Each week, I spend several hours out of the office knocking on doors of businesses in the Des Moines Region with the goal of introducing myself and the Hotel Pattee. Depending on who I meet and what they are interested in, we’ll talk about one or more of the services that the Hotel Pattee offers from overnight accommodations, to hosting a meeting here at the hotel or letting us bring a catered meal to their office or location.
Meeting with potential clients and existing clients in their office environment is truly one of the best parts of my job. It is so much fun to meet new people and talk about their industry and how we might be of service.
Someday, I will write a blog about back when I first started in hotel sales; how petrified and scared I was to go knock on doors of area businesses. I know that may be hard to believe, but more on that another time…..
At any rate, we started free delivery of outside catering because I found more and more potential clients suggesting that we expand into offering this service. Thankfully, we are building this arm of our business.
The constant message I have heard all along from the majority of businesses is that there are not enough great catering options from which to choose. I will be honest that this shocked me! You have to understand that I call on clients in a wide geographical area including Panora, Jefferson, Boone, Adel, Waukee, Urbandale, West DesMoines, Grimes, etc. This is a big area, and yet I still hear this consistent message.
After doing a little more research by asking questions of our clients and potential clients, I’ve come up with 5 tips on what one should consider when choosing an outside caterer:
1. Homework. Do your homework and ask your caterer for references. Equally important, contact the references and ask key questions to verify important factor such as punctuality, quality of food & beverage, following through on promises, etc.
2. Verify. Confirm and verify that the caterer prepares meals out of a kitchen that has been inspected and approved by the IA Dept. of Inspections & Appeals. In addition, ask for a certificate of insurance to prove proper liability coverage including workers comp insurance. Too often, I have observed caterers who work out of their “non-inspected” home kitchen and do not carry the proper insurance. Both of these are critical to protecting your guests and your company from unnecessary liabilities.
3. Price. When shopping for a caterer to host your next event, I advise to not strictly make your decision based on price. The quality and quantity of food products and ingredients can widely vary between vendors. Often times, it is difficult to truly compare “apples to apples” when evaluating menus and price points between multiple caterers. As an example, many menus might include desserts and beverages, while another caterers menu may not. My recommendation is to draw up a menu that you want and have your selected potential caterers price it out for bid. This way, you are 100% sure that you can equally compare competitor A to competitor B.
4. Fine Print. Read the fine print and fully understand all potential charges when choosing a Caterer. Specific areas to be cautious about include delivery fees, set up fees, gratuity, and if disposable plates, napkins, and eating utensils are included.
5. Pick Two. My recommendation is simply this. Once you’ve worked through the 4 tips above, ideally have two caterers who you like, trust and would recommend to your best friend. This gives you and your guests’ options with regards to food preparation styles, but also gives you a backup in case your #1 caterer can’t accommodate your upcoming event. i.e. already booked.
So there you have it! In closing, remember that choosing the right caterer is a reflection on you. Pick a caterer who is equally concerned with their reputation. Make an educated decision and follow through on the 5 steps above, and you will be a STAR! Until next time, we’ll see you at the hotel or onsite at your next event!
Jay Hartz, owner.