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• Social event planning can be challenging. Make sure that you communicate all of your event details and requests to your Social Event Planning Managers. They probably work with a great number and variety of clients with different needs and requests so expect to see it in writing.

• Try to use local service providers to avoid unnecessary delivery or travel charges, but do your research. Some establishments provide delivery at no additional charge if your reach a certain minimum. Do not use a local service provider at the expense of the service and product you truly desire.

• Generally speaking any banquet facility that provides in-house food service, will usually require that you use their services exclusively. If this is a problem, consider hosting your event outdoors where you have the freedom to do what you want, when you want. Also off-premise caterers are usually more price competitive than some in house operations.

• Make sure that your caterer has all the necessary permits and licenses for them to provide services for your event function. Also make sure they have adequate insurance coverage in case unexpected difficulties arise.

• Evaluate the capabilities of your caterer. Do they work out of a commercial kitchen or is the food produced out of someone’s home? Having access to commercial grade kitchen equipment and supplies will leave the caterer much better suited to handle last minute needs or unexpected emergencies (walk in guests, severe weather, etc.).

• Arrange for a taste testing as you narrow your catering selections. Something might look good on paper, but the quality of the product may be quite different than what you expected.

• Ask your caterer for letter of referral or reference. If they cannot provide you with this information, then ask if you can attend one of their events. Also make sure they are providing references from people that have had a similar menu or service package to get an apples to apples comparison.

• Evaluate different types of service styles. You may find that by upgrading or downgrading your service selections that you will find a much better value that still suits your needs.

• As soon as you have the rough details of your event established, including estimated guest counts, location, type of event, hours, service styles, etc., start looking for a caterer. Many of the top caterers in your area may be booked up to a year in advance.

• There are many areas to look for catering services, including the yellow pages, the internet, newspapers, bridal guides and other bridal publications, your local chamber of commerce, supporting business organizations, as well as friends, family, and other sources reference. You may also want to talk to other banquet facilities that do not provide in house meal services as they often work with a greater number and variety of catering companies.

• Ask your caterer if they have ever had a function at the location that you are considering. Also check with the location managers of their experiences with the particular catering company.

• Always find out all the details that can translate to extra costs with your caterer, including their written policies, delivery fees, staffing fees, circumstantial fees, taxes and gratuity, and anything else that may appear on a bill.

• Pay close attention to the dates you are considering and be aware of the wedding and event seasonality that may affect both the price and availability of the caterer you are considering. For example June is a very heavy wedding month, and holidays can result in additional staffing charges and lower guest turn out. Saturday is always in high demand for caterers and banquet facilities, consider Friday or Sunday if possible.

• Be aware of the rental items that you may need to reserve given your service or meal selections. Is your catering company including china that is up to your standards, or are you going to need to reserve something else? Do you need additional glassware to accommodate your beverage selections and service styles? These and many others can result in costly additional fees, so get the details up front.

• Do not be fooled by flashy or professional advertising or promotional material. They are all very expensive to produce and this usually translates in a higher cost to the end customer, but this is not always the case, so do your research.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for menu suggestions from your caterer, since oftentimes they do an incredible number of events and may have some good suggestions for providing accommodating meal choices for a larger crowd.

• Do not set a budget until you have done some research into what you can expect to get for your dollar. Oftentimes couples will set a budget and be surprised at the actual costs to have services of all types provided for their special day. Do some research, then set a budget based on your needs while weighing the costs of your wants.

• Try to choose a catering establishment that specializes in the type of event that you are considering. They will have valuable insight into the many options and considerations to be pondered for your upcoming event.

• Keep in mind the liabilities involved with serving food on a large scale. Most caterers will not allow you to take any leftover items home with you. Most banquet facilities that provide the food in house do not allow this. Many off-premise catering companies do offer this to some degree, but it is limited to non-hazardous food items, which will exclude items made with meat, mayonnaise, dairy products, etc. If they give you the food and you serve it to someone else and get them sick in the process (through possible unproper handling of food items), the caterer is still liable. Ask them to donate the leftovers to a local food pantry or non-profit organization and you will feel that it went to good use.

• You will have a hard time finding your event enjoyable if you do not like working with your caterer. Find someone who you can tell is keeping your interests and general peace of mind in the forefront of the event planning process.

• Make sure you have all of the applicable contact numbers for your caterer in case things change or in case you have to relay critical information at odd times and hours. Also have them available during your event in case you are in need of last minute replenishments due to unexpected guest arrivals, weather conditions, or other circumstances.

• Get everything in writing. Make sure that your contract details every individual aspect of your event. Do not assume that things that are not listed are being taken care of. Review especially before you sign the contract, since if it is not in writing and something does not get handled like you expected it to, it may be hard to fight for compensation on this issue.

• If you are concerned with a buffet menu variety and interest, ask your caterer to display the names and ingredients of all menu items for your guest to truly enjoy their dining experience. Oftentimes name and basic ingredient cards will spur guest to try interesting or unique menu selections.

• When working with a committee or team who is working together to organize your event function, pick one person to be the contact between the group and the catering service to reduce complexity and possible confusion.

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