Tasting the food for your event can be one of the most exciting parts of the planning process. This is your caterer’s chance to show you what they’re made of and prove to you that they’re the best choice to serve you on your special day. It’s important to understand their tasting process so that you can benefit from their expertise and skill.
There are almost as many ways caterers choose to hold tastings as there are caterers. Regardless of their method, it is important that you taste their food. Most caterers provide complimentary tastings. Some choose to hold quarterly or monthly events where prospective clients come together to try their food in cocktail party setting. Doing this allows the caterer to show off their food items, displays, and staff. These events also provide great opportunities to talk to other potential clients to learn more about your caterer. However, food choices are typically limited so it may be difficult to make a decision about a particular item that is not served that evening. Other caterers will hold private tastings where they prepare the food items you have chosen. Although you get to taste the food you choose, you do not typically have the opportunity to see the caterer in action. Usually, these caterers will have pictures and albums to show off their displays. They may even be willing to have you stop by during the set up of an event to see their display and creativity for a real life event. Other caterers choose to invite you to events that they are catering for other people to actually try the food. Usually, they will have you come early so that you can see the staff in action preparing the displays and getting everything ready. This is helpful as you are able to see how your caterer performs in a real life situation. The down side of doing it this way is that you’ll most likely have individuals you didn’t invite show up to your event and eat your food. Caterers who charge for tastings will sometimes just charge you a fee to cover their time and materials. Others will simply apply the fee to your balance if you decide to book with them.
At Draper’s, we have decided to take a more personal approach to our tastings. After we meet with you and discuss your needs and a tentative menu, we invite you and up to 3 other people over to try the items you chose, plus a few extra. If you are considering an hors d’oeuvres menu, we typically serve fruits, veggies, a couple types of appetizers and 4 to 6 hot selections. If you are considering a dinner menu, we usually have you pick 2 to 3 entree selections. We also serve the food to you in the actual portion sizes that we will be preparing for your guests the day of your event. Doing it this way eliminates potential disappointment with a particular food item or portion size. There is no pressure to book with us at the tasting although we will always ask if you would like to leave a deposit with us. Once you do deposit with us, we would be happy to make available additional food items so that we can be sure you get exactly what you want the day of your event.
The purpose of the tasting is to not only ease your mind about your caterer choice but to ease the caterer’s mind about whether you’ll like the food or not. It’s important to understand, however, that there are always limitations when it comes to tastings. In order to keep prices at an appropriate level for both you and your caterer, you may be limited to the number of guests you bring, the number of food items you choose, and the amount of time you spend at the tasting. Also, many caterers have minimum restrictions for events that qualify for complimentary tastings. They may require your event to serve a minimum of 75 guests or be a minimum $1000 order. It really just depends on the caterer. At Draper’s, we restrict tastings to any wedding or events over $1000.
-Ryan Draper, Operations Manager, Draper’s Catering of Memphis