Corporate Catering Checklist

Corporate Catering Checklist

Corporate catering has many variables - this checklist is designed to help you run a smooth corporate catering event.  Having initially been a caterer and then “jumped the fence” to event management and corporate hospitality, I cannot stress highly enough the importance of having quality and successful corporate catering at your function.

Every function is important, and if the caterer’s performance does not meet your expectation and/ or that of your guests, the function is not likely to be a memorable experience, simple as that!

Over the past sixteen years in corporate hospitality, I have unfortunately experienced a handful of unsatisfactory catering performances resulting in disappointed clients and some complaints.

There are many, many caterers around and it is really important to either:

  1. Select a caterer who can meet your brief/ budget and deliver the type and standard of catering that you seek…and/or
  2. If your function is at a venue with its own caterer whom you are required to use, have the skill and confidence to carefully brief the caterer to ensure that you get both the catering experience that you expect and also pay a fair price for the catering….and for other possible costs

Venue caterer

Generally a venue caterer is appointed by the venue because of their suitability to deliver the quality of catering that the venue would expect and hence avoid complaints about! True!

Yes there is also a financial return consideration for the venue but quality of catering is paramount for the venue, so you should be able to expect quality catering from the venue caterer…which is a good start!

Briefing a caterer -some key questions/ briefing points for your prospective caterer(s) – either seeking a quote or briefing the venue caterer

  1. 1. Carefully let the caterer know exactly what you are seeking with your function, what is the purpose of the function, and also your budget – this may be a silly question but do you have a realistic idea of what your catering should cost? Taking this one step further, what about your total function costs ie factoring in other costs in addition to the catering.

  1. 2. Even if you already have a menu concept in your mind/ plans, talk to the caterer about all menu options and concepts and try to understand the caterer’s strengths, what they might be recommending – for example some caterers prefer to serve a buffet meal and are not really geared up to serve plated fare. Others are wonderful with finger- food but not necessarily with other menu concepts. Having this discussion should assist you in finalising the menu concept and having confidence in the catering performance. If you are deliberating about which caterer to appoint, this should also assist.

3. Carefully brief the caterer with exactly what you want with the menu e.g  

  • Plated cold seafood entrée with vegetarian backup
  • Plated main course using, for example beef, with no choice of dishes aside from a vegetarian option – the main course (unless you have a cocktail function) is clearly the most important dish and you may or may not have preferences with regard to meat or even cut of meat (eg lamb rump). Get the advice of the caterer with options based on meat and cost. A standard chicken main, for example, might cost $10 less than eye fillet? A seafood main course is generally not a sensible choice as a number of your guests may not enjoy seafood
  • Platter of mini sweet items or petit fours
  • NZ cheeseboard
  • Tea and coffee

The above menu concept is just one simple menu option and there are obvious variations such as:

  • No canapés
  • Entrée replaced with selection of breads and oils – this will reduce the cost of the meal and remains a “classy” option
  • Vegetarian, poultry or meat entrée and not seafood
  • Alternate drop with the mains -  you can now choose two main courses with half your guests receiving one and the other half the other. This is a popular option but does slightly add to the overall cost
  • Full choice of two mains – guests can choose which main they prefer. Nice but will add $10 plus to the cost as the caterer obviously has to cook a number of additional meals to cover this option
  • Full dessert
  • No cheeses etc!

What else is included eg - sound system, coat check, basic floral arrangements, security etc

What else do you need to organise?

  • If you’ve never previously dealt with this caterer, don’t hesitate to ask for references, both written and verbal, and do follow up with the verbal references as careful questions should give you some significant comfort and assurance
  • If your event/ function is large or high budget, once again don’t hesitate to ask for a food tasting. As was the case on one particular occasion that I well recall, the menu looked great on paper but turned out to be an inglorious hotchpotch of colour with the stadium venue chef trying too hard to impress. This menu was for an upcoming function of approx 1500 and would not have been well received – rest assured the menu was changed as a result of the food tasting!
  • I hope that this provides you with some basic advice for your next major function(s) when considering catering options and costs, as it is really important to provide a careful and accurate brief to the prospective caterer and ask the right questions – this will at least give you a good likelihood of having a successful, memorable function/ event.

Having a good understanding of catering certainly helps – if your function is large or really important, engaging the services of an event manager with catering experience mightn’t be a bad option to consider!

This consideration will likely provide you with some comfort and assurance regarding the very important catering performance.

This article was written by
Ian Fraser of Hospitality Solutions Ltd

Ian Fraser has worked in corporate hospitality and
event management for over sixteen years. In this
time, he has organised over 800 functions and
events and project directed some very large
hospitality projects/ events.
In recent years, he has also been approached by
organisations to assist them in a consultancy role.


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