Party Clinic: Catering

Single Market Events managing director and RSVP Event founder Tim Etchells advises on how to find the right caterer to suit your event.

Choosing a caterer is a true test of loyalty. Do you go with the company that did a good job last year, or are you brave enough to try someone else?

The decision has to depend on your objectives. First, are you looking for simply fantastic food on a plate, or do you want this company to make your event look like Imperial China? In other words, are you looking for caterers or party themers? (I wonder whether we consider Johnny Roxburgh as an events caterer or the potential artistic director of a Hollywood blockbuster).

Whether we're looking for food or fantasy depends on our guests. What do they want? What would delight them? Is it what they can get down at the local pub? I suggest not. Thanks to the huge increase in TV exposure over recent years, our guests are far more discerning than we give them credit for. The cooking culture is increasingly influential and as consumers we (and they) know what we want. Our guests want to experience something that is as good as an intimate dinner for two cooked by Gordon Ramsay.

They want something with the "wow factor" prompting "oohs" and "aahs" around their table. They want a taste sensation, a culinary superlative, and we want a delighted guest!

So how does one reconcile this "wow factor" with an ever-decreasing budget? I believe you have to be realistic if you're going for "oohs" and "aahs" on a low budget. Much depends on whether you opt for the catering or the theming. But if you're going for catering, the general rule is that you should save your attentions for the main course. Antony Worrall Thompson is forever encouraging his clients to go simple and sophisticated to start before hitting guests with a fantastic main course they're unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Therefore, I would suggest that it is essential to get to know your guests and their expectations and with that in mind set clear and realistic objectives for your catering needs. The plethora of catering companies available and their inordinate creativity mean that you're bound to find a perfect partner to help create the right ambience and the right impression.

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