Did you know that event catering is a $10.8 billion market in the United States alone? Some of the chief drivers behind its massive size are events such as trade shows and conferences. Others include corporate events, celebratory parties, and weddings.
If you’re planning an event yourself, you’re likely considering hiring a caterer. If so, you won’t have a problem finding one, as the U.S. is home to about 12,000 catering establishments.
However, before hiring a caterer, you must first know the dos and don’ts of event food planning. That way, you can choose the perfect catering service for the meals you want to serve at your event.
Below are those dos and don’ts you should remember, so read on.
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Estimate the Amount of Food Needed
It turns out that “hangry,” a portmanteau for hungry and angry, is an actual phenomenon. That’s according to the findings of a study published in 2022. It found that people became irritable and angry when they didn’t eat.
Therefore, if you don’t feed your guests enough, you can expect many, if not all, to get “hangry.” That’s the last thing you want to happen. Your goal is to make the event as enjoyable as possible, and serving enough excellent food can help you do that.
So as part of your event planning, send répondez s’il vous plaît (AKA RSVP) cards to all your guests. It’s one of the best ways to estimate the number of potential or likely attendees. To allow adequate preparation time, do this at least three weeks before the event.
Attach a food preference questionnaire along with the RSVP. That way, you can learn about special diets or restrictions (more on these below).
Once you get your answered RSVPs back, you’ll have a clearer idea of how much food your caterer must serve.
Don’t Dismiss Unanswered RSVPs
Suppose you sent 100 RSVPs, and 90% replied with a “Yes, I’m coming,” 5% refused, and the remaining 5% hasn’t answered. In that case, consider including the 5% who have yet to answer in the final headcount. That way, if they change their mind and attend, they can enjoy the food prepared for them.
Even if those guests don’t come, the other attendees can still enjoy the food, or you can take it home.
Be Mindful of Food Allergies
An estimated 32 million people in the U.S. have food allergies. These include egg, lactose, nut, peanut, seafood, soy, and wheat allergies, to name a few. Every year, about 200,000 of them have to get emergency medical care due to allergic reactions.
So, one of the questions you must ask guests during the event planning is if they have food allergies. That’s also why you must send the questionnaire mentioned above along with the RSVPs. That way, you can immediately notify your party food provider if there are any.
The catering company, in turn, can include menu options free of food allergens.
Don’t Forget Vegans and Vegetarians
About 10% of American adults report being vegan or vegetarian. That’s one in every ten adults, so there’s a good chance you’re inviting some of them. Please don’t forget to factor them in during your party planning; otherwise, they won’t be able to eat.
A vegan diet is a completely plant-based diet that excludes all animal products. So vegans don’t eat meat and fish and forego dairy and eggs. They also don’t eat products made of or from animals, such as sauces (e.g., fish sauce or oyster sauce).
A vegetarian diet excludes meat and seafood. However, vegetarians may consume other animal products, such as dairy and eggs.
Consider Guests With Special Therapeutic Diets
Millions of Americans suffer from diet-related diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. As a result, many of these individuals must follow strict therapeutic diets.
Some examples are diets low in fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, and sugar. Some people, especially those with celiac disease, must also consume gluten-free food.
Since diet-related diseases are so common, it’s a must to factor them into your event food planning.
Don’t Let Deserts Slip Your Mind
No meal is complete without dessert, especially for the 3 in 4 Americans who say they have a sweet tooth. Ice cream, custard, milkshakes, and bubble tea were some of the favorites most cited.
That should tell you how offering desserts is a fantastic way to conclude your event’s meal.
One option is finding a caterer offering complete packages, from appetizers to desserts. Another is to hire a separate dessert provider, such as an ice cream catering company.
Have Your Caterer Prepare Child-Friendly Meals
If you’re allowing event attendees to bring their kids, ask them to let you know if they are in their RSVP replies. Also, don’t forget to ask them about their little one’s special diet restrictions. That way, your event caterer can prepare healthy and child-friendly meals.
Don’t Go Over Your Budget
When planning your event food budget, a vital consideration is the catering style. You have two primary options: buffet or plated.
If you have at least 50 guests coming, a buffet may be more cost-effective than the latter. One reason is it requires fewer staff members to serve the queue of people.
Plated meals require more service workers to present each meal aesthetically. They must also serve each guest by bringing their plates to their tables.
Therefore, the more guests you have, the more labor that plated meals require. That’s why, depending on the number of guests, it can cost more than buffet-style catering.
However, if you have just about 20 to 30 people coming, a plated meal may cost less than a buffet. Usually, buffet-style catering services require a minimum headcount of 50 or so people.
Time to Hire the Best Event Catering Service
So long as you keep these dos and don’ts of event catering in mind, you’re likely to satisfy your guests’ hunger. At the same time, you can rest easy knowing you’ve done what you can to keep unwanted events like allergies at bay.
Once you’ve accounted for all those factors, the only thing left for you to do is hire the best caterer for your needs.
Craving for more food and lifestyle guides like this? Then check out our other latest blog posts for more tips and tricks!