How to Hire a Caterer

Hosting a holiday party? You might want to hire a caterer to help. Domestic CEO offers savvy tips on how to find the best one for your needs - and budget.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #133

With the holidays just around the corner, it's party time!

Whether you have a crowd of 30 coming for Thanksgiving, or you just want to have your best friends over for an intimate pre-Christmas celebration, chances are at some point in the next few months, you'll be hosting an event in your home.

It doesn't matter if you are an old pro at this, or a newlywed hosting your first dinner party - throwing a successful gathering can be daunting and overwhelming. There’s so much to think about, from the food and drink, to cleaning your home, to having enough tables and chairs, to putting up holiday decorations. With all that, your pre-party to-do list can get crazy - so maybe it’s time to think about hiring a caterer to help with your event.

When you hear the word "caterer," you might assume it’s going to cost a fortune. But if you’ve never seriously looked into the different options that caterers can offer, you might be pleasantly surprised. In addition to serving the big-budget crowd, many reputable caterers can provide services that are surprisingly affordable.

Here are my top tips for what to consider when choosing the pefect caterer for your party needs:.

Do Your Research

The first step in finding a caterer is to ask people you know for any recommendations. Personal references are always a good indicator on whether you’ll be satisfied with a caterer’s food and service. Check online for reviews, as well.

Of course, a good caterer will have their own website with food descriptions and prices, but while this is a good starting point, you’ll always want to call them up to get some personal assistance and quotes, based on your specific needs. Most caterers are more than willing to work within your budget and make hiring them a reality for you.

Planning the Menu

Once you've found your caterer, there are still a number of options to consider and decisions to be made - starting with the menu.

When choosing the menu, consider all the variables. What time of day is your gathering? Buffet or plated options can work for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but if you’re having an evening gathering, an hors d'oeuvres buffet might be a good option. You can also choose to serve passed hors d’oeuvres, which means service staff will mingle throughout the room, discreetly offering food to your guests. I’ve even hosted events where wine and cheese are the main savories, followed by a fantastic array of desserts and fresh fruit.

After you have decided how the food should be served, it’s time to decide what should be served.

Here’s where you need to think about who you have invited - namely, does anyone have dietary restrictions? When I’m choosing a menu, I try to have a few meat options, as well as some vegetarian choices. If I am just hosting a dessert buffet, I like to make sure there is fresh fruit and sugar-free items, so anyone who is diabetic doesn’t feel left out. It’s also good to have some gluten-free selections available, and if you know of any food allergies that a guest may have, take that into consideration, too. Nothing will put a damper on a party like an allergic reaction!

See also: What to Serve Vegans at Your Next Dinner Party?