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Why and how to hire caterers

The "why" of hiring catering services is pretty straightforward: caterers provide you with all the delicious food you'll need to make your party a success, without any slaving about in the kitchen on your part. Not only do caterers provide the food itself, but they also take care of its set-up, presentation and clean-up, which means your party food will not only taste great but look great, and will be provided completely work- and worry-free for you.

Comparing Catering Companies

With the obvious answer to why you should hire a caterer for your party out of the way, you can focus on how to choose the right one for your event. Here are some important points of comparison that can help you decide which catering company checks off the most criteria on your must-have list:

  • Word of mouth reputation. Personal referral is a powerful thing. If someone whose taste you trust says a caterer does good work, then that caterer is probably worth looking into.
  • Experience. Different catering companies tend to specialize in different kinds of event catering. Before hiring a company that usually caters sports teams' end-of-year barbecues, you will want to be very sure its caterers also have the versatility and skill to cater your black-tie charity ball; if they don't, then it doesn't matter how good your uncle said their short ribs are.
  • Formal tasting. Word of mouth may be a powerful thing, but first-hand experience is even more so. Don't hire a catering company that is hesitant or gives you any grief about providing a -- preferably complimentary -- tasting menu of the appetizers or sweets they would serve at your party.
  • Contract. Usually, a professional company will have one drawn up for you to sign, especially for a large event, so pay attention to its terms. What is the cancellation policy? What, if anything, is their satisfaction guarantee? What portion of the bill must be paid in advance? If you're agreeing in advance to pay for a set volume of food, who keeps any uneaten portion? For some people, a catering company's policy on leftovers is a significant and even deal-breaking sticking point in whether or not they will do business with that company because it determines whether or not they feel that they are getting what they paid for.
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