time for planning, your caterer can ensure they do the following:

  • Avoid overbooking or scheduling events too close together
  • Prepare enough food for the number of event attendees (and not too much)
  • Properly accommodate for special dietary needs and restrictions with optional menus and food choices
  • Have enough staff available and on hand for setting up, serving, and cleaning up
  • Have ample time to acquire “extras,” such as special theme props, table & chair rentals, tenting, etc.


When you have a budget, your caterer will help you stay within it

You will discuss your event menu budget with your caterer, either during the interview or the menu planning process. Even with a limited budget, one of your expectations of a caterer is for him or her to serve and prepare the best menu possible.

Experienced caterers often meet or exceed their clients’ menu expectations while staying within their allotted budgets. However, it is also important that you understand and be prepared when any additional requests you make of your caterer end up as billable.


Are you hosting an event in the Portland-Metro area and looking for a caterer? We would love to help you with any of your menu planning and catering needs. Please feel free to contact us online or give us a call at (503) 222-4553.