We have had many a tasting with delicious desserts that were not chocolate. So, when selecting one that was not chocolate, we usually added a plate of truffles to the table so people would not feel as though the meal was incomplete.
A good caterer should also be a guide to all of the different foods and presentations. A simple change of plate from round to square or serving salad in a shallow bowl instead of on a salad plate can make a noticeable difference in the presentation. Don’t hesitate to ask the caterer for different approaches to serving a meal.
Also, be open and honest about the food. If something is too salty or two sweet (could that really happen?) say something. Remember to keep your audience in mind. Age and gender are factors to consider when setting the menu.
Also remember that many people have allergies and food issues that you have to deal with. Every meal you plan should have a vegetarian and a vegan option; and, more and more people eat gluten free.
The caterer will usually take care of all of these issues provided you give them the information in advance.
Of course, not every attendee will tell you in advance. On one occasion, we had an attendee walk in 5 minutes before a formal dinner was to be served and then asked one of the staff members about the menu. Upon learning what was to be served, she announced that she was highly allergic and could only eat a plain piece of chicken and some fruit.
Fortunately, the caterer had brought a few plain chicken breasts and was able to take care of the attendee. That rarely happens. A more likely scenario would have been an angry attendee without dinner! It would be the attendee’s fault, but guess where the blame would fall.
It probably wouldn’t hurt to ask that the caterer make provision for such an occurrence.
In terms of the early questions at the start of this article (last week), no matter how well you know a caterer, every event is different and your menu will reflect those differences. You will want to taste the menu to be sure it works,
As to hiring a caterer first and doing a tasting after the contract is signed, that is a good way to get stuck with mediocre food and bad service.
In that context: I recently met with a caterer who we have never used, but about whom the client was very excited. I had done the advance work, but had gotten preliminary menus that were far from what we wanted — I asked for changes, and a tasting.
We were invited for a tasting; but, when we got there, discovered that we were merely there to again discuss what we were looking for and what might be available to us.
We were three people, and they brought out one plate with small portions of some tasteless food for us to share. When I said something about the tasting, I was told, that “once we sign a contract, we will do a real tasting.”
Clearly, we will not be going back for that “real tasting.”
When you leave a tasting, whether it is at a hotel or at an “off-site,” what you’ve just experienced should have you excited and eagerly looking forward to the actual event. Short of that, you clearly need to rethink your vendor/caterer.
Next Week, Tony Poderis responds to The Age Old Cry:
“We’re A New Organization. Where Do We Find The Donors?”
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