One of the common mistakes people make when ordering catering services for an event is a failure to be sensitive to their guests' dietary needs and desires. This can lead to several unfortunate outcomes, such as unsatisfied guests, leftover food that you have paid for, and frustrated catering staff. To prevent this, you should follow some simple guidelines for making sure you are sensitive to your guests' preferences when you order event catering.
Get to Know Your Guests
It is important that you understand your guests' food preferences. There are many ways to get to know your guests. If you are hosting a conference, the material in the conference might give some insight to what the attendees would want to eat, especially if the conference covers dietary topics. For example, if the conference is for cattle ranchers, you may want to be sure to include some choice beef cuts in your meal. If it is a corporate event, you can send out surveys ahead of time to better understand dietary needs and food preferences. You should include questions about food restrictions as well as how open individuals are to trying new or exotic foods.
If it is a personal event, such as a wedding or baby shower, talk to your friends and family about the dishes they have most liked at other catered events.
Put Your Own Preferences Aside
It can be tempting to order large quantities of items that you like. However, all of your guests might not share your affinity for green bean casserole and super spicy chili. To keep your personal preferences in check, it is helpful to have multiple people planning the catering menu. For example, you might ask a co-worker to look over your potential menu before submitting it to your caterer or you may ask a couple friends to attend a tasting with you if you are planning a personal event.
Sometimes personal preferences during menu selection is important, such as when you are hosting a personal event and you choose a vegetarian or vegan menu for ethical reasons or if you choose an ethnic meal to respect certain aspects of your heritage. If this is the case, you may want to send out a brief note to attendees to prepare them for the types of food they will encounter at the event in order to avoid confrontations on the day of the event.
Offer a Few Choices, But Not Too Many
The best way to accommodate the different tastes of various people is to offer a few choices in your menu. Whether you have a sit-down meal, a buffet, or appetizer trays, you should offer a mix of foods that reflects your knowledge of the guests' preferences as well as a couple of more adventurous options. However, offering too many options may overwhelm your guests, so it is best to keep your options limited. For example, 3-5 appetizers, 2-3 main dishes, and 3-4 side dishes will probably offer sufficient choice for most groups.
Know When to Order Extra Food
Depending on when your event is, how long it is, and how the food will be served, you may need to adjust your portion amounts. It is not fun to have your food run out before an event is over, so it is important to try to gauge how much people will consume during your event. For example, if your event is directed towards college-aged males, they may consume more than an older audience. A guide to daily caloric intake based on age and sex can help you determine what types of participants may require an extra portion.
Make Sure Ingredients Are Listed Somewhere Visible
To help accommodate allergies and preferences, it is common to list ingredients near dishes. This allows people the power to choose what they eat without having to track down someone from the catering team to ask what is in each dish. If you let your caterer know ahead of time, they can usually provide detailed labels for each dish.
When planning a catering menu, it is important to take your guests' needs and desires into consideration. This will help you provide a memorable meal that your participants will appreciate.