Special Events: Why A “Tasting” Is An Essential Part Of Event Planning

Sections of this topic

    QuestIon: Should I do a tasting even if I have worked with this caterer before?

    Answer: Absolutely.

    Question: Should I hire a caterer and then do a tasting?

    Answer: Absolutely NOT.

    In the past, people who were frequent event attendees tended to have great expectations, except when it came to food. There was a constant “rolling of the eyes” if someone commented that the food at a particular event was really good. That was fairly common, when rubber chicken dinners were flying high (pun intended).

    In recent years, food at both, hotels and “off-sites,” has improved enormously … in taste and presentation. Now, expectations are high and caterers and chefs work to outdo each other and are, frankly, getting better and better at it.

    Food makes the evening more (or less) remarkable, and is something everyone talks about. Hotel chefs have stepped up their game and are more than happy to help create a themed event with interesting presentations.

    A recent reception had a gelato bar flavored with various vodkas alongside the standard wine and beer fare. A dessert bar for an after party focused on a variety of champagnes with assorted mini sweets.

    When doing an event at an “off-site,” catering is an essential element … along with the lighting, sound and décor, and choosing a caterer takes time.

    You begin the process with a list of caterers who are approved to work in the facility. Asking the site manager which caterer works the space most often is a good way to start your search. You have probably been to a few events yourself and had some good experiences. Find out who the caterer was and ask the person who did the planning whether they were pleased and would use them again.

    Try to narrow down the search to two or three caterers and contact each one asking the same questions. I will frequently explain that I am looking for creative menus with really good food that a variety of people with varying tastes can enjoy.

    I made some calls recently about a breakfast event we were handling, and explained that I wanted something “creative,” and not just a bagel bar. I was disappointed, but not surprised, that 2 out of 3 sent me menus with … a bagel bar !!

    Look over the menus carefully. Based on what you see, select 2 of the caterers (unless one is so outstanding that no one else can compete) and ask for a tasting.

    A good caterer will have asked you about the type of event, colors, décor, background on the attendees, your goal for the evening and most important, what you want the attendees to take away from the event.

    Usually, a tasting lasts about 2 –3 hours with time to taste a lot of different foods (from hors d’oeuvres to entrees to desserts). Look at linens and china, crystal, chairs and anything else needed for that event.

    Notice the word “taste!” It does not mean eating everything on your plate, no matter how delicious. A few bites will tell you if an item will work. And you do want to save room for dessert, especially if it’s chocolate ☺

    Obviously, Tastings are about more than food, and
    next week Natalie Continues the discussion.

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    creating or expanding your special event?
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